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Turning the Great Resignation into the Great Retention

Sophie Renton
23 March 2022

As the normal way of life has been disrupted through lockdowns and restrictions, it has provided many Australians with time to reflect. In response, many have chosen to reprioritise aspects of their life, so they are more in line with what they value.

For almost four in five Australians (79%) the experience of COVID-19 has clarified the relationships into which they want to invest their time1. Three in five Australians who don’t currently live in a regional area (60%) have considered moving to a regional area, due to affordability, and the simplicity of life2. In a time when people have been increasingly isolated, with almost three in five (58%) experiencing increased feelings of loneliness due to the pandemic, Australians have a renewed desire for community. Work from home may have even played into this as the workplace provides 70% of Australian workers with their meaningful and regular social connection and community. This is above households (54%) and the local neighbourhood (32%)3.

Key desires for future careers

It is in this context that many are evaluating their careers, workplaces, and life goals. Undoubtedly for many leaders this much discussion around employee shifts may make you nervous, however, it is also an opportunity. If many are choosing to live their lives more in line with what they value, then let’s start with exploring the key desires for careers.

While the below statistics speak to the top careers for Generation Z, they are reflective of broader societal trends around workplaces and career expectations.

Three tips for the Great Retention

How your organisation responds to this information is up to you, but here are three tips to help you turn the Great Resignation into the Great Retention

1. Clearly articulate your organisation’s purpose and how each team member helps you achieve it

Gen Z’s number one career desire is to have purpose and meaning in their work. Within an organisation the leadership team is often clear around how each person’s role helps to achieve the overall organisation’s purpose, however, if the team can’t articulate this back to the leadership, there is more work to be done. If people cannot clearly see how their daily tasks contribute to the overall organisation vision, they may be more open to other offers presented to them. To help retain team, clearly articulate the organisation’s purpose, unique value proposition and how each team member’s role helps to achieve it. Then measure the progress and celebrate the successes along the way.

2. Invest in team connections

During a time where people’s usual rhythms and connections have been disrupted, it is important to continue to build strong connections within the team. For almost two-thirds of Australian workers (63%), increased collaboration across the team is extremely or very important for keeping or enticing people back to the workplace. More than half (56%) are looking to their workplace to provide opportunities to develop meaningful connections with team members.

This highlights that team culture and connection is crucial for retaining team members. Video conferencing has been a lifeline for many during the pandemic, but it has grown the transactional aspect of meetings while limiting the relational interaction. A question to ask yourself is, ‘How am I building and shaping culture in this decentralised environment?’ Are you creating pause moments for people to connect for purely social purposes? The future of work is hybrid, so to future proof your organisation, it is essential to invest in team connections, not just in the physical realm but in the digital realm too.

3. Provide flexibility and autonomy where possible

A paradigm shift has occurred around when and where work takes place. So much so that the workplace is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic rhythms. For 62% of Australians their ideal work environment is a hybrid one . Work from home is no longer a perk but an expectation. The pandemic accelerated the amount of flexibility and autonomy teams received, however, as organisations look to re-establish new rhythms it may not include the same degree of flexibility that was provided ‘to just make it through’ the pandemic. It would be unwise, however, to remove flexibility and autonomy all together. For two thirds of Australian workers (66%) it is extremely or very important for leadership to provide greater flexibility on where and when they work4.

A great way to increase team buy in and ownership is to explore what is most important to your team around flexibility and autonomy. Include the team in the process through surveys or conversations to craft the hybrid solution together.

There are many more avenues to increase retention, such as focussing on development pathways for each team member, investing in frequent team leader to team member one-on-ones and championing the growth and development of the team you have. The first step, however, is to not be overwhelmed by the task at hand and invest into the people you do have. If it is time, however, to say goodbye to someone and this is hard when they are a great team member, do it warmly and keep the door open, because with an average tenure of two years and nine months 5 you never know when they might return.

1. Mainstreet Insights, The Australian spirit during COVID-19, August 2020
2. McCrindle, Australia towards 2031, August 2021
3. Mainstreet Insights, Workplace and the future, May 2021
4. McCrindle, Australians post COVID-19, 2020
5. HILDA, Department of Employment

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