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Great attrition or great attraction: the choice is yours

daftandbarmy

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That's it, I'm out....


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A record number of employees are quitting or thinking about doing so. Organizations that take the time to learn why—and act thoughtfully—will have an edge in attracting and retaining talent.

More than 15 million US workers—and counting—have quit their jobs since April 2021, a record pace disrupting businesses everywhere. Companies are struggling to address the problem, and many will continue to struggle for one simple reason: they don’t really understand why their employees are leaving in the first place. Rather than take the time to investigate the true causes of attrition, many companies are jumping to well-intentioned quick fixes that fall flat: for example, they’re bumping up pay or financial perks, like offering “thank you” bonuses without making any effort to strengthen the relational ties people have with their colleagues and their employers. The result? Rather than sensing appreciation, employees sense a transaction. This transactional relationship reminds them that their real needs aren’t being met.

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If the past 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that employees crave investment in the human aspects of work. Employees are tired, and many are grieving. They want a renewed and revised sense of purpose in their work. They want social and interpersonal connections with their colleagues and managers. They want to feel a sense of shared identity. Yes, they want pay, benefits, and perks, but more than that they want to feel valued by their organizations and managers. They want meaningful—though not necessarily in-person—interactions, not just transactions.

By not understanding what their employees are running from, and what they might gravitate to, company leaders are putting their very businesses at risk. Moreover, because many employers are handling the situation similarly—failing to invest in a more fulfilling employee experience and failing to meet new demands for autonomy and flexibility at work—some employees are deliberately choosing to withdraw entirely from traditional forms of full-time employment.

In this article, we highlight new McKinsey research into the nature and characteristics of the Great Attrition and what’s driving it (see sidebar, “About the research”). The bottom line: the Great Attrition is happening, it’s widespread and likely to persist—if not accelerate—and many companies don’t understand what’s really going on, despite their best efforts. These companies are making ineffective moves based on faulty assumptions.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If companies make a concerted effort to better understand why employees are leaving and take meaningful action to retain them, the Great Attrition could become the Great Attraction. By seizing this unique moment, companies could gain an edge in the race to attract, develop, and retain the talent they need to create a thriving postpandemic organization.

But this won’t be easy, because it requires companies and their leaders to truly understand their employees. It requires leaders to develop a much deeper empathy for what employees are going through and to pair that empathy with the compassion—and determination—to act and change. Only then can employers properly reexamine the wants and needs of their employees—together with those employees—and begin to provide the flexibility, connectivity, and sense of unity and purpose that people crave.

Along the way, many senior executives will be challenged to reimagine how they lead. The skills that made leaders effective before the COVID-19 pandemic—strong coaching, mentoring, creating strong teams—are just table stakes for the challenge of the months and years ahead.

‘Great Attrition’ or ‘Great Attraction’? The choice is yours
 
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