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  • Jessie Brennan, MPH

Staff Retention During the Great Resignation

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

There were more than 47 million people who called it quits last year, earning the mass exodus the title “The Great Resignation.” While the trend is set to slow down this year, it will by no means stop. According to ResumeBuilder, about 23% of employees will seek new jobs in 2022.

The trend has left businesses and organizations across the globe clamoring to find ways to keep their staff on board or entice new employees to join what’s left of their teams. Anthony Klotz, an organizational psychologist and professor at Texas A&M University (who coined the phrase “Great Resignation”), states that among the top things employees are looking for in their workplaces are higher pay, flexible work hours, and the option to work remotely. So where does this leave those of us that are unable to offer those things?

The key to understanding how to keep employees without doling out the perks is understanding why they are leaving in the first place. According to data collected by HRDirector, it isn’t all about the perks. Nearly half of those prepared to leave their jobs this year put it down to not feeling cared about by their employer through the pandemic. They also found that nine in ten people would take a pay cut for a more meaningful job. Forget higher pay and flexible hours, it seems that what people are missing pertains more to the heart of their work. So, how can we make our team members both feel more cared for and derive more meaning from their work? We develop them.

Study after study confirms that career development is the single most powerful tool managers have for driving retention.

Career development is a tool that can deliver what organizations need most—productivity gains, expense reduction, retention, quality improvements, innovation, and bottom-line results. Take a moment to consider what career development means to you. What is involved? What is your role in it?

If we think of career development as helping our team members move up the organizational ladder, gain more power, and make more money, then we’ve hit an immediate roadblock. There are certainly very real limitations for upward movement within the program’s structure. Promotions and raises are in short supply, and if you imagine this is what your team members want, it is understandable why you might avoid a career conversation altogether.

However, the research indicates that the assumption that everyone wants more, bigger, or better is inaccurate. When asked about what they want to get out of a career conversation with their managers, the number one response from employees is “ways to use my talents creatively.” This flips the conventional view of career growth on its head, from the idea of growing vertically through an organization, which involves moving up the organizational ladder, to growing horizontally. Growing horizontally means a person is allowed to expand in their role, develop more expertise, broaden their responsibilities, and increase their impact on the organization without changing their job title.

Career development is nothing more (and nothing less) than helping others grow.


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