The great resignation is not a blip, writes Heather Gille. It’s not a short-lived trend of rage-quitting by workers who subsequently rethink, regret and return to their jobs. In fact, the great resignation seems here to stay.

Last year, Brits resigned at their highest rate since 2009 while in America nearly 39 million citizens had quit their jobs by November. The “quits level,” as it’s called, was 4.53 million in November, according to the U.S. Labor Department. This was an 8.9 percent increase from October, which surpassed September’s mark of 4.36 million. The total U.S. workforce is around 165 million. When the 2021 numbers are counted up, they will show that more than a quarter of U.S. workers quit their jobs during the year.

Why all the quitting? The main reason people are leaving their jobs is that they’re finding positions with higher pay. But that’s not the only reason. Companies trying to attract workers are discovering that more money alone is not the answer. McKinsey research found that what employees want, in addition to money, is meaning, shared identity and a sense that they’re valued. Employees want a better understanding of the corporate purpose and their own role in it.

Here are three ways to get ahead of the great resignation and keep your employees happy and motivated—and working for you.

1: Provide personalised support

One way my company is effectively retaining employees is through our new executive mentorship program for high-potential talent. This is intended to be a fun, friendly, high-engagement program. We assign each high-potential individual (at the Director level+) to an executive leader. The expectation is that the leaders will meet regularly with their assigned employees and help guide them through their professional development with customised coaching and personalised support.

The reality is that, as an organisation, we have to put our money where our mouth is. The good news is that our executives are excited to take time out of their own schedules and invest it in our most promising employees as a way to demonstrate our company’s commitment to them and help drive greater engagement and retention. Because what’s good for our employees is good for our business.

2: Listen to your employees

Like most companies, we sit down with employees and do performance reviews at least once a year. The difference is that we are now asking all managers to turn the last 15-20 minutes of these conversations into a listening exercise. Why? Because this is a prime opportunity to listen to employees and understand what we need to do to keep them with us and help them take their careers to the next level.

Managers will ask questions like: How would you rate your work-life balance and how could it be improved? What do you enjoy about the professional development opportunities available to you? What can I do to make your experience at FinancialForce better? Based on the answers, managers can develop customised plans to support and retain their employees. This is essential because we want employees to know that “we care and are listening.”

Our HR teams can also develop short-term and long-term strategies in response to what we’re hearing. For instance, it might become clear that we need to build additional training programs in a particular area. Or we may find prime opportunities to evolve our employee value proposition with enhanced benefit offerings or programs. What I love about this listening program is that it touches every person in the organisation and helps us respond to the needs of our employees and our business at the same time. It also helps newer managers learn an essential skill in connecting with each employee in support of their needs and interests.

3: Build connections

To drive stronger human connections and alleviate Zoom fatigue, we have started an annual leadership summit. We’re a global organisation, so it’s important to bring our people together face-to-face at least once a year. The summit is an in-person, three-day event where we bring together employees from all of our locations. The event is focused on leadership development, cross-functional training and learning. We invite professional speakers and also have a lot of fun activities like golf, tennis and group dinners.

This way we help people build connections across the organisation and enhance their leadership skills and professional development. We also make clear to all our employees our serious commitment to and investment in them. We showcase our company’s inspiring vision and growth strategy to energise the teams.

Making these types of investments in our employees is one of the best ways we’ve found to reduce turnover and increase happiness and productivity.

The road ahead

The great resignation is not a trend that companies can wait out or ignore. It is a real problem for corporate America right now. But it is a problem that can be solved. By treating your people with the respect they deserve and fostering a culture of care, you can retain your workers and win their long-term trust and devotion. That’s good for them—and for you.


Heather Gille is Chief People Officer at FinancialForce