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Advice for Leaders on Coping With the Turnover Tsunami


Thu Nov 11 2021

Advice for Leaders on Coping With the Turnover Tsunami

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Pick your favorite label: the Turnover Tsunami, the Great Resignation, the Great Departure, or the Big Quit. We’re talking about a lot of people leaving or planning to leave their jobs. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, resignations have not increased in the US since a record high in April, but they haven’t eased a whole lot either. Other reports indicate women are continuing to leave their jobs in greater numbers than men in what the Institute for Women’s Policy Research coined a "she-cession."

Your organization may be trying to stop the floodgates or scrambling to prevent mass resignations, depending on variables like your industry, region, prepandemic talent management strategies, and hybrid work policies. Retaining and engaging talent is complicated. This blog post can’t provide a magic pill, but it does offer some thoughts as you sort through your options for building a workforce that thrives and delivers. And stays.


Be Part of the Conversation

The Great Reflection preceded the Great Resignation. The events of the last 18 months—furloughs, lockdown with (or without) family, health scares, funerals, and more—caused people to step back and consider what’s important to them. They’re still thinking and talking about questions like these:

  • Is this all there is?

  • What do I want to do with my life?

  • What’s my purpose?

  • What are my options?

  • Is my work suitable for my family and me?

Here are the questions that you need to be thinking about:

  • Are your managers part of those conversations?

  • Is your organization initiating dialogue about work and career growth?

If you answered no, you’ll miss the chance to be part of the solution or explore win-win options. You’ll be left out of decisions. Employees may think the only way to change things is to move on. As leaders, we’ve all been there before, saying (when it’s already too late), “Wait! We can make this work. I didn’t know how you felt. Let’s talk about it.”

The time for talking is now. Engagement and career conversations should be top on the list of what you ask managers to do. Career growth, in particular, is worth discussing. Our research finds that intangibles such as meaningful work, growth and new experiences in a role, or challenges can make the difference. For a list of questions managers can ask their team members, check out “4 Strategies for Creating a Culture of Career Growth.”

Think Twice About Paying to Keep People

Recent studies suggest that anywhere from 33 percent to 44 percent of the workforce is thinking about quitting. Those same studies relate that compensation is a top driver, along with burnout and more flexible work conditions. Intent to leave doesn’t necessarily predict actual turnover, so use your organization’s turnover metrics to guide your strategy.


If you are experiencing turnover and find that burnout and flexible working conditions are at play, reread the tips discussed above. The more that managers and employees talk, the greater the odds that they will explore areas of dissatisfaction and, together, identify ideas about how to rework work for the better.

So what about compensation? If you haven’t been paying people fairly for their time and talents, you know what you need to do. If you are thinking about increasing salaries to compete with the firms down the street, focus on your organization’s engagement levels and engagement strategies.

Our research links intent to leave with lower levels of engagement. It also suggests that engaged employees stay because of what they give (they find meaning in their work), while the disengaged stay for what they get (a good compensation package, comfortable job conditions, or job security). You don’t want employees who are staying because of money. If they are not finding meaning in their work, a raise won’t help them turn the emotional corner to experience higher levels of engagement. Worse, those employees can actually have a negative impact on the engagement of the people around them.

Money is an attraction and retention driver, not an engagement driver. You need to face the difficult realities of the situation with motivated, focused employees.

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