Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #170: A Leader’s Approach to the Great Resignation
The level of voluntary resignations is at an all-time high, giving way to the term “The Great Resignation.” What’s a leader to do? Today Perry and Chris talk about what leaders can do to ensure you retain your top talent.
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Read the Transcript:
Perry Holley: Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.
Chris Geode: And I’m Chris Geode, Vice President of the John Maxwell company. Welcome and thank you for joining. Hey, just as a quick reminder, if you want to learn more about the coaching that we do with corporate clients around the world, if you want to learn a little bit more about our virtual delivery that’s become such a big part of our training, maybe you just have a question or a comment for Perry and myself. If you’ll go to Johnmaxwellcompany.com/podcast, you’ll be able to fill out a form and submit that, and our team will be back in touch with you.
Well, today’s topic is titled a leader’s approach to The Great Resignation.
Perry Holley: Uh-oh.
Chris Geode: Man, this is a topic that I think for the second half of 2021 I heard more and more of this being talked about, articles being written on it, and I love that you put in here it’s also known as the Big Quit.
Perry Holley: The Big Quit.
Chris Geode: For my first time ever in my leadership journey over the years, I’ve actually seen this lived out inside our organization. It was surprising, but it came to life and it made it very real to us. So one of the statistics we want to share with you guys is beginning in early 2021 and then continuing through the year, over four million employees voluntarily quit their jobs. Some do it better than others, I’ll leave it at that.
The demographic most involved in this statistic is the employees that were 30 to 45 years of age, and there are over 11 million jobs now and growing. Perry, what is going on? Why do we have a Great Resignation with all of these jobs that are still open and still out there?
Perry Holley: Yeah, that’s been quite the new story for sure, and the question that each news outlet was trying to answer in 2021 was why? Why is this happening? Some of the reasons I’ve seen listed are there was a bunch of pent up resignations that were going to happen in 2020, but nobody wanted to quit a good job in the middle of a pandemic, so they waited. Another idea was that people had their perspectives of what was important in life and it all changed during the pandemic, and now this job is not really meeting my idea of what’s important.
Another thought was people were at the breaking point after high workloads and hiring freezes of 2020, and it was just too much on them. In general, I saw in number of places that people just want more control of their lives, that this whole working at home and working remotely, it gave me all kinds of ideas about other ways to do work besides driving and traffic to get to a job and working long hours and coming home.
So they wanted more maybe adjustable hours and remote work, but whatever, there were a number of reasons given, but the overall idea was that people have choices now. They realize that maybe with the pandemic kind of shook things up, that I have choices, I can make different decisions. What was of value in my life, may not be valuable as I thought it was, maybe there’s other things now of more value in my life.
Chris Geode: Yeah, I think that’s come very apparent, and a couple other things too thinking about that is I’ve seen a lot of leaders that are not necessarily at that point or age for retirement, but went ahead and accelerated those retirement plans, because they came to the realization of maybe what is important? Where do they need to be spending their time? They can retire, so they do.
Then in turn, you have other leaders inside the organizations that are getting promoted and moved up, and so you’re creating this even bigger gap, along with people resigning. One News magazine called it the dynamic free agency. I like this, especially in the sports terms, since you and I like sports. Gallup has now estimated that over half of the workers currently surveyed said that they still plan to look for a new job. So this is not over, this is not something-
Chris Geode: Yeah, half.
Perry Holley: Half, 50%-
Chris Geode: Listen-
Perry Holley: Are looking for a new job.
Chris Geode: I’m sitting here at the table. Perry, is there something you need to tell me?
Perry Holley: That’s right.
Chris Geode: Because if there’s 50%-
Perry Holley: What if it’s you?
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Chris Geode: Yeah.
Perry Holley: It might be you.
Chris Geode: It’s me, that’s right. Remember listeners, Perry’s the one that drives this content creation, not Chris Geode.
Perry Holley: Okay, yeah.
Chris Geode: Yeah.
Perry Holley: Well, it’s just interesting. The question I thought we could tackle here is what’s a leader to do when faced with something like this?
Chris Geode: Yeah.
Perry Holley: It feels like it’s completely out of your control. There are some unique circumstances happening in the job market these days, and I think the well-known saying that people don’t quit the company, they quit their boss is still in play. So, I wanted to present a couple ideas. Okay, five ideas.
