The great resignation is the great catalyst

By: Otto Berkes, HireRoad CEO

News about workers voluntarily leaving their jobs was ubiquitous in the last six months of 2021. And for good reason: The so-called “quit rate” hit a new record of 3% in September.

Many analysts have weighed in on the reasons that 20.2 million Americans left their employers from May through September. While understanding what’s behind these departures is important on both an organizational and an economic level, it’s important to note that the trends have been going in this direction for a decade. The pandemic is fueling what was already happening.

Which leads me to wonder: How can businesses use the Great Resignation as a catalyst to become better at keeping their talent?

Instead of rehashing challenges, let’s look at the opportunities for recruitment and retention. Focusing on “human potential” — rather than the stale and impersonal term “human capital” — shifts the way we think about our workforce. With a different and fresh perspective, it’s easier to envision a world where organizations start focusing on engaging and investing in individuals, starting with the initial hiring process and continuing throughout every individual’s tenure.

In this vision of the workplace, people are recruited into roles for cultural fit in addition to their skills and knowledge. New recruits are given the right tools and support during onboarding, so they emerge feeling energized as new members of their organizations and are ready to begin contributing. Organizations emphasize continuous learning and growth, rewarding productivity and quality over activity and sheer number of hours worked.

Here are five opportunities for shifting your thinking about engaging the human potential of your workforce.

Go beyond the basics to attract and retain.

People value organizational success — especially when it is built on the success of each individual. They are looking for jobs that offer financial, social and professional development incentives and opportunities. They are looking to become part of something that resonates with them on a personal level and aligns with who they are. Simply checking the boxes on the basics (competitive salary, bonus, benefits, etc.) doesn’t differentiate you from all the other potential employers. You need to be able to answer the question, “Why you?” This must include mission, culture and other potential differentiators such as location flexibility and some form of equity.

Be specific and intentional with your culture.

When people are recruited into roles for a cultural fit in addition to their skills, they have a deeper reason to remain motivated and engaged beyond the more superficial elements that are part of any job. You must be able to clearly articulate your organization’s culture. What is important to you as an organization? What are your core values? What are your aspirational goals as an organizational culture? Examine your company’s culture with these questions in mind. And if you find that your answers fall short, there’s never been a better time to reassess your cultural framework to support both your current and future employees. Although organizational culture is often seen as a “soft” component to organizational success, it plays an essential part in attracting — and, most critically, retaining — employees in all organizations.

Enable internal role mobility.

The cost of replacing a departing employee is often higher than that employee’s annual salary would have been. Rather than starting from scratch with a brand new hire, consider increasing the ease with which employees can transition within your company. People who have a genuine passion for your mission but don’t love what they’re currently doing may be motivated to stay — and ultimately be happier — if they find a better opportunity to make a contribution elsewhere within the organization. Increasing your ability to retain employees by making it easy to move to new roles is one of the most efficient investments you can make.

Invest in current employees.

To maximize human potential, organizations need to enable ongoing learning and development in both formal and informal ways. The tools for workforce assessment, education and communication are more accessible and affordable than ever before, which means it’s easier than ever for employers to discover and provide the training and resources that will help their team members flourish. As a bonus, investing in targeted, focused workforce development will make organizations themselves more adaptable and capable of quickly adjusting to new customer needs.

Enable a hybrid organization working as one.

The pool of high-quality talent is not limited to potential full-time employees. Many of those who have cut ties to their employers during 2021 are not looking to establish new ones with another company. Instead, they are seeking the mix of freedom and responsibility that contracting provides. Investing in external relationships with universities, professional organizations and even former employees can increase your connections with these workers. And while you’re building those relationships, take time to ensure your internal processes are set up for success when engaging contractors. Everyone in an organization — contractors and full-time employees alike — must be part of one team with a shared purpose. It’s important that you build an inclusive culture to enable every contributor to do their best work whether they’re a contractor or FTE.

The Great Resignation will impact the labor landscape for years to come. Now is the time to use these five opportunities as a catalyst to change your approach to recruiting and retention. There’s never been a better opportunity to rejuvenate these essential functions, and the organizations that move beyond rigid, transactional and impersonal hiring and retention processes will shine.

This article originally appeard in Forbes where Berkes is a contributor.