It is natural for leaders to gravitate toward where they feel they are most needed. During times of great turnover it can seem like there is a constant need to focus on backfilling the empty slots on the team and prioritizing that above all else. We are in the middle of what has been called “The Great Resignation”. U.S. workers are quitting their jobs in record numbers, with more than 24 million quitting from April to September this year. Some of the high numbers of people leaving their jobs can be accounted for with older workers. In Americans over 65 without a disability, the participation rate is still down more than 10 percent since before the pandemic. While we did expect aging populations to retire eventually, the pandemic sped up that process with roughly one in 10 seniors leaving the labor force before they were expected to, and not coming back.
There are many different theories as to what is motivating this behavior and which sectors have the most to worry about, but one item that continues to get lost in the discussion is the impact that all of this is having on those employees who stay. Those who haven’t quit are getting hit with more work and inevitably get less attention as their leaders are stuck in a constant hiring cycle. However, leaders pivoring to focus on the people who have stayed might actually help stop further attrition.
Use this as an opportunity to improve employee job satisfaction, treat each employee as if you want them to be there and provide them with attention and recognition for the work they’re doing. Give them attention by getting and keeping one on ones on the books, and being mentally present during those meetings. Have discussions that broach topics outside of daily work tasks, show meaningful personal and career concern. Ask employees about how they have been feeling, their families or pets and make notes to more easily remember what they have shared with you. Show that you care about their place in the organization by asking about their motivations and ambitions, ask what their career goals are and what would help improve their work experience.
Recognition doesn’t have to be costly, it just takes a little bit of your time. Being specific in your acknowledgement will help relay your genuine appreciation. Include in your recognition what they have done that you’re praising and how it impacts the team and the organization as a whole. This helps show them why they matter and the difference they’re making in their role.
We cannot control who decides to quit, but we can control how we treat and engage with the employees who have stayed.
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