Chris Geode: I love it.
Perry Holley: You know what’s coming.
Chris Geode: Yes, yeah.
Perry Holley: I think that help leaders position themselves to retain the talent, no matter what the market conditions are. That may be a little aspirational, because there’s a lot going on, but I do believe you have more control as a leader than you think you do.
Chris Geode: Yeah, and there’s a lot going on, but man, we have got to do our best as leaders to be out in front of this when we’re leading teams, organizations, whatever it might be. So before we dive into these thoughts, I know at least for me, initially when I started learning about this, your first thought might be that, oh, well, people are tied to wanting to make more money, and so they’re shifting jobs or they’re creating these gaps in order to get a raise. I’m sure that does happen.
Perry Holley: Yeah.
Chris Geode: I’m sure there are some fields and industries, right? Again, just, I mean, riding down the road, you even see some of your quick service food restaurants now paying $15, $18 an hour with signing bonuses and people are jumping, it’s creating this gap they’re leaving, which then that former leader’s feeling The Great Resignation. But I just read some research that found it takes 20% or more of increase in pay to lure somebody away from their current team.
I thought that was interesting, because we often say, when we talk about this level four, becoming level four leader, having an influence level four, we talk about continually adding value to people. People will join your company for one reason, but they don’t stay for that same reason, so what are you doing to continually add and develop them? It’s not just necessarily about the money.
Perry Holley: I was excited to find that survey, the research about the 20%, because people always tell you the reason they quit. The number one reason most people tell their employer they quit is because they’re getting more money, but when the exit surveys are done by an outside firm, they find that it has more to do with I didn’t feel valued, relevant, needed, or important or part of what you’re doing, and by the way, you don’t pay me enough.
Chris Geode: Right, right.
Perry Holley: So the pay was usually number five, but most people would stay for less money if they felt valued. I never had seen a number on that, that it really was about 20%, because outside of 20%, it’s tempting for people. Then I saw, if your pay is unjust, you got to fix it. I worked for IBM for a lot of years, I never paid the most in the industry. However, very few people left, because it was very rewarding work from the leaders that were trained to make you feel valued.
Chris Geode: Yeah.
Perry Holley: I just know this, that money is not everything, but there are people that will leave for money, but not that many. So if the pay people receive is unjust compared to the market scales, it’s going to be very tough to keep them, you got to fix that. But where I think a leader should focus is in solving some of the internal drivers and motivators that are really inside all of this.
So let me just tell you what some of those are, and maybe you could just comment on that. But number one, a person might ask themselves, do I feel like I belong? I know we’ve talked about that a little bit before, but what are your thoughts on how you make somebody feel like they belong?
Chris Geode: We have all incredible teams of people, whatever that might look like, and one of the things that Perry and I have talked about recently is are they inclusive teams? Are you open to their comments, their thoughts, their feedback? We’re all created and made differently, but are we willing to have a team and lead people that allows them to feel like they belong so that we’re getting the best of them? Again, I make that statement, we’re getting the best of them.
Understand the motive behind here. We’re trying to kind of pull out the fact that, man, listen, yes, we need your thought, we need your input, your advice in order to make this team the best team it possibly can be. I think when you lead with inclusivity, it allows them to have that belonging feeling of being a part of the team. Which by the way to your point, again, all these things we’re going to talk about makes me want to stay a part of the team, because even if I got a couple of dollars’ raise going over here, if I didn’t feel like I belong, would I really want to get up and go to work every day?
Perry Holley: Yeah, belonging is a natural internal driver for humans, and so if you help somebody feel like they belong, like they’re an insider, it’s a great thing. Another question they might be asking themselves, do I feel valued? Do I feel needed? Do I feel relevant to what we’re doing?
Chris Geode: Yeah, this again, I almost sound like a broken record, but again, thinking about if someone does feel this in the team, you’re going to have an easier time to keep them, right? I would also go as far as to say begin making the statement of, “Hey man, I value the contribution that you’re making, or hey, you are valued,” and verbalize that to the team.
As leaders, we get so busy in everything that we’re doing, oftentimes we forget to back up and say, “Hey man, thank you. I value what you’re doing for the team.” So when you do that, they’re going to feel valued, they’re going to feel needed, they’re going to feel relevant to what’s going on in your team or your organization, and they’re going to stay.
