The ONLY Way to Beat the Great Resignation is with Culture

May 10, 2022
May 10, 2022 Jamie Notter

People are treating the great resignation like some kind of mysterious phenomenon, and it’s not. Here it is in a nutshell: employees have more options now, because they can work remotely for organizations in other locations, or even other parts of the same metropolitan area that they wouldn’t have considered before. More options means more transitions. It’s as simple as that. And (sorry to break it to you) it’s not going away any time soon.

So what do you do about it? Again, people seem to be wringing their hands and wondering what to do, and the advice I see from the HR pundits tends to be horrible, like “listen to your employees.” Really?! That’s going to keep me from jumping ship? Folks, the answer here is simple: create a culture that no one would want to leave.

Culture is your only hope for creating a great-resignation-proof organization. Here’s how it works. You’ve got people right now that are considering jumping ship (sorry, but it’s true). They might even be interviewing at other places, and the one thing they will be most nervous about is the culture at the new place. The new place will, of course, will try to sell them on how awesome their culture is, but that’s hard to trust—of course they’ll say that.

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But your employee KNOWS what your culture is like because they’re in it. So right at that moment—when they’re looking at your culture on one hand, and listening to what the new culture might be on the other—that’s when you win or lose them. If your culture is average, it’s not going to provide enough gravitational pull to keep them with you.

But if you have a culture that is

  • intentionally designed to make both employees and the organization successful;
  • defined clearly, where the behaviors are consistent with the words you use to describe it;
  • embracing more futurist tendencies in areas like agility, transparency, customization, employee focus, and innovation;
  • actively nurtured and managed by leadership…

…then you’ll probably keep them. And as you’re trying to hire new talent, those people are going to call your employees to find out what the culture is really like there, and your employees will rave about your culture and how successful it makes them. And the new talent will choose you.

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Things like pay, benefits, job description, and even location—they all still matter. But all of those things will be trumped by culture right now, because the quality of the work experience is no longer something people are willing to sacrifice. Culture is why they’ll stay.

And if you’re concerned that your culture doesn’t have the gravitational pull that it should, call us. The best time to build an incredible culture that no one would want to leave was five years ago. The second best time is right now.

(And if your association has members that need to hear this message, also call me, because I’m doing a lot of keynotes on this topic right now)

Jamie Notter

Jamie is an author and growth strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders integrate culture, strategy, and execution to achieve breakthrough performance and impact. He brings twenty-five years of experience to his work designing culture-driven businesses, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is also the co-author of three books—Humanize, When Millennials Take Over, and The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement—and holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.
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