COVID-19 and The Great Resignation have had a startling impact on organizations, especially when it comes to talent churn. Team members at all levels are beginning to reevaluate their priorities, often quitting or moving on to other opportunities they feel better match their needs.
There are a few different reasons for this. Some are likely personal, but others have to do with shifting work environments. As we emerge from beneath the worst of COVID-19, many people have begun to wonder if there’s any potential for upward mobility remaining within their companies. While their career tracks might have seemed vibrant prior to the pandemic, now they’re less certain.
Team members begin to wonder:
- What’s going to happen with the organization and my personal career growth?
- When can I even expect these things to happen?
- Are there any reasons behind the choices being made? If so, what are those reasons?
- What do I need to do in order to grow and improve?
If good communication isn’t coming from leaders, then assumptions begin reinforcing negative ideas over and over again in their heads. It’s an unfortunate truth that, in the absence of information, people fill in the blanks with the worst-case scenario.
Once that happens, they begin looking for a way out.
You Can’t Afford to Shift into Cruise Control
It’s understandable that executives are tired. COVID-19 has created a huge strain, bringing with it an unprecedented number of challenges. But the challenges haven’t stopped. Instead, business leaders are navigating new questions, including:
- What role will remote work play?
- What will it look like when workers return to the office?
In order to successfully address these questions, it’s essential to retain senior and mid-level leadership and keep them happy and engaged. This requires a clear roadmap. After all, as the head of your business, you’ve already invested in those leaders, building a shared history and important base of knowledge. Giving them a clear path to continued growth is the natural way to address any concerns they might possess.
Go Back to the Beginning
One of the unique effects COVID-19 has had on workplaces is that it effectively reset any number of assumptions and expectations. People no longer anticipate that things will continue as they always have, rather they’re not certain what to expect.
This might seem daunting, but it actually gives you an opportunity to revisit agreements created prior to the pandemic. Going back to the beginning means returning to questions such as:
- What are our agreements?
- What understandings do we still share?
- What are our collective perceptions about what we’re trying to accomplish?
This allows everyone to reset their perceptions and expectations, finding themselves on the same page once again. The assumption that things will always be the way they once were is probably a failed assumption and one that leads to senior and mid-level leadership eventually departing.
Senior and mid-level leaders need to understand what their own careers will look like, but they also need to understand the strategy, vision, and long-term focus of their organization. That’s how they can invest in it and feel valued. Connecting them to the whys of what’s occurring is absolutely essential.
Retention Doesn’t Exist Apart from Everything Else
Some executives have a perception that retention is only one aspect of business or something that can be segmented into its own corner. This mentality comes with high costs! If you’re planning on retaining your leaders, then it’s something you need to work toward every day.
“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time.” — Vince Lombardi
A meeting or special event won’t cut it. You don’t retain great leaders because you take them out once a month. You retain people in your business because every single day they make a connection to what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and the ultimate purpose of that work. When team members are able to see that connection, that’s the bedrock for retention.
Communicate, communicate, communicate!
One of the primary ways business leaders choose to communicate their goals and plans is through meetings. A meeting does seem like a logical place to set out and share all your plans for the future. Problem is, meetings can bring you closer to your retention goals or they can worsen the damage.
The difference lies in how you communicate. There’s an informal meeting that sometimes occurs after the official meeting, where team members get together and hash out their impressions and perceptions. This often happens when they’re blindsided by information or confused by what was presented in the official meeting. Sometimes the official meeting only served to make them feel like outsiders with no meaningful voice in what happens within the organization.
When people begin to feel that way, you have an issue.
The way you can avoid this is by continually involving team members in your plans and communicating authentically. Communication shouldn’t be something that only happens at one big, official meeting.
People Need to Know That They’re Important
Retention really does come down to making people feel valued and needed. When members at any level within your organization sense that they’re an integral part of the team, they’re far more likely to invest in both their work and the goals of the company. If people feel their efforts are meaningless, it’s not long before they’ll begin to mentally disengage. Ambiguity only feeds that disengagement.
To combat disengagement, executives must let their team members know the value of their work and presence. Verbal affirmations can help, but they have to be followed by action. If they’re to hold on to great people, executives must:
- Revisit their original assumptions and agreements
- Commit to an everyday retention approach
- Prioritize communication
Each of these steps affirm the value of your people, keeping them engaged so your organization can thrive as you exit the pandemic.
Want to learn more? Visit our comprehensive guide to Leading Through Difficult Times!
Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.