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Tackling the Great Resignation – are you a leader people want to work for?

By Karen Thomas-Bland, Global Board Level Advisor and founder of Intelligent Transformation Partners

It’s no secret that it’s an employee-driven job market. According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn, 74 percent of those surveyed indicated that the time spent at home during the pandemic had caused them to rethink their current work situation.  In the UK, job vacancies soared to an all-time high in July, with available posts surpassing one million for the first time.

There is a simple solution to the Great Resignation and it’s for you and me to be great leaders. Put simply, great leaders attract and retain great people who want to work for them. So how do you become a leader people not only want to work for, but will go the extra mile for?

My experience draws on assembling high performing teams to deliver major transformation programmes which require exceptional skill, pace and effort. I have found there are four areas that make the real difference between employees wanting to remain working for you and, more importantly, giving the extra discretionary effort you need to create something extraordinary.

  1. Engage and recognise

Employees want to be engaged and involved; in fact, according to, 63 percent of those in a recent survey who said they are regularly involved and engaged also said they are very unlikely to look for a new job. Gallup reports that organisations with more engaged employees are not only 10 percent more profitable but incur 41 percent less absenteeism and a 59 percent reduction in turnover compared with companies with less engaged workers. So how do you involve and recognise people?  Organisations are often shaped by a series of narratives describing to employees a destination around where the business is going and what they need to do to achieve it. Critically, then it’s about engaging people to help shape the final destination, so they don’t feel change is being done to them, but instead feel actively involved.

The best leaders communicate frequently and cut through noise to create and reinforce a mindset for change. They also make communications more human centred – personal, meaningful and open. They don’t just rely on logic to persuade. If you want to influence human behaviour, rational or benefits-led messaging just doesn’t cut it.  To really engage people, you need to create an emotional connection.

Recognition is then about working out what is important to people and making them feel their contribution is uniquely valued. In my experience I always reference the top two to three skills someone brings to the party. It’s about taking time to listen to and understand an individual’s motivations, hopes and challenges that are really important to them.

  1. Connect with your community

The best leaders are attuned to creating the right environments both physical and virtual, to help form communities. Taking time to build communities, supported by collaboration platforms can also pay dividends as communities that are set up to support each other become self-sustaining. Community interactions can also broaden social learning, facilitate peer-to-peer exchanges and surface expertise.

Over-performing companies understand the transformative power of community. They create a culture of psychological safety so there can be open dialogue, debate and time given to people to adjust and form new habits and ways of working. The sense of community can be achieved through open consultation, employee-led groups or other mechanisms designed to create space to learn together.

  1. Lead with purpose

Everyone wants to feel part of something bigger. The distributed working world we find ourselves in needs an even greater focus on leading with purpose and humanity. This is about linking the ambition of the vision to the organisational purpose – answering ‘why as a company do we exist?’ As leaders take stock and tackle their company’s vulnerabilities, they also need to set bold aspirations and push for specificity on the alignment between purpose and value.

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The best leadership I have witnessed involves putting people first, getting in front of situations as they arise, over communicating, leading with the values set out and explaining ‘why’ with greater compassion than ever before. We know that everyone is holding leaders to a much higher standard than ever before when it comes to transparency, trust, social and environmental impact.

  1. Create trust

As leaders we have a great opportunity to step up, be part of the solution and bridge the trust deficit that has emerged over time between individuals and corporations. Leaders who earn the trust of their employees by delivering the experiences they value will succeed at transforming their companies and retaining people on the journey. A great example of trust is the debates around work patterns, often moving from a 9-5 culture to an asynchronous way of working, shifting when the work is done and creating greater flexibility around this. Some organisations I have worked with have successfully adopted a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) where you measure team members by their performance, results or output, not by their presence in the office or the hours that they work. Once embedded and managed, this can have a positive impact on the employee experience.

We will also never achieve perfection when we’re doing something new. It’s about creating a culture of trust, so people understand that it is not a problem if they try something, and it doesn’t work at first. It’s also about being open to sharing failures, so ideas get stronger, and companies learn to innovate at scale.  The best leaders are available, authentic and vulnerable, all critical in creating a climate of trust.

A study by KPMG showed that companies that are investing in the employee experience are four times more profitable than companies that don’t.By engaging and recognising, connecting, leading with purpose and creating trust, you create a culture people want to work in and be a leader people want to work for and go the extra mile for. If you find yourself negotiating the number of days in the office people spend, then maybe it’s time to revisit the employee experience you are creating.

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Karen Thomas-Bland is a Global Board Level Advisor, Partner level Management Consultant and Non-Executive Director with over 24 years’ experience in creating break-through strategies, transforming and Integrating organisations. With an excellent track record in creating sustainable long-term value creation in FTSE/Fortune businesses and PE Funds, she is a trusted advisor to boards, executive teams and investors and is the founder of Intelligent Transformation Partners.  Her clients include IBM, Accenture, EY, KPMG, WPP, RELX Group and Private Equity Funds. She operates globally and has worked across all five continents. Karen is a Chartered Organisational Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society.






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