Employers Can Thwart the Great Resignation Through Recogition & Career Growth Opportunities
One thing Dan Johnston and Michele Bailey agree on is lack of career growth is among the reasons so many people have left/are
leaving the workforce.
Johnston is the founder and CEO of WorkStep, a San Francisco maker of workforce retention software. WorkStep recently collected the insights of 16,000 employees at some of the top companies in the U.S.
“The top reason for turnover is career growth,” concluded the survey, which further defined the problem as “the inability to create a roadmap to climb the ladder and connect with managers for support.”
Other top drivers for quitting include unclear job expectations, lack of safety and limited peer coaching and feedback from leadership.
Surprisingly, perhaps, is pay ranked as the No. 7 reason people self-terminate—even though increasing salaries is the top strategy employers rely on to attract new workers.
The fact that lack of career growth topped the WorkStep survey would not surprise Bailey, the ForbesBooks author of The Currency of Gratitude: Turning Small Gestures into Powerful Business Results. Ticking off ways employers can retain workers, she includes: “encourage professional development.”
Forward-thinking, growth-oriented companies hire talented people with the capability of taking on bigger responsibilities, she notes.
“Professional development provides the opportunity for steps up in their career path,” Bailey says. “Employees who do not see a clear path are at risk of leaving.”
The founder and CEO of The Blazing Group, a brand and culture agency born of Bailey’s “strategy-first approach” to business and desire to enhance employee wellness in pursuit of business goals, she also created My Big Idea, a mentoring program designed to propel individuals toward their personal and professional goals.
Other things employers should do to keep good workers is build culture by acknowledging the whole person. While “work-life balance” has gotten a lot of attention during the pandemic, Bailey says good leadership ensures that balance is in place by going the extra mile to know employees, and to listen to their concerns, whether personal or professional.
“The reality is that all of us bring our personal selves to work and our work selves home with us,” she says. “When something is going well or poorly in either space, it tends to seep into our attitudes and
behavior in the other. When you address the overall wellness of your people as part of your business mandate, you have people well-aligned and rowing in the same direction.”
Creating an army of brand ambassadors can empower employees, who will feel as if their voices are being heard—and will thus perform their best work, something Bailey backs up with statistics from Gallup and Salesforce.
“Many businesses tout themselves as collaborative workplaces with great cultures; however, worker frustration suggests that the reality is otherwise,” she says. “A good culture is a place where they’re
freed to flourish, energized and proud to represent the brand to clients.”
Bailey further suggests that rewarding and recognizing jobs well done should be part of any business plan.
“Showing gratitude to your workforce is imperative to having a successful business,” she says. “Eventually people want you to
show them the money–and you must if you truly value them–but frequent shows of gratitude in any form should be consistent
Bailey will get no argument on that point from David Friedman, the author of Culture by Design: How to Build a High Performing Culture Even in the New Remote Work Environment. The founder and CEO of CultureWise, a turnkey operating system for small to midsize businesses to create and sustain a high-performing culture,
Friedman formerly presided over RSI, an award-winning employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm that was named one of
the best places to work in the Philadelphia region seven times.
Having taught more than 6,000 CEOs about work culture and led more than 500 workshops on the subject, Friedman believes, “Recognition is the best way to boost employee engagement, productivity and profit while significantly strengthening your
He adds, “It may seem intuitive that employees who are thanked and recognized for their work are happier and, as a result, perform better. But unfortunately, managers may be busy with other tasks or have an attitude of ‘If you don’t hear anything, assume you’re doing a good job.’ That approach loses good people who were very valuable.
That’s something U.S. businesses cannot afford to continue considering the record numbers of workers who are leaving their jobs, something Friedman notes has been blamed on a lack of appreciation from employers.
Appreciation is an especially important factor to a large segment of the workforce— millennials and Gen Z. In a poll taken shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic began, 79% of millennial and Gen Z respondents said an increase in recognition and rewards would
make them more loyal to their employer.
With companies losing talented people and struggling to fill open positions, leaders need to know how to make employee recognition and appreciation a more consistent part of their work culture, Friedman contends.
He also cites benefits to company leaders praising teams as well as individuals, pointing to the Gallup survey that shows giving kudos
to teams can encourage collaboration, inspire trust, clarify organizational goals, improve quality and reinforce a team’s sense of
“Praise for a job well done should flow across all levels of the organization–peer to peer, manager to their direct report, and
direct report to their manager,” Friedman says. “Remember your remote workers–they may already be feeling disconnected from the
workplace, so remind them that you notice and appreciate their contributions.”
Yes, but appreciation must be authentic and individualized, according to Friedman, who notes that employees are savvy and
can see through an “everyone gets a trophy” mentality.
“Saying ‘great job’ is nice, but it’s much more meaningful if you detail the specifics of the person’s actions and how they helped
advance the company’s objectives,” he says. “And if their efforts merit more than a compliment, or such efforts are a trend for them, then leaders need to figure out a fair tangible reward. Promotions with pay raises and increased responsibilities go the next step to show consistent high performers that they
are truly valued.”
Recognition should also be tailored to the recipient, he maintains. Some people enjoy being the center of attention, so a formal public recognition is ideal for them, Friedman says, while others avoid the spotlight and prefer a one-on-one acknowledgement. For a team
acknowledgment, a company-wide or departmental meeting might be a fitting forum.
“That’s a great way to show the link between the team’s accomplishments, company objectives and the importance of
working well together,” Friedman says.
It may pose a problem reaching remote workers, but he recommends leaders show their appreciation in person, noting, “the inperson touch has a lot more impact, especially when it comes from an executive with whom the employee has very little exposure.”
Friedman finds creating and maintaining a positive culture pays dividends when it comes to retaining workers.
“Culture change starts with identifying the specific behaviors that drive success in your company,” he says. “One of them should be
showing meaningful appreciation. That means regularly recognizing people doing things right, rather than frequently pointing out
when they do things wrong.
“Recognition leads to happy employees, better retention, and better business results. When your people know they are appreciated, really valued, it will make a huge difference in your day-to-day culture and in your growth as a company.”
Editor’s note: Since this story published, WorkStep released Q1 2022 turnover data that shows:
- Lack of career growth remains the main factor driving workers out of their current positions (three quarters in a row)
- Pay dropped in importance from #2 (Q4 2021) to #10 in Q1 2022
- 77% of frontline supply chain workers are considering a job change in the next three months
- 70% of frontline supply chain workers feel as if their voices aren’t being heard
- 41% of respondents say management never asks for feedback
WorkStep’s linked research takes a deeper look at the frontline workforce’s sentiment toward their current roles.