To be fair, there is plenty going on outside of companies that makes it harder to attract and retain talent. The pandemic has triggered mass resignations. As WGBH reported, from April to the end of July, nearly 16 million Americans quit their jobs — with the service sector taking the brunt of the big quit.
Millions of others were forced to find new work. That’s because about 13 million Americans were laid off in March 2020. And all that dislocation has prompted a wave of career rethinking. Indeed, 66 percent of unemployed adults say they have seriously considered changing careers, according to Pew Research.
With normal life grinding to a halt during the early months of the pandemic, people thought about the chance that their lives could be cut short and considered whether they were on the right path.
As Priscilla Douglas, executive coach and board vice president of the Massachusetts Women’s Forum, told WGBH, people wanted to quit their spouses, city, job, community, and “to relocate their home.”
This changing societal mindset raises a basic question for business leaders: How can I keep my talent from quitting?
1. Adopt the right management style.
At the risk of oversimplifying, there are two kinds of management styles:
- Command and control — issuing orders down the line and checking to see how well people followed them; and
- Servant leadership — creating a compelling mission for your company and empowering your people to develop effective solutions to realize it.
Most talented people do not appreciate feeling like they are puppets on the end of the strings that you control. Odds are high that if your company is suffering from high turnover, your command and control leadership style is the culprit.
If you can’t learn fast how to become a servant leader — where your primary task is to create an environment where your talent can feel inspired to work in your company — then you should hire a replacement who can.
Such a drastic move may not be necessary if you can bring on board a chief operating officer (COO) with a track record of increasing employee and customer satisfaction and boosting the lifetime value of your customer relationships.
If you delegate the people side of your business to such a COO you will be on your way to making your company a destination for talent.
2. Create a culture of happiness.
Once your company has the right management style, it must examine whether it has the right culture.
By that I mean, it should have a culture based on happiness. As I wrote in Value Leadership, that means you place a premium on making your people happy so they will be motivated to delight your customers by giving them great service and developing new products that solve their biggest problems.
Such a culture has many benefits. It keeps your customers buying from you over a long time and makes them enthusiastic about recommending your company to other potential customers.
What’s more those happy customers will be much more profitable which will motivate investors to provide your company the capital it needs to expand. You can use that capital to give your employees more money and opportunities to apply their talents to realize more broadly your company’s mission.
3. Set goals and enable processes to keep talent motivated.
To create a culture of happiness, set goals and enable processes that turn the nice-sounding words into concerted action. Communicate your values, set tangible goals, and empower your people to operate in new ways to realize those goals.
Perhaps surprisingly, if your people have been struggling under a command and control leadership style, adopting a servant leadership approach will unlock their natural desire to make a difference in the lives of your customers.
Simply put, people crave recognition. If you are going to all the trouble to hire and pay people, you ought to take input from you and your customers, propose solutions that make them better off, and make the company work better in response to changing customers needs, new technologies, and upstart rivals.
Do these three things and your company will be the place that the most talented of today’s big quitters want to be.