Keeping Your Best People from Resigning During the Great Resignation

Blanchard Associate


by Doug Glener and Dr. Victoria Halsey

Quitting your job for a new one is the new normal.

Almost 4 million Americans resigned from their positions in June 2021.[1] More turnover is on the horizon: Some 40% of the global workforce is “considering leaving their employer in the current year,”[2] while “95% of workers are contemplating a job change.”[3]

This amount of turnover is historic. A record-breaking 10.9 million jobs were open at the end of July 2021.[4]

The pandemic is driving the turmoil. Americans are reassessing their priorities because of it, and they’re looking for jobs that offer remote work possibilities, greater fulfilment, career advancement, and flexibility.

The High Cost of Turnover

Turnover­ always demands your attention—and especially so at this unprecedented moment. To start, turnover is incredibly costly for a company: 30% to 40% of the annual salary for entry-level employees; 150% for mid-level employees; and up to 400% for highly skilled employees.[5]

What about the unquantifiable cost of turnover?

When a high performer leaves, so do their expertise, brilliant ideas, and contribution to the cultural fabric. An even more worrisome trend is high performers leaving with their colleagues for greener pastures.[6]

Tips for Keeping Your High Performers Happy

Keeping top performers at your company in this time of extraordinary change is critical. Here are some tips your managers can use to help them stay. 

Give high performers the spotlight: This is your time as a manager to flip the script. Instead of you telling your high performer what they should do, ask them how they accomplished something so impressive.

Let them talk. Let them share. Let them teach their colleagues.

When people share the strategy behind their successes, they feel energized and appreciated. It also increases their confidence, giving them the courage to take on even more strategic projects.

Let them choose new challenges: A high performer has earned the right to explore. Encourage them to pursue projects that are interesting. Don’t pigeon-hole them even though they are an expert at an important task.

Ask your high performer, “What interests you? How would you like to contribute?” Give them the opportunity to use their talents.

When your high performer takes on a different kind of challenge, they’ll be an enthusiastic beginner at the start of the project—the honeymoon phase, when we’re filled with excitement and enthusiasm. That state drives retention: When people love their work, they’re 50% more likely to stay at their jobs.[7]

Show appreciation: Let your people know that you’re grateful for their contributions. They’ll be even more engaged and productive. Make your words of praise specific if you want them to have the most impact.[8]

Don’t assume your people know that you appreciate them. Research shows that leaders believe their people know how they feel about their work, when in fact, they don’t.[9] And when people feel unappreciated, they start looking for another job.

Since the brain stores data in images, not words, saying things like, “Good job! Way to go! Nice work!” goes in one ear and out the other. 

For appreciation to stick, you need to share what they did, the effect it had, how it made you feel, and your gratitude for their partnership and efforts. For example: “When you stayed after the meeting to address the client’s hesitation, you deepened her trust and showed that we want to exceed customer expectations. I’m so grateful for your dedication, empathy, and desire to help everyone be successful. Thanks so much.”

Help your people take care of themselves: Just because someone is a high performer doesn’t mean they’re immune to stress. They can be so busy doing fantastic work that they forget to take care of themselves. Then one day, they wake up and say, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Your job is to remind your team that self-care is their top priority. Here are best practices you can use to keep your high performers happy:

  • Hold walking meetings—even when they’re virtual. Instead of sitting in front of a monitor, everyone calls from their cell phones, pops ear buds in, and meets while moving.
  • Offer to buy those interested an exercycle or treadmill.  Sounds expensive? Not compared to hiring someone new.
  • Give people a brain break in meetings. Ask your team to stand up and have someone lead them in exercises for five to ten minutes. Most teams usually have someone who can do this. If you don’t, you’ll find plenty of free online fitness videos.
  • Let people know when you are taking care of you. Share, “Today I am doing my run from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.” Be the example. Help people celebrate self-care.
  • Oh, Won’t you stay? You’ve heard a high performer wants to leave. Why not ask, “What would it take to make you stay?” You’ve nothing to lose at this point and may be pleasantly surprised that you meet their demand.

The Great Resignation is causing a flood of resignations. Now you know how to stop the surge and keep your best people.











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