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  • Writer's pictureMatt Stephenson

Every Resignation is an Opportunity

No, really, hear me out... It's not as mercenary as it sounds, I promise...

There has been a lot of talk about "The Great Resignation" as a consequence of Covid. It was reported recently that in a survey of 6000 workers conducted by recruitment firm Randstad UK, 69% of them said that they were confident of securing a new role within the next few months. Almost a quarter of them said they'd be moving in the next 3 to 6 months.

Hear me out... It's not as mercenary as it sounds, I promise

It's true that the impact on UK businesses as a consequence of such large numbers considering changing jobs could be significant, and employers should do all they can to retain talented people. Proactively make sure you're paying people the right rate for the job and their level of skill. Make sure they feel supported and invested in. Listen to their concerns and fears and do something about them. All of those good things.

It's also true, though, that the unprecedented uncertainty of the last couple of years, the daily reminders about our own mortality, and the realisation that we only get one shot at life, have caused many to re-evaluate their priorities and seek a change.

I know people who have brought their plans to retire forward by half a decade, others who have changed careers completely, and many who just want to achieve a better balance, having worked at home alongside partners, parents and children, and realised that they quite like spending time with them and don't miss the daily commute.

Some business leaders considered having their people working from home a necessary evil during lockdown, and are now desperate to get them all back in and working like they did before Covid. Others have seen that their businesses continued to be productive even with people working remotely and have declared that their workforce will remain remote forever. And there are many more businesses who sit somewhere between those two stools and are shaping up for a long term hybrid working offer to team members.

Many more businesses are shaping up for a long term hybrid working offer to team members

I've always been an advocate of hybrid working (even before the pandemic). I'm driven by the outputs, not the inputs, and so my preference has for many years been to have people work where they can most effectively generate the outputs.

If you need to collaborate, then get together and collaborate. If you need to focus and get your head down, why not do that where you experience fewest distractions (for some that is still the office, but for many it is the home office with access to great coffee).

But what's all that got to do with the title of this blog post?

Well, all of the above is to set context so that I can say, "do all you can to retain talented people in your teams". Make sure you understand the attitudes and needs of your team members. Don't be complacent and assume everyone wants to get back to how things used to be. Equally, though, don't fall into the trap of assuming everyone wants to work at home either. Some people will be crying out to get back to an office environment. It has been reported that many people have suffered feelings of isolation as a result of working from home. Proactively make sure you're providing for your team members the things they deserve.

Do all you can to retain talented people in your teams

I guess I'm saying all of this because the ideal scenario is to retain your talented people.

But you won't always succeed, because the reasons for many people wanting to change jobs in 2021's recovering world are not ones that you can compete with.

So, rather than worry about the things you can't control, focus on what you can. Which brings me to my bold statement...

Every Resignation is an Opportunity.

When someone good leaves your team, your initial reaction will initially be to let your head drop for a moment. Why are they leaving, what have you done wrong, and so on.

You might then attempt to get them to stay by offering them something, but if you're able to offer them something that makes them stay, and you think they're worth it, why did they have to resign to get it? Take a good look at your talent management approach and identify talented people before they get to that point! But do offer it, because I guess better late than never (but only just!).

Look for the opportunity in every resignation

Eventually you will accept that they're leaving, at which point, look for the opportunity in the resignation. The opportunity to do something differently, to plug a gap you previously couldn't afford to plug, to give other talented people an opportunity to step up.

Here is a list of 5 of the things I think about when someone (talented or otherwise) is leaving my team.

  1. Don't assume you have to replace them like-for-like. Do you have a higher priority skills gap that you can now plug using the salary budget released by the resignation? Don't even assume you have to replace them at all. Perhaps your business would benefit from banking a cost saving, especially during these troubled times. So think about whether the workload could be absorbed by the broader team (without overburdening anyone, of course).

  2. What influence and impact did that leaver have on their fellow team members or the people reporting into them? If it was a positive impact create a strategy for making sure those left behind are ok. If it was a negative impact, communicate it to the teams in a way that shows them that things can now get better.

  3. Does the resignation create opportunity for other team members to step up, either into that vacant role, or in some other way? Many times over the years I seen so-called "indispensable" people leave a business, fearful that something will fall apart, only to have 2 or 3 other people, who lived in the shadow of the leaver, suddenly step up and shine. By the way, I've never actually seen a business fundamentally stumble or fall because an individual chose to leave. Nobody is indispensable.

  4. Does the resignation, especially of someone long-served and "indispensable" (remember, there's no such thing), make a restructure of the team for greater efficiency possible or necessary?

  5. If I do decide to replace like-for-like, what was the leaver good at, what could they have done better? When hiring or promoting into the vacancy, make a conscious decision on behavioural characteristics and cultural fit to try to create an even better balanced team.

It's all about worrying about the things you can control, and letting go of the things you can't.

In this context, you should first and foremost be proactive about retaining talented people. Doing it when they resign is too late. It will cost you more to retain them and you probably won't keep them for as long as you would do if you proactively invested in them.

It's all about worrying about the things you can control and letting go of the things you can't

If one slips through the net and they do resign, of course you should try to retain them if they are someone you want to keep in your team (proactive would still have been better, but sometimes the reasons for leaving are not entirely in your control).

If you can't keep them and they're determined to leave, look for the positives and remember that Every Resignation is an Opportunity.

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