Turn “The Great Resignation” Into “The Great Opportunity” – How Businesses Can Reboot Their Retention & Recruitment Strategies


In the Spring of 2021, more people quit their jobs than in any other single month in the last century. Companies have been scrambling to hire, and the sudden gap has been given many different names. Some are referring to it as a “labor shortage”, some are calling it “The Great Resignation”. The Atlantic had a particularly tongue-in-cheek take. A headline article in June proclaimed that “quitting your job is hot this summer”.

Regardless of what they call it, companies are in something of a panic. How do you replace that many workers when no one seems to want the job? More importantly, how do you keep from “leaking” more employees while you do? To answer the last question, you have to look at why people leave their jobs.

To answer the first, you have to look at why people love their jobs. When you do this, you can turn “The Great Resignation” into “The Great Opportunity” for your business.

Buried Costs and Hidden Impact

The stunning reality is this: When an employee leaves, it costs the company at least 1 times that person’s annual salary—and often up to double.

The loss of just one worker causes a hidden domino effect of buried costs that directly slam bottom-line profits. But at most organizations, hardly anyone will notice.

While companies spend most of their time worrying about small expenditures at the office, they fail to realize that losing one $75,000-a-year employee could quietly cost them up to $150,000.

Consider just a few of the wide-ranging, hidden costs that contribute to this astounding number:

  • Damage to team morale and performance
  • Lost prospects and customers
  • Potential lawsuits
  • Lost company and product knowledge
  • Overworking of remaining employees
  • Lost connections and experience
  • Diminished work productivity
  • Distraction from key business priorities
  • Recruitment of employee replacements
  • New-hire training and onboarding
  • Management time diverted to new hires

Do the math, and you’ll soon realize that the loss of employees is costing you major revenues—and it’s only going to get worse. Saving just a couple of employees from leaving your company will more than offset any investment you make in strengthening your retention strategy.

As executives, it’s our job to focus on profits. If you can reduce the number of lost employees by just 1% or 2%, that’s a major cost savings for your organization.

This is precisely why retention isn’t an issue to be relegated solely to HR. Instead, it’s an executive, strategic issue that’s critical to your company’s growth.

So, what’s the key to protecting your bottom line? Hint: It’s not salary and benefits.

Why people leave their job

First, why do people leave their jobs? The short answer is they usually don’t. People rarely take jobs that they find absolutely no enjoyment or fulfillment in. There was something that brought them to the work itself.

So where’s the disconnect? Companies are missing their Great Opportunity in two places.

People don’t leave jobs, they leave people.
Employees leave bad teams, bad management, or bad policies. They’ll stay in the same kind of work, so the job itself isn’t the problem. That’s kind of an old cliche, so take it further and deeper. Why do people stay in the job field?

People don’t leave jobs they love.
Even if it wasn’t their childhood dream, even if they get other offers, people stay in jobs they love.

Employees don’t leave jobs and people they love. Period.

5 Loves every business should cultivate to thrive instead of just survive

People leaving their company is a solvable problem. If you want to boost retention and recruitment while every other business scrambles for workers, you need to make people love your company.

There’s a simple solution for turning a crisis into a Great Opportunity and we have outlined the 5 loves that every business should cultivate in 2021 if they want to thrive instead of just survive.

Love #1: Purpose and Impact

People love seeing the purpose and impact their company has on the world around them. Human beings have a natural desire to help people they perceive as being in need.

When someone sees their job as truly helping the world, they wouldn’t dream of leaving it.

This is something you see every day but might not notice.

Anyone who is truly, deeply passionate about their work will inevitably talk about the difference they see it making in their world. This is true of top-tier teachers, chefs, scientists, athletes… the list goes on. They stick with their career through thick and thin because they see it making a difference.

When your employees can see the positive effects your company has on the world, they’ll stick, too. Communicating your company’s broader purpose and positive impact is critical during these changes in the job market.

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Action Tip: Create a way for your employees to see the difference they’re making. This could be a presentation, email, break room flyer, or meeting topic. Talk about the problems the company was created to solve. Share customer or client reviews and situations that talk about how important your company was during a critical time. Most importantly, make this an ongoing conversation and encourage your employees to contribute.

Love #2: Distinction and Recognition

Helping out is a natural human tendency, but so is being special. This is a desire that’s more present in your company than you realize. People don’t just want to help, they want to be heroes. They want to be distinct from others and part of the “in” crowd.

If you want to see retention rates improve, give that distinction and recognition to your employees. Make them feel like they’re part of something unique and exclusive.

This is something that can be present from the hiring process all the way through an employee’s career.

However, treating them well is critical. Making your company seem special shouldn’t sound like this: “You’re lucky to be part of our team”, “We don’t usually offer chances to join”, “You shouldn’t pass this up, you won’t get another opportunity”.

Not only do these statements sound critical and self-centered, but they also make you seem full of hot air, especially if you have multiple open listings. Instead, make yourselves special by focusing on what sets you apart from your competitors.

Doing this means the Great Opportunity can win you more customers as well as more employees. Even if someone doesn’t make it through your hiring process, the sense that your company is special will win them over as a customer or advocate.

