Navigating The “Great Resignation”: How To Retain Employees When No One Else Can

Updated: Dec 9, 2021




The pandemic disrupted what a "normal" workspace looks like. People aren't going to work anymore. They're living at it. Working from home is the new normal. Things won't be going back to how they were any time soon. And with more employees are working from home, more people are weighing their options and considering if they actually enjoy their work or not.


Just look at what happening in America. In September this year over 4 million Americans quit their jobs. And these numbers have been steady throughout the year. While this trend hasn't hit Southern Africa yet, we're most likely going to see similar trends in the near future.


Having people locked in their homes most of the time has left little room to separate work and personal life. It’s a change that's been very hard to navigate for a lot of people. And professionals with children have been hit even harder. This new level of pressure has led a lot of people reevaluating what they really want to do.


And, to top it off, more and more international companies are looking for talent in Southern Africa. Creating more work international opportunities for employees, without needing to leave the country.

In order to retain your talents and key performing employees, your business needs to adapt quickly to this new normal. Employee retention strategies need to be implemented to stop employee turnover in its tracks.

So here are 5 strategies you can start implementing in order to hold onto your top performers (and even gain some new ones).



1. Enrich Your Company Culture

Having a rich and diverse company culture can't be overlooked. It will determine whether your employees feel valued, welcome, and appreciated—or not. The more valued and appreciated your employees feel the less they'll want to leave. And the better they'll perform.

So what's bad company culture? Things like workplace unhappiness and unhealthiness (gossip or business politics) as well as poor company values all fall under poor company culture. These things will eventually eat away at your employees' morale, making them more likely to start looking for new, better opportunities. If you notice these red flags you need to start taking measures to fix them right away.


Some implementations you can make to enrich your company culture are:

  • Increase workplace diversity by creating initiatives for more ethnicities, genders and viewpoints in your workforce.

  • Create development opportunities for growth, better resources or mentorships.

Another strategy to assess company culture is to have regular in-house surveys to determine employee satisfaction levels, morale, values, etc. Once you've completed the surveys start implementing changes suited to the needs of your employees. Then wait a few months and repeat the process.

Developing an incredible work culture takes time, effort and work. It doesn't happen after one or two changes but after months or years of dedication. But it's vital for the long-term retention of your employees.

Because alone these issues might not seem as important compared to other aspects of the business. But if they go unchecked, they can have catastrophic results.


2. Help Employees Find Purpose

The amount of personal fulfillment we feel in our careers directly affects how well we perform and how engaged in the business we are. The more fulfilled an employee feels the less likely they are to start looking at different options. The less fulfilled they are, the faster they'll leave you.

One way you can help your employees find purpose is using a purpose archetype to find out what drives as individuals. There are 3 main archetypes (free spirit, achiever and caregiver) and each one gets fulfillment from different achievements.

By understanding which category different employees fit into you'll be able to have a better sense of their ideal communication methods, motivators, and roles. Finding out your employee archetypes can be as simple as asking a series of questions that match them with a particular archetype.

Once you know their archetype you can match them with their ideal role or start relocating better fitting responsibilities. This will result in better performance, higher morale and overall improved spirits in the workplace. This personal approach also shows your employees that they're valued which works unbelievable wonders for productivity.


3. Develop Your Managers Soft Skills

Having a bad manager almost always results in employees running for the hills (and the ones that stay won't give nearly as much effort). Having a great manager, however, develops future leaders and high-achievers in the company. Managers directly influence the performance of employees, but they need the right tools in order to get them there.

Having soft skills is one of those tools. Soft skills are skills that aren't job specific or technical in nature. These are more personality focused and socially involving, regardless of the industry. Some key soft skills include: Empathy, Adaptability, Creativity and Attention to Detail.

Managers can improve their soft skills through training methods like direct or online mentorship, live workshops, role-plays and peer learning. If your business or company doesn't have in-house training for soft skills, you can incorporate an external training program and select a model that aligns with your companies' values and your managers' skillset.

Another strategy to strengthen a managers' ability to create successful employees is 1:1 communication. This lets the employee engage in open communication and ask questions or get solutions about challenges they're facing.

Opening lines of communication between employees and managers is critical to strengthening relationships. The process can be stressful for new managers so you can use some of the following tips to make it easier:

  • Have a scheduled time, place and date for each meeting.

  • Create talking points for each meeting to have better structure.

  • Start with some open ended questions to get the conversation flowing.

  • Focus on building stronger personal connections instead of work-related progress reports.

Finally, you could also look into implementing work management software so managers can delegate tasks easier, have a better eye on what the team and track projects without micromanaging.


4. Create A Clear Plan for Growth

In 2021, lack of opportunity for growth was one of the top reasons employees left their jobs—no one likes hitting a ceiling. Creating more growth opportunities encourages employees to set and reach new milestones. And this allows your employees to envision a future in your company.

Many companies still struggle to create and communicate growth opportunities to employees. But something you can do is implement a job-leveling structure to meet specific competency requirements in each role in the corporate hierarchy. This way you can better communicate these requirements to all employees. Creating more clarity and a better idea of what needs to be done to reach the next level.


5. Adapt to The New Work-From-Home and Hybrid Team Models

Remote work isn't going anywhere. So companies can either adapt to the change, or watch their top employees leave for more flexible options. Businesses and companies that embrace the work-from-home model stand a better chance at retaining their current talent as well as attracting new talent.

Here's two things you can do to make adapting easier:

  • Prioritize flexibility in the workplace. You can do this by moving from hourly-based compensation to a production-based model. Here is where clarity is critical, otherwise you'll run into more frustration than anything. So define workloads and expectations as clearly as possible and give employees the freedom to set their own hours. If you've got good culture and good managers, they'll handle the work on their own just fine.

  • Connect with your employees virtually via chat groups or scheduled Zoom meetings. Technology has made connecting to others easier than ever, so why not use it in the workspace? And these don't all have to be for work. You can create a dedicated channel for non-work topics to give employees a better feeling of connection.



Employee Retention Is a Marathon Not a Sprint

If you want to stay ahead of the "great resignation" curve you need to think long-term. Small changes will help the immediate future but you need to work constantly and get plenty of feedback in order to create a working environment that's attractive to your employees.

If you can commit to prioritizing the needs of your employees now, you'll be better able to retain current employees. They'll also be happier and work better. And you'll have created improved internal measures which will make your company the place to be for new and upcoming talents.

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