Don’t let employees slip away during the Great Resignation. Take action now

December 28, 2021

Much has been written in 2021 about what some call the “Great Resignation,” which predicted that employees would leave organizations amid weary dissatisfaction with their workplace.

At first I thought this was simply hyperbole. And then Alex happened.

Alex (not his real name) is a personal trainer who worked at a local club for 19 years. To say that members loved Alex is an understatement.

He masterfully and creatively got his clients through the pandemic. He opened the club at exactly 5:30 a.m. — never late. He trained members, conducted group exercise classes, instructed members about how to use the machines and then fixed them when necessary, created a safe exercise environment, and pretty much did it all.

And then he quit — all of the sudden and with no other job.

He resigned, he said, because he had enough of how management and leadership treated him. He felt disrespected and undervalued.

Although the smallest modicum of appreciation in terms of a slight pay increase or a change in how the fee sharing worked for training might have convinced him to stay, that tiny demonstration of appreciation lacked and he left.

Alex felt leadership showed virtually no effort to creatively find ways to retain him, and largely ignored him and his simple requests.

Watching all this unfold in real time truly demonstrated for me what the Great Resignation is all about.

It’s not necessarily about more interesting work or fewer hours or more compensation (although all of that is part of it).

For years, leaders and managers took for granted people like Alex in their organization by putting them on autopilot. They assume that someone like Alex who has worked there comfortably for nearly two decades would never leave.

So they ignore his requests, set him aside and fail to recognize that they need to send Alex a life boat to keep him on board.

As we approach 2022, leaders and managers need to realize times have changed. Employees are tired of being disrespected and devalued. They don’t want to work with that vile and toxic coworker. And they are drained from being overworked and underpaid.

Employees want — and deserve — a positive, respectful and inclusive work environment where they are compensated and treated fairly. They are exhausted and they want to be heard.

Most shockingly, they are willing to go nowhere to get out of where they are now. Imagine that.

Start 2022 by assessing your work culture. Not in an impersonal and unreliable online survey, but by actually talking to employees and getting a pulse on what is working, what isn’t, and what needs to change not just for themselves, but their colleagues. Then, take action.

One local corporation is doing something tangible to address employee satisfaction, posting a job for an “employee listening manager.” The selected individual will “lead, implement and manage an employee listening strategy,” according to the job posting. The person also would “advocate for the employee” and create action plans to improve the worker experience.

If you value your employees — show them. If you need your employees — find ways to keep them.

Listen — get creative — and take action to make 2022 be the year of the great retention at your organization — not the great resignation.