By Ted Powell – December 2021

The Great Resignation, or the Big Quit, tops the list of most-mentioned topics during recent client discussions. Retaining high-caliber talent is the challenge of our times—more so than any I remember during my 40-year career in business.

When confronting a difficult hiring and retention environment, it is easy for us to blame external factors that are either invalid or beyond our control. For example, I frequently hear about two obstacles to employee retention that are worthy of challenge: 1) “Government programs pay people not to work” and 2) “The younger generation doesn’t possess sufficient work ethic or organizational loyalty.”

I am not going to step into a debate about either of these obstacles, other than to ask myself—and now, you:

  1. Are the issues we hear about true? Where can I find and analyze thoughtful, credible data to determine the cause(s) of employee attrition (versus relying on emotionally inspired, anecdotal information)?
  2. Are the factors I’ve found within my control? What can I do within my immediate situation to make a difference?

When I hear others (or catch myself) going down the trail of excuses of why we cannot attract and retain good people, I challenge myself by saying: Is this factor within our control? Is dwelling on this factor leading to a practical solution I can implement now? If the answer to both these questions is “No,” then I’ve become a victim of the circumstance. The victim mindset rarely creates a useful—or healthy—solution.

A while back, I walked into one of my favorite restaurants and noticed a full staff of energized employees. I asked the owner, “How are you handling the hiring challenges these days?” He responded by asking in return “What challenges?” as if he had been living outside of the retention and hiring crises of the last year. He went on to explain a few things that helped with this: He ignores the media, focuses on paying an attractive wage knowing it results in improved retention, and helps employees find the meaning in their work—no matter how mundane the task might seem.

In other words, he responds to the challenge, rather than reacting.

Every business has different and unique labor market challenges (some much more difficult than others). Regardless of your situation, my call to action is to make sure you and your colleagues are approaching each issue with a truthful, positive, solution-oriented mindset.

We want to hear from you

I would like to invite you to tell us about your experience this year as you’ve lived and worked through these crises. What are you seeing, and how are you being affected?

Tell us about your experience attracting and retaining talented people during the Great Resignation. What’s working? What isn’t? How are you responding to one of the major leadership challenges of our history?