Perry Holley: I was just reading, it’s an old book, Abrashoff, and It’s Your Ship, and it’s been out for probably 20 years, who knows. But I just read a story that somebody was using his tactic, that he would ask the sailors what would they do if they were him? If they gave him a suggestion, he would go on the intercom system and announce, “Chris Geode just gave us a great idea, we’re going to implement it.” All of a sudden, he didn’t take credit for it, he didn’t implement it, he gave them credit for it and called them out in front of everyone to say, “This is a great idea brought to us by our ship mate.” I love that about, you’re not only value to me, I want your colleagues to value you.
Chris Geode: Yeah, let me give another example. I was walking a floor of a manufacturing company a couple months ago and they had a board that sat out in front of, we’ll just call each department, each different section of a manufacturing. On that board, I forget the name of the board, you actually work with this client and may remember it-
Perry Holley: The OIL board.
Chris Geode: The what?
Perry Holley: OIL board.
Chris Geode: The OIL board.
Perry Holley: O-I-L. Opportunities, Ideas, Learnings.Chris Geode: Learnings, perfect, right? I was walking around and I was like, “Hey, tell me about that board.” “Oh, well, we leave this up, and we want all of our team members to put ideas that they have to improve their job, to improve efficiency, whatever it might be. Then our leadership will come by, they’ll acknowledge it,” right? So, Perry’s name’s next to this idea, and they’ll put a date of when it’s going to be completed or when it was completed or when it was added.
I was like, “Man, how awesome is that? If I’m more working in that department, I’m going to feel like there’s my name on the board, and I made not only my job maybe a little bit easier, but the team better and then the organization better.” So, just another small example of a way to feel valued.
Perry Holley: I took a picture of it. I thought-
Chris Geode: I did too.
Perry Holley: .
Chris Geode: I did too, I did too. I said, “Do you mind if I take a picture?”
Perry Holley: All right, number three, and actually three, four and five are going to be from research that Dan Pink made famous in his book Drive, and I just thought they really are intrinsic motivators that all people have. So the first one was, do I feel like I belong? The second one, do I feel valued? Now number three from the research said do I have purpose? How do you help people have purpose?
Chris Geode: Yeah, the biggest thing that gets lost in translation is why are the people on your team doing what they do? Period. I think it’s our responsibilities as leaders to tie to them the why behind what they’re doing, right? So for example, I look here in this room, right? Jake’s here, what’s my why? Well, his why is not necessarily just sitting here listening to the two of us goof around in a podcast, it’s because he is playing a pivotal part of impacting thousands of people on a weekly basis that are listening. Thank you, by the way, listeners for downloading and listening to us. So when you can tie the why behind what they’re doing, what their job is doing, it’s incredible.
Now, let me go one step further. You make a note of this here, which is now how do you tie that why to their why? How do you make it really personable? I would encourage those that are leading even younger teams, that’s even more important to understand what their why is, and then to make sure that you tie the why of what they’re doing to their why. That’s a lot of why’s. I’m sorry, hang with me. But you understand where I’m coming from, I think it’s just extremely important.
Perry Holley: It doesn’t generally happen by accident.
Chris Geode: No.
Perry Holley: I think it’s an intentional act by a leader to really know their folks, know what’s important to them, what are their internal motivators, what drives them and then connect that to what you’re doing, and it just gives people that. It’s a stickiness factory, it just keeps you connected to what’s going on.
Another one, be number four here said do I have autonomy in my work? That people want to be in control of their work, they don’t want to be micromanaged. Tell me what you need and let me go do it. What are your thoughts on that?
Chris Geode: Well, I believe that the pandemic has literally put this thing on overdrive, and it is something that we’re not going back. Matter of fact, when I saw this, the first thing I thought about was our chief financial officer and our strategist is a guy that speaks very directly and we could not do what we do without his mind behind our organization, but our CEO loves to have the culture be about people in the office.
I think we were created that way. We’ve talked about this, where we’ve got to be around people. So we used to have this operating rule, it’s not a rule, to where everybody had to be in the office period, unless you were traveling, right? It was non-negotiable. I’ll never forget maybe the beginning of this year, maybe it was towards the end of last year, our CFO looked at our CEO and goes, “You understand that ship has sailed, we are never going back,” right?
