Senior Man Having Virtual Business Meeting With Team Of Employee

The One Thing All Leaders Need To Do Today!  

“Another 4 million workers quit for the 5th month in a row.” This was a recent Business Insider headline. It shows in very stark terms that the pandemic is still making people rethink what they want out of work and life.

An average of 3.4 million workers per month quit during the first half of 2021. This is about 1 million more than the average of 2.5 million who quit per month in the 20 years leading up to December 2020.

This pandemic-induced trend shows no signs of slowing down, and it has exacerbated what was an already challenging environment for employers. With Baby Boomers retiring and a delayed realization by many companies that there has not been enough focus on filling the talent pipeline with women and people of color, now the Great Resignation is making it even harder to recruit and retain talent.

There were 10.4 million job openings at the end of September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.The Great Resignation is affecting all types of jobs from trucking to home contractors to middle management as well as hospitality and food service workers.

Women at the mid-level management level who are potential C-suite senior leaders are part of the Great Resignation as well. The reasons are varied and complex, but they are experiencing burnout at a greater rate than men from juggling expectations at work with increased caretaking responsibilities during the pandemic, a reluctance to return to the office and long commutes, pushback against giving up workplace flexibility and the realization that they are not being paid or valued equitably in their organizations.

The pandemic brought with it a clarity for many employees about what they want from their work and their lives. One need that continually rises to the top is the need to be valued. Demonstrating to your employees that they are valued requires empathy.

The One Thing All Leaders Need to Demonstrate Is Empathy

To combat the Great Resignation and retain your best employees, leading with empathy can make a real difference in helping them feel valued. The Forbes article, Empathy Is the Most Important Leadership Skill According To Research, describes the positive outcomes that Catalyst found can come from empathy in the workplace. These include more innovative, engaged employees who are less willing to consider leaving their companies. Empathetic leadership fosters inclusive workplaces and employees who report they are more able to navigate the demands of their work and life, a critical concern for many women during the pandemic.

The blog post, The Great Resignation: Reality or Myth? outlines seven steps leaders can take to lessen the impact of the Great Resignation on their organizations. Listening, providing workplace flexibility, demonstrating sensitivity to what people are going through as well as focusing on building the talent pipeline are all steps that I recommend regularly in my work engaging men in women’s leadership advancement. These are steps that we have been discussing for years as the most effective ways to recruit and retain women who are crucial to every company’s long-term business strategy and marketplace competitiveness.

So where do you start? Leaders need to ask every one of their direct reports a few simple questions.

  1. How are you doing? (How are you really doing?)
  2. What can I personally do to support you?
  3. What can the company do to support you better?

Ask multiple times if needed. And when you get a reply, (and this is the really important part!!!), ACT ON IT!!! The answers may surprise you as the vast majority of workers do not ask for more money, but simply more flexibility. Demonstrate you’ve listened and then work to a solution.

Being a leader has never been more daunting. You have overwhelming deadlines, too few resources and a number of other challenges. But ask yourself a simple question, What will happen if I lose this employee? Will my job get easier or harder?

I think you already know the answer.

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