Suffering from The Great Resignation? Maybe You Need to Know Your Employees a Little Better

John Hollon Employee Relations, Learning and Development, Organizational Development, Retention

Way back when I ran a newspaper news desk (yes, it was THAT long ago), I was looking to hire a Copy Desk Chief. 

It was a critical role because the Copy Chief reviewed the work of the copy editors, and more importantly, made sure that bad stuff didn’t get into the daily paper. 

Everybody in the newsroom knew I was interviewing outside candidates, but in the middle of the hiring process, one of my copy editors popped her head into my office and said, “I’d like to throw my hat in the ring for the Copy Chief job.” 

I was flabbergasted; this woman was a solid editor, but I didn’t know that any of the current copy editors — her included — wanted the job or even had the management skills for it. 

Well, this editor convinced me she was the right person for the job, and as it turned out, she was perfect. Her great work in that role made me wonder then as it still does now, “how could I miss someone so uniquely qualified who was sitting right under my nose?” 

How much do you know about your employees? 

The lesson for me from that incident is this: that your current employees are frequently the best candidates to fill a job opening. The benefits for them, and for your organization, are usually a lot greater than they are then if you hired somebody from the outside, 

But that raises another question even more important today as organizations everywhere struggle to retain their best people in the midst of “The Great Resignation” — How much do you know about the skillset and capabilities of everyone in your workforce? 

Yes, you may know what most of your people do in their current position, but have you ever been surprised when somebody applies for a job or wants to work on a project and you’re caught off-guard because you didn’t know they had the experience and skillset that would make them a candidate for it? 

I’ve found that it’s not unusual for managers to find themselves in that situation. Far too often, managers find that they don’t have a good handle on ALL the talents, skills, and experiences that their people bring to the table — because they simply don’t keep good track of them. 

One more thing — don’t think this problem is unique to you and your organization. 

3 keys: reskilling, mobility, and career pathing 

According to recent research by Fuel50, an AI Talent Marketplace technology company, only 30% of respondents say they have visibility into the skillsets of their employees, while 25% of respondents say they plan to increase their visibility into their talent within the next year (Full disclosure: I do some contract work for Fuel50). 

That sounds positive, but here’s another way to view it: seven out of 10 organizations — a whopping 70% — DON’T really know much about the skills their employees bring to the table. 

What HR leaders DO seem to know is that they need to do something, and fast, to address this problem. And they are. 

The Fuel50 research also found that Human Resource leaders say that their strategic priorities for the next 2 years include employee reskilling, talent mobility, and career pathing, and that improving in ALL three areas is critical to 75% or more of the HR respondents. That’s encouraging, because as they always say, recognizing you have a problem is the first step in fixing the problem. 

One more thing — in addition, the data found that when HR has greater visibility to talent across the organization, the research found that they were ALSO likely to have: 

  • Higher employee productivity
  • Higher training and spending on employee development; 
  • Lower voluntary attrition
  • Lower recruitment costs; and,  
  • Fewer unfilled positions

Here’s what organizations need to do – and fast 

Here’s my take: “The Great Resignation” has gotten a lot of media coverage, but a lot less has been written about what to do about it. That’s why a recent article in Forbes titled Turning the Great Resignation Into the Great Retention is not only timely but makes a lot of sense. 

Here’s the crux of the article’s argument: 

“The Great Resignation is here. We’ve experienced a higher degree of resignations, as well. The most disappointing were those that surprised our managers. Now’s as good a time as any to open yourselves up to your employees and inquire about their needs. Address them honestly and directly — even if you can’t meet them. That will form the basis of a relationship that has the potential to turn The Great Resignation into The Great Retention.” 

That argument makes sense … as far as it goes. I just wish Forbes would make a stronger case for why organizations need to wake up, step up, and get serious about doing all the things they need to do to make their employees want to stick with them. 

Here’s a news flash: unless you want a revolving door of employees coming and going, where your managers are constantly recruiting and hiring new people, you better get your organization to wake up and see employees for what they really are — critical assets you really need to invest in. 

As the Fuel50 research report clearly states, “The Future of Work Belongs to the Flexible, Agile, and Resilient.” They also quote David Perring, the Director of Research at Fosway Group, who says that “Organizations achieve through their people. So, the opportunity to create higher-performing organizations is really at HR’s fingertips – if we choose to harness it.” 

That’s a great insight for companies struggling with the effect of The Great Resignation. The big question is, will organizations losing employees stop and listen?