The great resignation: what’s your plan b?

Recently, you’ve probably seen countless headlines shouting at you about The Great Resignation as you scrolled through LinkedIn. When we’re constantly being told that 40% of our staff are about to walk out, it can be easy to get caught up in the negativity and worry.

There is, however, another and vastly better way.

It’s too late to stop the great resignation from happening. Instead, employers should be thinking about formulating plan B, adopting a global/digital mindset and what help they need to get there.

In fact, the best business leaders are not sitting around talking or complaining about the Great Resignation. They’re taking advantage of the situation, realising that like any great seismic shift, the pieces are just not going to fit back together afterwards like they did before.

It’s time to accept that you cannot stop the Great Resignation, and it’s going to mark a permanent change to the workforce.  Then, remember the type of leader who you want to be and use it to shape the future of your company.

What’s your Plan B?

If you’ve gotten this far without thinking of a Plan B for the Great Resignation, then you need to start, yesterday.

By now, you should already be looking at who is a flight risk. Who is coming in late or seems disengaged in meetings? Sadly, it’s too late to save most of them, as once an employee’s mind has wandered out the door it’s unlikely they’ll stay for long anyway.

Instead of wasting effort on people who are likely to leave, spend the time more wisely. Get out in the market and scout out who’s looking. Try to take a deep look at why people are leaving – if it’s because they’ve never really wanted to work for you, or don’t share your visions, then that’s one thing. However, if you’re losing good performers then you need to think about why and then do some forward planning.

Thinking inspiration

The first step for stemming the outflow of good employees, before they start to want to leave, is to honestly examine how well you are keeping people inspired and motivated. Gartner Research shows employees are increasingly choosing organisations that share their values.

There’s also a lot of focus on mental wellbeing and psychological safety within the workplace – ensuring your employees feel they can bring their whole self to work, and feel safe to ask questions, challenge decisions they don’t feel are correct or admit they do not understand something.

Once you have done that, then communicate (and keep communicating) that plan to prospective and current employees alike.

A big part of this is that leaders need to ensure they themselves are inspiring. They have defined values that shine through, as well as strong interpersonal skills which translate to interactive, visible and motivational leadership. If these skills are not up to scratch, then don’t beat yourself up about it – they are skills that most people need to improve upon (very few of us are born this way). Take steps to move forward with the help of training and coaching >

Attracting the right talent

Even with a great retention strategy, you are going to lose some people, perhaps because they just don’t fit with your vision or for reasons out of your control. That’s why a rock-solid acquisition strategy should be built in tandem with retention efforts.

Alongside the Great Resignation, there’s another term that you’ve probably heard over and over – The War on Talent. It’s very real – the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports job vacancies in the last quarter were 46.5% higher than they  were  in February 2020, before the onset of the pandemic, while jobs board Seek reports applications per job are far lower than they were two years ago.

Salary is one area, of course, so it’s important to ensure you’re meeting the market. Other attractive benefits include flexibility, as organisations look to hybrid office/home models to retain some of the working benefits that came out of the pandemic with the social interaction and collaboration benefits of the traditional office.

Flexibility is a huge opportunity to attract quality people, but you have to really think about what that means – it’s not just how many days they can work from home, but showing staff that you see them as human beings with lives rather than numbers on a payroll.

Then, there’s other offerings. Chances for employees (current or prospective) to upskill is a crucial area that doesn’t always get enough attention, but it’s a case of get on board or be left behind, especially since COVID-19 has accelerated digital disruption. And of course upskilling is a key offering for retaining (and getting the most out of) existing staff as well.

Thriving beyond surviving

Beyond planning for the Great Resignation, extraordinary CEOs, MDs and executives will also be thinking of how to use the resulting disruption to their advantage, realising that the chance to shape the organisation is one that’s really only offered to people in their position. It’s an opportunity that should not be wasted. Yes, you have targets to make and shareholders to please, but they cannot be your only focus.

We know that some of the strongest organisations in the world have not only survived amongst chaos, but thrived. AirBnB and Uber were just some of the successful start-ups that emerged from the 2007/08 financial crisis. The same will happen with those emerging from the Great Resignation, COVID and all the disruption happening now.

For a senior leader, a useful way of looking at this is thinking about whether you are conventional or not. There’s nothing wrong with being conventional, of course, but it does mean that you’ll only get conventional results.

Being unconventional is a difficult but extremely rewarding path. If you do things unconventionally, it may mean you do lose some people – but perhaps that isn’t a bad thing, as it might mean they’re just not a good fit.

It also means you’ll need to take risks, often acting on incomplete information. And you’ll need to always project a sense of calm, even under extreme stress as a great leader can’t motivate others if they project an aura of stress.

Two mindsets that are essential right now

Whatever tactic you use to forge a strong path forward, there’s no doubt that there are two essential mindsets that you will need along the way: global and digital.

Whether you’re interested in global expansion or not, a global mindset is always necessary. This can mean everything from filling skills globally – especially alongside more flexible working – to looking to other countries for inspiration on how to tackle challenges.

And then, there’s the digital first mindset. Mercer says digital dexterity – digital fluency and complex information processing – is one of the most critical skills for future resilience. It’s not just about how your organisation uses technology, but how you can better serve customers with technology as an aid.

As mentioned before, it’s clear that the pandemic has accelerated our digital adoption, but often it’s not those at the top who are embracing it the most. Digital mindset should come from the top down, not be relegated to the ‘younger crew’ who are perceived to possess these skills more naturally. Hiring those with digital first mindset is important, but equally important is ensuring you as the leader understand this too.

So, stop talking about the Great Resignation and plan, inspire and thrive. If you’re floundering, get help. We’ll see you on the other side.

Hunton Executive can help you plan for the great resignation, attract the right talent, and coach your leaders on a digital-first mindset.

In partnership with Reformulate Health we are training a new-generation of digital-first life sciences’ industry leaders. Our world-first digital health leadership program is preparing pharma, biotech, & medtech leaders and entrepreneurs to lead the transformation of the life sciences industry ensuring the organizational change readiness and commercial success for your digital health roadmap and investments. For information on our Digital Health Leadership Coaching Program, contact us. 


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