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The power of purpose - how businesses can stay competitive during the ‘Great Resignation’

Hervé Duborjal Profile picture for user Hervé Duborjal March 24, 2022
Businesses are seeing 'The Great Resignation' play out in real time. Hervé Duborjal of ServiceNow shares the staps that companies can take to adapt and avoid it.

Great resignation, employee resign, quit or leaving company, people management or human resources problem concept, business people employee resign and walk through exit door © eamesBot - Shutterstock
(Great resignation, employee resign, quit or leaving company, people management or human resources problem concept, business people employee resign and walk through exit door © eamesBot - Shutterstock)

Chances are, you’re already aware of ‘The Great Resignation’.

In 2021, workers looking for more fulfilling, flexible work or a better work/life balance left their jobs at record rates. In the IT sector alone, 31% of workers were actively seeking a new job between July and September.

The increased pressure to attract and retain talent makes it a nerve-wracking time for CFOs, but for those who come at it with the right approach, it can also be an exciting one.

So, instead of looking at the great resignation as something to fight against or hide from, look at it as an opportunity.

I’m sharing my thoughts on how we can take the great resignation as a sign to re-evaluate our purpose, check in on the needs and desires of staff, and focus on making sure we’re running the kind of companies people actually want to work for.

Those that do will ultimately come out on top in the war for talent.

Understanding the landscape

The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world of work on its head, but it also served as an eye-opening experience for many employees who were forced to question long-standing business ‘truths’.

Workers realised that they didn’t need to be in the office five days a week, that they could work hours that suited them, or spend more time with family, all while getting the work done.

Companies that fail to understand this, or offer a flexible approach to work risk losing top-tier talent and creating a high level of staff turnover, the impact of which can have negative effects on company morale, reputation, and budget.

The total financial burden of a high-turnover within your business can be formally calculated by adding together the following costs; the cost to cover a vacant position, the cost to fill that position, onboard and train a replacement and finally, the cost of ramping up productivity.When calculated, on average, each new hire costs businesses around five to seven months of an employee’s salary.

So, the question is, how do we avoid this?

Adapting to the new environment

The working landscape looked very different three years ago, and employee expectations have changed as a result.

As well as flexible working, employers must work to cultivate a better virtual environment. With conversations in the office kitchen or at the coffee machine happening less frequently, we need to think more strategically about how to create space for communication - both formal and informal.

It’s crucial that your talent knows they haven’t been forgotten, and that regular career progression discussions, performance reviews and creative collaborations are still taking place despite fewer in-person meetings. For example, you could make a virtual schedule, and ensure your staff have full visibility over it or simply take the time to catch up one on one with your direct reports, providing a regular space to discuss any concerns or issues they may be facing. 

Additionally, we need to change how we look at hiring on the whole. The working landscape is going through a turbulent patch, and the great resignation and ongoing skills shortage means we must look to hire for potential, not for existing skills. This is why it’s the perfect time to invest in apprenticeships, youth development programmes and other initiatives designed to equip young people with the skills they need to thrive in the world of work.

Lead with purpose

People don’t leave their job for no reason. Whenever a candidate searches for a new job, the main driving force behind their search comes down to one thing; purpose.

For whatever reason, their current role isn’t fulfilling their own personal purpose – whether that’s because they don’t feel passionate about what they’re doing, because they want to improve work/life balance, or simply because they’ve found a role that aligns more closely with their own beliefs.

For myself and my team, the role of being a strategic enabler for the whole business gives me purpose, and drives us to continue doing our job – and doing it well.

This approach will vary from staff member to staff member, but if you take the time to find out what purpose means to them - whether that’s doing a specific role well, incorporating the tasks they love into their role or otherwise - and then work out how you can better serve that purpose, you’re on the right track.

Those who ensure their employees are not only clear on the purpose of their organisation, but of their individual roles, you’re much more likely to successfully retain talent.

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