But I say that, because we have to adapt to that, and so now there’s a lot of different options. Yes, we still want people in the office and we want people together. We think there’s energy created with that and leadership and all kind of stuff happens better in that environment, but I think it’s a blended approach. Now more than ever people understand the flexibility that we can all have and still accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish, and they can still kind of manage their day.
They liked it during the pandemic, and it was convenient. I have a very long commute, so there are days that it’s very convenient for me as well. So, we have got to make sure that we as leaders continue to have the approach of leaning into allowing that to happen and give them that autonomy for … what we’re talking about here is not even in their work, but how they go about or where they go about their work is probably even more important.
Perry Holley: Yeah. Number five comes that, do I have the opportunity to grow and improve? This turns out to be the game changer in all the research, and part of this Great Resignation research that was done, that Gallup has confirmed that 60% of workers desire to update their skills, and 48% of them would change jobs to do it. I think that’s . 50% of people, if they’re not being developed would feel like they needed to move. Of the people leaving their jobs in 2021, less than 30% said they had the opportunity to learn and grow, and over 70% of them said they did not have someone at work who was encouraging them to grow.
You think, well, could it be that big a deal? Yes, it is. You think about I want to have purpose, I want be autonomous, and I want to gain mastery is what Dan Pink would say, but I want to grow and improve, and now you’re telling me organizations have put that on the back burner because of what’s going on.
Chris Geode: Yeah, someone is not quitting the company or the organization, but they’re quitting the managers. I think you got to look back to this developing the people side of things that you’re talking about, and or equipping the people that are on that team. It is such an important thing that we talk about there being a lid in regards to your own personal development. John talks about in The Law of the Lid for you and I bringing it back to the five levels leadership language. For us, it’s really at level three, right? There’s a lid there, and as leaders, we do not take the opportunity to go to level four to be able to develop our people.
So we’ve got to make sure that we’re doing that personally, even more now than we ever were before, and then we also got to make sure that our managers, our leaders that are out leading other people, that they’re doing the same thing. We’ve got to make sure that we are inspiring for even higher levels of performance than we have in the past, but we’re resourcing, equipping, developing them to do that, because, yes, I think the pandemic has showed us things are going to get thrown up in a hurry, but here’s the deal. It’s not the last one, it wasn’t the first one, and again, coming back to this Great Resignation, what are we doing to add value and develop those that are underneath our leadership?
Perry Holley: A lot of the research said if you’re going to make an investment, make it in your first line managers, as they will affect a lot of the population, and really working on their leadership skills. I know we talk a lot about moving. They got promoted from being an individual contributor, being a manager, do they really have the skillset? So moving from soloist to a conductor, can you help them with that? Then the coaching leader skills I think are coming alongside their teammates and looking for ways to help them grow and develop that will filter down through your organization. If you develop the managers, they will develop the team, and that was where your investment will compound through the organization.
Chris Geode: Well, as we wrap up today, this is a real issue, and Perry wanted to kind of bring it just to the front, let us talk a little bit about it. Come back to some of these basic principles and make sure that we are really living these out as leaders, because The Great Resignation I believe is we’re going to see the effects of it for probably through 2022, maybe even a little bit further. So, there are things that we can be doing.
By the way, it’s interesting as we talk through this, all of these are ideas and things that underpin you growing your influence by the way. So, we gave you just some very practical tools and thoughts around making sure that your team feels like they belong, they’re valued, making sure that they understand the why. Do those things on a daily basis as a leader, and I promise you, it won’t be pay.
Now, there may be promotions and that’s great, and other opportunities, and there’s nothing more that I love when I see a leader that I’ve had the privilege of having on my team, that they end up taking another opportunity. Be like a head football coach losing an offense or a defensive coordinator to become a head coach. Those things are going to happen, but the other part of this whole people leaving for parallel jobs, then that’s on you as a leader. So take these and really think about it, because I believe that a big part of your culture for this upcoming year or this upcoming season is whether or not we can do these things properly in order to keep the team intact.
Perry Holley: Perfect. Well, thank you, Chris, and thank you all for joining us today. Just a reminder, if you’d like to have the learner guide for this, leave a comment or a question to learn more about the five levels or The 360 Degree Leader. You can do all of that at Johnmaxwellcompany.com/podcast. We love hearing from you, and we’re very grateful that you would spend this time with us each week. That’s all today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.
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