The Great Resignation, A Great Awakening?

The Great Resignation has caused attrition to soar in businesses worldwide, but how might we prevent its negative impact?

Of all the changes we’ve faced since 2020, the most significant are the ones that continue to modify our thinking. Whether it’s Covid-19 or other geopolitical disputes we’ve all been pushed to assess our circumstances on a near daily basis. This has had profound knock-on effects. Our relationships have changed. Our approach to work has changed. Our world has changed.  

With each of these adjustments the likelihood of a Great Resignation has become increasingly certain and whilst a mass exodus of employees was always foreseeable for the early 2020s, this doesn’t render it any less problematic. In line with this, executives the world over are working to reduce the rate of attrition within their organizations. For many, success has been found by embracing the fallout of The Great Resignation. For others, the shift has been near overwhelming.  

For Stephane Charbonnier – Chief Human Resources Officer for L’Oréal North America – The Great Resignation has exposed opportunity. Whilst attrition may be one of the greatest threats facing HR today, it’s laid bare our most pressing workplace challenges. Unwittingly then, executives have been served all the insights that they could ever need to encourage retention. In this way, for Stephane, the Great Resignation was more akin to a Great Awakening. It was on this subject that Stephane spoke at GDS’ recent HR summit in April. 

What’s Causing the Great Resignation? 

A recent survey from the MIT Sloan School of Management found that around 34 million US employees left their roles between April and September 2021. Based on this unprecedented level of churn, the MIT identified the five common predictors of attrition at this time. Stephane walked our delegation through each in turn, to cast a light on some inconvenient truths.  

  1. Toxic culture: We define toxic culture as one which fails to respect employees, commonly misaligns values and doesn’t involve employees in conversation. As Stephane put it, “we know that when you have a culture in the workplace that’s driven by fear and a lack of psychological safety and transparency, people will leave the organization at a startling rate.” 
  2. Job Insecurity: We cannot be productive if we feel that our positions aren’t secure, as such, job security must be assured. Stephane supported this claim, stating, “every time an organization reorganizes or is seen to be struggling, job insecurity is a big driver of attrition.”  
  3. Burnout: This is one of the most obvious causes of attrition given that the separation between work and home has never been slighter. As Stephane put it, “people were working around the clock remotely and this wasn’t sustainable. It’s put a clear focus on the importance of proactively managing mental health.” 
  4. Lack of Recognition: When our employees do well, we all do well. As such, we need to recognize their efforts accordingly. As Stephane stated, “we see here, a bigger point which is around employees feeling valued, feeling cared for and that they have a sense of belonging.” 
  5. Poor response to Covid-19: The safety of employees must be any organization’s top priority. As Stephane pointed out, “when employees felt that their employers didn’t respond appropriately to in the face of the pandemic, this was a likely predictor for attrition.” 

What Reduces Attrition? 

Each of the issues raised above represents a substantial workplace challenge, how then can we look to ease them? 

  1. Lateral Career Opportunities: In 2022, we need to encourage greater mobility within our organizations. As Stephane established, “not everyone wants to climb the corporate ladder, but everyone is looking for an opportunity to learn and grow.” 
  2. Remote Work Arrangements and Flexibility: Remote work and flexibility are no longer nice-to-haves, they’re must-haves. As Stephane suggests, we’ve all come to big realizations. “People have learned during the pandemic that they can do better when they work remotely but that there are also things that are important to cope with in our day-to-day lives.” 
  3. Company Sponsored Events: Our work is important, but the connections we forge every day are what will keep us in our roles. Accordingly, “people want to get together and feel that sense of connectivity with their co-workers. Through social events you can strengthen connections and encourage a sense of community, reinforcing the sense of belonging.” 

How Do We Prevent Attrition? 

Is attrition an unfortunate but unavoidable outcome of business then? Increasingly, it would seem not. To this end, Stephane laid out some practical changes we can all make today. 

  1. Strengthen Talent Pipeline: We need to start thinking about our talent strategy holistically. This means that we have to create a strong talent pipeline whether internally or externally. 
  2. Re-Engage Current Employees: It is also vital we think about the way we re-engage or rehire employees, something that L’Oréal considers on a day-to-day basis according to Stephane. Both of these points can be tackled by improving the following: 
  • Community: We must foster a sense of community if we want to retain employees. “It’s extremely important to create a relationship between the company and its employees and people need to feel good about coming into work every day.” 
  • Learning & Development: We have to help our employees grow professionally. For example, as Stephane noted, “at L’Oréal we are trying to shift from a culture of ‘we know it all’ to ‘we want to learn it all’. We try to put that learning and development in the context of the work.” 
  • Workplace: The meaning of the workplace has changed, and we need to provide adequate solutions to those in the office and remote. After all, “the workplace is the heart of where people are connected. The purpose of the workplace has changed now, but we need to be deliberate about why people come to an office.” 
  • Leadership: Management across the board needs to alter their approach as “people are not leaving organizations, they’re leaving managers. We need to have leaders that are demonstrating much more empathy, showing more authenticity and who are aware of their shadow. “ 
  • Purpose: Ultimately, all of the above “has to be underlined and underpinned by a strong sense of purpose. For us, we try to live it and make sure that our employees do on a day-to-day basis. The company that will win in the future will be the ones who are very clear on what they are and what they are not.” 

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