Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s very likely that you’re familiar with the “Great Resignation”; the term used to describe the elevated rate at which workers have quit their jobs in the past 12 months or so. This phenomenon began in the USA in the spring of 2021, and has since spread to other countries, including the UK, Australia and France.

The Great Resignation has been driven by increased competition for workers, particularly in sectors like healthcare, technology and hospitality. In economic terms, many employees have greater choice and are exercising that choice for all sorts of reasons; personal and professional.

Given this context, the leaders I speak to every day are trying to figure out how to retain their most valuable talent, how to attract the best available talent, and how to encourage high levels of commitment and discretionary effort in their talent. Beyond the obvious strategies that good organizations employ, such as attractive benefits, a constructive culture, workplace flexibility, career growth and the like, what else can leaders do to address the talent challenges amplified by the Great Resignation?

The power of purpose

The personal and professional gravity of the COVID pandemic led many of us to reflect on some pretty big questions; “How truly happy was I with life before COVID?” “What assumptions did I make, that no longer hold true for me?” “What do I really want from my work, my employer and my career?” “What is the contribution that I want to make?” “What is the legacy that I want to leave?”

Recent survey data confirms what many of us have been observing for some time; more than ever, people need to feel a powerful sense of purpose in their work.

A good example comes from Gartner, who measured how the pandemic has changed employees’ feelings about work and life. 65% of respondents said that the pandemic has “made me rethink the place that work should have in my life”, 56% said it’s “made me want to contribute more to society”, 52% said it’s “made me question the purpose of my day job”, and 50% said it’s “changed my expectations of my employer.” *

If you want to retain, attract and inspire your talent, you need to connect them with a compelling sense of purpose; theirs, yours and your organization’s. In simple terms, you need to help them to answer two questions, above all others. Does this matter? Do I matter?

Does this matter?

Why does your organization exist, above and beyond making money? Who do you serve? What is the contribution that you make? Who would miss you if you were gone?

If you want to retain, attract and inspire your talent in a post-pandemic world, then you need compelling answers to these questions. You need to convince them, and yourself, that your organization matters. Without that sense of purpose, there is not much tying your people to you, other than a paycheck, which is a very vulnerable place for you to be right now.

Do I matter?

Assuming that you can articulate why your organization matters, then you need to convince your talent that they matter.

Each member of your team needs to believe that their work really matters and see how it connects to your organization’s purpose. They need to feel like they are part of a connected community in pursuit of a shared mission. They also need to believe that you care about them as a human being, not just as a human doing.

Set up a relaxed conversation with each team member and become really curious about what excites them in their work, where they feel positively challenged, and any questions or concerns they have. Articulate the unique contribution that you believe they make today, and can make in the future. Most importantly, make this a regular conversation – even if it’s just a 15-minute check-in – so that you can recognize their contribution while they’re making it, and identify any issues before they become insurmountable.

The Great Resignation is happening, whether you like it or not. As a leader, you can bemoan the challenges it brings, or you can use it to your advantage; to create a more purposeful organization with the best talent in your sector. I hope this blog will help you in pursuit of the latter.

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about PETER

For two decades, Dr. Peter Fuda has been a Sherpa to leaders, teams and organizations across the globe. He’s coached more than 250 CEOs to measurably higher levels of performance. His consulting company has delivered dozens of cases of business transformation and thousands of individual cases of leadership transformation, at a success rate of greater than 90%.

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