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New norms around quitting

Requiring leaders to be even more attentive

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September 7, 2022

A July 2022 report from McKinsey and Co. – a global management consulting firm – finds that about 40% of employees worldwide are planning to leave their current jobs this year.

Even more interesting, though, is a drastic shift in the norms around quitting that have occurred over the last year and a half.
People are no longer leaving their current jobs only after securing a new role.

Instead, individuals are choosing to leave low wages, jobs with little growth potential, inflexible schedules and toxic cultures without a new job lined up, trusting they will find another job or create their own gig when they are ready.

This change in behavior around quitting adds new dimensions of urgency, humanity and problem solving to leading people.
No longer do leaders have the luxury of working through employee job concerns at their convenience.

In today’s world, leaders may have only one shot – if any shot at all – to address employee requests for compensation adjustments, growth opportunities or flexibility before employees simply leave.

The new norms around quitting require leaders to be even more attentive to their employees, even more responsive to them and even more creative about satisfying reasonable requests.

In order to attract and retain talented employees, today’s people leaders should be willing and able to:
Offer new employees realistic timelines for development and compensation adjustments, as well as honest expectations regarding behavior, team dynamics and culture. Leaders should be frank about the job up front (and less recruitment-salesy) to prevent misperceptions that may lead new employees to become quickly disillusioned.Schedule frequent one-on-one meetings or create regular opportunities to touch base with each employee, so employees know they have access to their leader to address questions or concerns privately. Today’s people leaders shouldn’t wait for employees to come to them. Rather, leaders should go to employees and be connected enough to know what is working for them and what is not.Be responsive to requests – If a leader can accommodate a request, the leader should do so and explain new expectations related to any changes. If a leader is unable to meet a specific request despite one’s best efforts to find creative options, the leader should explain why in a direct, honest manner. If employees perceive that their requests are not being actively considered or they are getting the “run around,” they may simply leave the job.Ensure that performance feedback is conversational, common and occurring frequently. Employees who are unaccustomed to talking about their performance with their leaders or who have ever only heard positive feedback may overreact to the slightest constructive feedback, choosing to vacate the job. Employees who lack a clear view of their current performance may be devastated to suddenly learn of their shortcomings and may choose to leave rather than address the issues.Be curious about an employee’s career goals. Make time periodically, two to four times per year perhaps, to talk to individual employees about their career aspirations. This is different from providing performance feedback about their current roles, and it is also different from telling employees which jobs the company would like to see them do in the future.
People leaders should demonstrate willingness to help their employees move toward their desired career goals by sharing observations about relevant strengths, offering development ideas and introducing helpful resources.

It’s counterintuitive, but the more leaders help employees to move toward their dreams, the longer employees stay, because they feel appreciated and supported.

Part cordially
When and if they do leave, they also make wonderful referral resources for years to come, so part cordially.

When an employee leaves the job, today’s leaders should demonstrate an attitude of gratitude for whatever the employee contributed and respect for their decision to leave (even if they refused any attempts you made to keep them – yes, I know this can be difficult).

Barring any horrendous performance or behavior issues, people leaders should extend a sincere invitation to keep in touch.
There is a real possibility the employee may be interested in the organization again at some future point.

Plus, good relationships with exiting and former employees can provide bountiful referral opportunities in the future.

Further, today’s people leaders – like so many leaders before them – must ensure they have adequate time to build relationships with and be responsive to their employees.

The term adequate, though, has been redefined by recent shifts in employee behaviors around quitting.

Finding time
The million-dollar question, then, is how do they find additional employee-focused time when most people leaders are expected to produce their own work, as well?

Of course, people leaders can continue to prioritize time for their employees, but that may not provide the extra time needed to more richly incorporate the points listed above into their leadership routines.

At some point, leaders may choose to invite their companies to reimagine the design of key people leader roles, including expectations for leading people versus individual productivity.

People leadership has always demanded thoughtfulness, responsiveness, care and problem solving.
Nothing much has changed, except the need to do it all better and much more quickly.

Terri Jacke is the founder and president of Inspired Training Institute, Inc., an executive coaching and organizational development firm, and author of “Is This a Lousy Job or Is It Me?: A Real-Life Guide for Achieving Success at Work.”

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