By Suneera Madhani, CEO and founder of Stax, a payment technology company and CEO School, a top 0.5% business podcast worldwide for women.
“I feel like I need a labor economist to tell me I’m not nuts.”
That’s what a friend from my CEO peer group said to me, describing how she’s dealing with the fallout from the “Great Resignation,” a term coined by professor Anthony Klotz that describes a wave of workers across many industries quitting their jobs.
It makes sense that many people are on the move now, given that so many stayed put during the pandemic. This increase of departures includes those who would have left last year (but stayed due to fear and uncertainty), as well as this year’s group. A frequently cited report from Monster.com confirms this, stating that a whopping 95% of workers are considering changing jobs.
But for employers, it’s not just the attrition; it’s the inability to compete with the staggering salaries. One CTO I know mentioned that he had to pay 60% more today than he would for the same position last year. This “war on talent” is something I’ve heard echoed by countless other frustrated founders and CEOs across industries and locations.
For some employees, it seems, the world is their oyster. Yet as tempting as those dollar signs are now, some leaving for greener pastures may find themselves later to be in an undesirable position of being let go because they’re overpaid once the market has stabilized. Or, a few weeks into the new corporate gig, they realize that their current employer doesn’t share the fun culture of the startup they left behind.
So, how can employers and employees navigate these tumultuous times? Here are three hard truths about the Great Resignation to consider before it’s too late.
If You’re An Employer Trying To Retain Talent
1. Be proactive, not reactive.
Retaining talent doesn’t start when you hear they’re resigning; by then, it’s too late. So instead, get ahead of any potential employees jumping ship by making a point to check in with your team regularly. Encourage your managers to go deeper in their one-on-one meetings to suss out any issues or concerns early so you can address and correct them. And be sure to ask about a team member’s desired career path so you can proactively create a plan for them to achieve it. Remember, if someone’s departure blindsides you, you’re not paying attention; that’s on you.
2. Reevaluate your total package to offer more time value back.
Even if you can’t compete on salary, you can — and should — offer other creative and desirable benefits to sweeten your overall package. In addition to base and variable, consider adding options. Expand your benefits package to include paid flexible time off, the ability to work from home or travel perks.
Consider, too, that your culture, values and work policies can set you apart and demonstrate that you offer more time value. For example, we recently implemented a “no meetings after 4 p.m.” policy that aligns with our belief in maintaining a work-life balance. Similarly, you could prioritize and encourage overall wellness to show your team you value and care about them as human beings.
3. Be accessible and opening to listening.
This is where you need to be willing to lose your ego and make the time to be present and actively listen. Your team members have a wealth of knowledge, insights and feedback to offer, but you need to make it easy for them to provide it to you to be effective or implemented.
I recently conducted dozens of 15-minute “coffee chats” to meet one-on-one with as many of our people as possible. I had no agenda other than to create time and space to check in with people, see how they’re doing, catch up and ask what we can do to support them in their jobs and what they need to be happy and healthy.
When you demonstrate that you’re willing to listen, your employees are more apt to share. Even better, they’ll feel valued, heard and supported.
If You’re An Employee Looking To Leave
1. Initiate transparent conversations.
If you’re unhappy, speak up. Take ownership of your career by communicating with your manager about your struggles or concerns and ask for their assistance in rectifying them. Managers aren’t mind readers, so before you get to the point of no return, initiate a conversation with the intent to work collaboratively on a solution.
2. Think long-term versus short-term.
Before you resign, weigh the benefits of a short-term salary increase with your long-term career opportunities. Does your potential employer offer a better career pathway for you than your current one? Will you receive more access to mentors and have the chance to take on greater responsibilities? Be sure to consider both the long- and short-term benefits before you depart.
3. Understand the tradeoffs.
Yes, getting a significant bump in your base is tempting, but consider what you’re willing to leave behind. One of our employees recently resigned and was in tears her last day, saying she didn’t want to leave our amazing culture, fearing her new employer wouldn’t measure up to our perks.
Every company is unique and prioritizes different things. You need to decide what matters most to you — compensation, benefits, perks, culture, aligned values — understanding the tradeoffs you might make. Before you decide the grass is greener elsewhere, take a look at your existing pasture and make sure a change is worth it.
By taking a thoughtful, proactive approach in considering these hard truths, employers and employees can navigate the Great Resignation better.