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Action Tip: Treat your employees as well as you treat your customers. You already spend time and energy telling your customers what sets you apart. Chances are, you aren’t telling them that they’re lucky you’re helping them. Instead, you tell them what they’ll miss out on when buying from a competitor. Treat your employees the same way. Don’t tell them you’re better. Show them.

Love #3: Colleagues and Teamwork

Close on the heels of helping others and being recognized comes teamwork. Humans are social animals. That means the chances of someone staying in a job where they feel isolated are slim to none. Your company likely already has some sort of team structure in place.

This is a great opportunity to re-examine it. How strong are your teams? What does a strong team look like?

First, let’s look at what a weak team is. A weak team is a group of people loosely slapped together.

They don’t know or care about each other outside of the mandatory interactions they have. Their leader is someone they don’t understand or believe in, and they feel forced to play along. They don’t feel like their input is heard, wanted, or acted on. These are the kinds of “teams” that send people running for the hills.

A good team is none of those things. A good, strong team will keep people with their job because they genuinely like and trust their team.

They know they can count on their colleagues when they’re in a pinch. More importantly than being a high-performing team, is your team is a consistently high-achieving team (CHAT)™? They get good results almost all the time, and in the rare times they don’t, they know how to get there again.

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Action Tip: Poll your team. On a scale of 1-10, how close are they to becoming a consistently high-achieving team? What areas can they improve? After the poll, listen to their feedback and take action. This poll isn’t about putting a band-aid over problems, it’s about helping your team become a CHAT.

Love #4: Freedom and Empowerment

By this point, you’re probably noticing a pattern. Each of the 5 loves people have for their job is connected to an intrinsic human desire. Love #4 follows the pattern. People want to be free and empowered.

What does this mean for your company? Watch out for micromanaging and focus on cutting the bureaucracy wherever you can.

People want to stay in a job where they can play to their natural strengths and talents. Being able to focus on their passion makes them feel empowered and content.

Do you know what kills that empowerment? Having someone looking over their shoulder while they work. No one likes to be micromanaged, and having to fight through layers of bureaucracy and approvals is even worse.

If you want to see both retention and productivity go up, let your employees do their jobs. They’ll be happier to work with you and more will get done. This is because they know you trust them to do a good job.

Trust is a key part of that feeling of freedom and empowerment you want them to have.

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Action Tip: Evaluate your direct reports. Ask them if the 5 things that make people love their work are being addressed or needs to be met. A common objection to loosening the reins is that people might abuse the lack of restrictions. If that’s your worry, start with your high performers. Does someone who does their job exceptionally well have the exact same restrictions and supervision as someone who is new or performing poorly? If so, it’s time for a change. After all, if you can’t trust high performers to do their jobs, who can you trust? Your highest performers will also be acutely aware of the things keeping them in the job or leading them to look elsewhere.

Love #5: Vision and Future

Finally, people want to know there are good things in the future. People get married, move across the country, and spend years barely getting by, all because they like what they see as the end goal.

In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic threw this into sharp relief for many people. They realized they were underappreciated by companies that didn’t even have a future for them. The time for dead-end jobs is over.

Your employees need room to grow.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean trying to put everyone on a career track to become the CEO. While management opportunities can certainly play a role in growth, they aren’t the sole way for people to grow. Education, opportunity to hone their skills alone or through mentorship, travel, and networking are all personal growth opportunities.

People don’t just leave stagnant roles. They also leave stagnant companies.

What is your company’s vision for the future? To put it another way, how would you respond in this scenario?

interviewing a potential hire. When you ask about their 5-year plan for their life and career, they answer: “Oh, I don’t know. Just keep doing what I’m doing, I guess. I’m pretty happy with it, so I don’t feel the need to change anything.” You probably wouldn’t hire them, right?

That blasé attitude is no more attractive to your employees than it is to you.

Your Great Opportunity here isn’t just for your employees, it’s also a chance to breathe new life into your company.

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Action Tip: Hold your company to the same standards that you hold your employees. Besides just a plan, figure out what your company’s “North Star” for growth is. Include these things in the ongoing conversation you have with your employees. In addition to growth goals, hold your company in general to the same standards that you hold your employees. You’d drop an employee who can’t deliver as promised, or who didn’t have good communication skills. Hold the company as a whole to the exact same standards. Does your company have an exciting future? Does your company’s future excite your employees?

Rebooting Retention and Recruitment

As you’ve likely noticed, all of these loves are closely interwoven. You can’t have one without the others. Even if you somehow had the world’s best purpose and impact, if your employees are micromanaged and isolated, they’ll leave anyway. You expect your employees to get better at their jobs year over year.

The so-called “great resignation” is employees holding the same measuring stick to the companies they work at.

Unfortunately, too many companies didn’t measure up, and employees left. If your company does measure up, two big things will start to happen. Your retention rates will soar and recruitment will be a breeze.

That’s because people want to stay at jobs they love, but they also want to refer people to jobs they love.

When you do have roles open, you’ll have friends and family of your co-workers already lined up to see what all the fuss is about, cutting your recruitment time and effort significantly. There has truly never been a better time to reboot your retention and recruitment strategies.

If you do, the “great resignation” can be your great opportunity to steal top-tier talent.