Arming Yourself for a New Talent War: The Great Resignation

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Kristen Kenton

President | Kenton Talent Management

We are all painfully aware that businesses are currently struggling to hire and retain top talent. Our “post-pandemic” talent landscape has become so volatile and competitive that it has been coined “The Great Resignation”. Now more than ever, people are asking themselves three core questions:

  1. Am I passionate about my job/ work (is this what I was always meant to do)?
  2. Do I respect and enjoy the people I work with (and the company I work for)?
  3. Am I being compensated equitably for my work?

In many cases, if the answer is “no” to any of those critical questions, people are simply resigning. Perhaps Covid emboldened us via a painful reminder that life is precious, and we should honor the little time we have on this earth? Or maybe we have grown tired of the sacrifices that society tells us we must make in order to be successful, valued, and worthy?

Last week, I was chatting with a friend of mine who runs a large non-profit in Denver. We were commiserating over the current challenges associated with finding and keeping “A-talent”. Suddenly, she stated “I think the reality is that people are suffering from sacrifice- fatigue”. I was shocked by that statement. But then I started to reflect upon all the emails I had so quickly deleted from people that were inviting me to fundraisers, events, and workshops. Sadly, I recognized that my friend was on to something. People are growing tired of sacrifice. They are tired of giving their time and/or trading in their happiness to be with people they don’t really know – or investing in things that they don’t believe should/ will impact their success or their personal and professional fulfillment.

In my previous article, “Hiring for Who Via Adaptive Cultures” I shared my belief that most people choose to tolerate mediocre relationships, jobs, or lives if they don’t see them as truly broken. I think the pandemic forced many of us to finally face and accept what is broken. Something that might have been “good enough” in the pre-pandemic age now simply feels like too substantial a sacrifice.

So, how do we reinvent ourselves, our businesses, and the jobs we have to offer in order to compete amidst the “Great Resignation”? We must arm ourselves. Like any war, a successful outcome starts with knowledge and planning. We must understand what issues and events are causing the problem.

According to Mercer’s recent article “Global Trends of 2022”, this is what most companies are doing to arm themselves:

  1. Increasing Innovation
  2. Enhancing the customer experience
  3. Enhancing the employee experience (companies have learned the hard way that they must create an end-to-end employee journey in order to attract and retain top talent)
  4. Finding new ways to work digitally
  5. Cost cutting (I’d like to remind everyone that not all cost cutting measures are created equally – training and development shouldn’t be the first thing to go when times get tough, particularly amidst the “Great Resignation”)
  6. Streamlining operations
  7. Building resilience (I’d also add mastering change to this list)
  8. Focusing on ESG (environmental, social, governance), which obviously includes diversity
  9. Re-skilling our workforce (we must understand the differences between training and development in order to optimize these efforts)
  10. Increasing collaboration

Mercer’s article also mentioned the key obstacles that are preventing us from accomplishing the items listed above. Here are their top three:

  1. Too many competing priorities (our priorities must directly support clear business objectives and they need to be effectively communicated and cascaded throughout our organizations)
  2. Employee exhaustion and burnout (I think this bullet legitimizes my friend’s comment about “sacrifice fatigue”)
  3. Inadequate workforce skills (again, too many companies are wasting money on insufficient “hard skills” versus the “soft skills” that really impact organizational and cultural outcomes such as mastering change, influence, inspiring followership, etc.)

In summary, we must arm ourselves for an ever-changing and unending talent war.  We will certainly experience many “ups and downs” as we navigate future recessions, budget constraints, and critical investment decisions that will shape who we will become, both as people and as organizations. However, I firmly believe that every single one of us will continue to experience challenges hiring and retaining top talent, despite the economic landscape. I truly hope all of us will be courageous enough to question and reinvent the beliefs, processes, tools, and systems that are only further diminishing our ability to emerge triumphant in the battle for exceptional talent.

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