What Matters Most
to Your Employees

Dear Springboard:

I saw in the news this week that another 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November 2021 and that’s on top of 4.2 million in October.

As a corporate VP, I’m concerned we’re going to lose valuable people and am not sure what to do about it.

Sign me,

Worried About Good People Leaving


The Great Resignation is a real thing and is putting some companies at serious risk.

While many of this exodus are lower-level front line workers who are seeking higher pay and better working conditions, there is a significant number of professionals who have left or are considering leaving.

A September McKinsey Quarterly article noted that 19 million US workers had quit their jobs just since April, a record pace. (Looking at the Labor Bureau stats, it’s about double what we saw in 2020.)

There are many factors for people quitting voluntarily. Many people stayed put in 2020 and part of the increase is due to an unleashing of a year’s worth of pent-up resignations.

That so many are leaving is certainly an issue. What makes matters worse is that many companies are not making the effort to understand why their people are either thinking of leaving or actually leaving.

The easy solution has been to throw money at the problem with raises and retention bonuses and then wonder why it didn’t have the desired impact.

The McKinsey article points out that the employees did not view this as appreciation but instead a transaction and what employees are craving now is the human aspects of work.

When there are problems, I often think of the importance of people needing to feel seen and heard plus the longing to belong. While it was an issue before Covid, the pandemic has highlighted it through the physical separateness of working virtually.

Plus, this period has led many to reconsider their values and what is important to them in their lives as a whole.

People are worn out, some burned out, and are looking for a refreshed perspective on their lives and a renewed sense of purpose in their work.

So much so, that last summer 40% reported that they were at least somewhat likely to leave their job in the next three to six months.

What’s more, there has been a willingness to make the move even without a job in hand. To wit, citing the McKinsey research, of those who had already quit, 36% did so without another offer; and of those at least somewhat likely to quit, 64% said they would leave without a new job lined up.

Whether for your team or for the whole company, a good first step is to analyze what has already happened to gain insight into trends inside the company and the magnitude of the problem.

Then, and most importantly, speak with your employees and ask what matters most to them.

The McKinsey research found, “The top three factors employees cited for quitting were that they didn’t feel valued by their organizations (54%), or their managers (52%), or didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51%).”

My personal view is that some of this employee exhaustion is due to companies severely cutting back their workforce in the Great Recession of 2008-09 and never fully restoring their ranks as their firms returned to full capacity and growth.

Not being adequately staffed year after year, has taken a big toll (and then Covid piled on). Big picture, we see the results in a robust stock market and spiking mental health problems on a national level.

Given that the boss is still the most crucial relationship, managers and their leaders are in a position to make a difference. If they need an incentive, remember that is much easier (more profitable, more productive) to retain employees versus replacing them.

What can managers md employers do?

  • Look for opportunities to show respect
  • Pay people enough so money isn’t an issue – adequate comp is tables stakes today
  • Ask what matters to your employees . . . and listen . . .and then act!
  • Seek to understand and be compassionate – be more intentional and empathetic
  • Be open to new ideas and be flexible – model agility
  • Don’t insist on broad mandates that disregard individual needs – working mothers vs. older workers
  • Understand that 65% reported a primary reason to stay in their jobs was they liked where they lived (In the McKinsey research, 87% of those who accepted jobs in new cities, did not have to move.)
  • Empower local managers to use their discretion – trust them
  • Understand the need for resilience – don’t marginalize vulnerability

The research captures the spirit of the issue well.

“Provide the flexibility, connectivity, and sense of unity and purpose that people crave.”

 From the Watercooler


Love is giving time and attention.

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