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Where is everyone going after they quit?

Alex McMurray

December 14, 2021

As January inches closer, talent leaders are holding their breath in anticipation of the possible flood of resignations to follow year-end bonuses. For organizations already feeling the effects of the Great Resignation, another spike can feel untenable.

The recent attention on the Great Resignation has shone a light on crucial (and long overdue) retention conversation. However, the attention has been lopsided, focusing only on one side of the retention conversation: #quitmyjob. 

Far fewer conversations are focusing on where all those people are going next. 

But if we reframe this event, as Josh Bersin recently did, as a Great Migration, it begs the question: Where are people going after they quit?

We know that people are leaving their jobs in search of something more fulfilling. A sense of belonging and being valued is now an expectation people are increasingly bringing to work; when it’s not met, they’re willing to walk.

People have higher expectations for what needs their work should fulfill; at the same time, their opportunities for employment are expanding. With 45% of people now working remotely, geography is less of a constraint than in the past. That greater sense of possibility is emboldening people to leave roles that aren’t meeting their needs, knowing they can now cast their job hunt more widely. 

As Bersin puts it, people are going from “crumby jobs to better jobs” and “from companies that don’t seem to care to ones that really, really seem to care.” 

Companies that are deeply investing in people are becoming talent magnets. These are firms where wellbeing is part of the cultural DNA, where employee experience is monitored and prioritized, and where leaders are supported to invest in team development and growth. 

While many organizations purport to prioritize and invest in these areas, only 1 in 7 companies achieve these high standards for employee experience. Now, with massive talent fluctuations at play “irresistible organizations” are becoming the ideal destination for those feeling unfulfilled in their current workplaces.

It explains why so many companies are feeling the pains that come with high turnover - 6 out of every 7 companies still need to do more to meet their employees’ needs.

The pandemic simultaneously exacerbated two critical factors: 

1. Prolonged isolation, leading to an increase in people’s desire for community at work

2. Remote work, allowing for flexibility in location

Yet, we shouldn’t view these trends as bound by the pandemic; the fallout is expected to be long-term. Those companies who see the Great Migration as temporary and therefore don’t act now, will continue to see retention and attraction rates fall.

It’s time to respond to employees’ needs and demands by investing in what they care about most: belonging in a community and contributing in meaningful and recognized ways.

Building a strong culture and employee experience will be your organization’s great retention and attraction strategy. 

I believe these changes can’t just happen at the top of the house. Employees need to feel and see the change on a daily basis, in their day to day setting. This requires every leader and manager to invest in their teams’ experiences, wellbeing and growth. For some, this will come naturally, but for most, it will demand new ways of managing their people.

In those cases, managers will need guidance and tools to start listening and supporting their employees effectively. When managers are empowered and equipped, you’ll see leaders step up and truly own their team’s wellbeing. And this is the fastest path to creating and embedding the kind of culture that makes people want to stay or join your company.

As you get closer to that “irresistible organization” status, both retention and attraction rates will steadily climb.