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Understanding Expectations of Top Talent: Top Three Retention Strategies for Leaders

A new survey by The Adecco Group – which captured the opinions of more than 34,000 working people in 25 different countries – revealed just how important it is for leaders to create the culture, working environment and career opportunities that convince skilled workers to stay.
Jessica Conser

The Great Resignation has been a top-of-mind concern for business leaders for many months now. Top talent has been quitting in droves to pursue new opportunities, leaving many employers scrambling to fill a talent void of unprecedented magnitude amidst a global shortage of skilled workers.

For most of these leaders, the response to the Great Resignation has been to join a global bidding war for top talent, driving salaries and bonuses to unprecedented heights. However, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that business leaders are focused too much on finding new talent, and not enough on keeping their best people from leaving in the first place.

It’s time for leaders to stop agonizing about the Great Resignation and start focusing on the Great Retention.

A new survey by The Adecco Group (TAG) – which captured the opinions of more than 34,000 working people in 25 different countries – revealed just how important it is for leaders to create the culture, working environment and career opportunities that convince skilled workers to stay.

Among the most important findings for business leaders:

The Great Resignation is continuing. For now. The survey shows very clearly that inflation and the economic uncertainty that accompanies it have not extinguished the willingness of top talent to quit their current job and try out new opportunities. However, there is evidence that the number of people looking to change jobs may have diminished somewhat.

Last year, as the world began to slowly free itself from pandemic restrictions, some surveys showed as many as half of all working people were looking for new opportunities. In 2022, our survey found that 29% of all respondents said they have been offered a new job or are actively looking for another work opportunity. The willingness to pursue other job opportunities is particularly acute for Gen Z workers (37%) and Millennials (31%), a clear sign that employers face a huge challenge to retain younger talent. 

Money is talking to top talent more than ever before. Although human resource professionals have always supported the notion that non-monetary considerations – leadership culture, work-life balance, and career opportunities – were more important than salary in driving engagement and retention, the Great Resignation has turned that equation on its head. Desperation to find skilled talent in a tight labor market, and skyrocketing inflation around the world, has made money the number one reason to change jobs.

The TAG survey found that among those workers who wanted to change jobs, 45% said it was because they wanted a better salary. Appetite for a better salary was highest in Spain, Nordic Countries, and Italy, where at least half of all workers looking to change were pursuing enhanced pay. More importantly, the spread between better salaries and other issues – work-life balance, career progression and a more flexible working arrangement – has grown significantly.

The disconnect between leaders and the people they lead remains entrenched. In 2021, the TAG survey found that although managers thought they had done a good job through the pandemic, the people they were leading were less certain. That gap continued in 2022.

In the most recent survey, nearly eight out of 10 (78%) of managers were satisfied with their performance. However, only 55% of non-managers were satisfied with the performance of their immediate superiors. That gap was also quite profound on issues like salary; 70% of managers were satisfied with their current salary, but only 47% of non-managers felt the same way. 

Leadership culture will be key to shifting the Great Resignation to the Great Retention

With the threat of recession hanging over the global economy, leaders need to focus intently on ways of retaining top talent. It simply won’t be financially feasible to continue trying to outbid other employers for the services of skilled workers.

There are many things employers can do to combat the allure of outside job offers. Our survey reveals three key strategies.

 

  1. Get ahead of the Great Resignation by having a career conversation about what success looks like to workers. Meaningful conversations between leaders and the people they lead has always been a key to retention. In fact, many previous surveys have shown that among those workers who have voluntarily left a job to pursue other opportunities, more could have been done to keep them. The easiest and most effective way to do more is to open a dialogue about career progression. Our survey showed strong interest in such conversations as a condition of having a “successful working life.” Three in 10 respondents said having greater flexibility over working conditions was key to a satisfying job. And a quarter of all respondents said opportunities for promotion and acquiring new skills were key to job satisfaction. Both issues are staples of the career progression conversation that leaders need to activate. Unfortunately, 23% of all workers have never had a career progression conversation. Among those who have, 23% report that it’s only done once a year.
  2. Create a collaborative environment that respects work-life balance. One of the realities of the Great Resignation is the extent to which talent is willing to leave to seek working conditions that meet their expectations. Our survey showed that respondents who are happy in their current jobs rate issues like relationships with co-workers (74%), job security (72%), and being trusted by managers (70%) as the main drivers of satisfaction. The big takeaway is that all these issues are within the control of leaders. Open lines of communication (through things like career progression conversations), demonstrating trust in direct reports and dealing quickly and effectively with toxic behavior or conflict among workers are all things that leaders can and should be doing to retain talent.
  3. Employees want coaching. Even though coaching is more accepted as a best practice in career development than ever before, employers are still rationing access to this key career development tool. Our survey showed that 58 percent of managers, and half of all workers, have had access to a professional coach to help career development and advancement.


Conclusion


The Great Resignation is no doubt fueled by a certain degree of complacency by employers who took for granted that the basic value proposition they were offering their talent – salaries, working conditions, career opportunities – would be enough to keep them in place. The acute hunger for skilled talent, however, has shown that employers are willing to offer more money and more of the collateral benefits that workers were not getting in their current job.

Business leaders have a huge challenge before them. There simply isn’t enough skilled talent in the open market to fill every hole left by the Great Resignation. Leaders need to find ways to get out ahead of this trend by ensuring that they have created a workplace that meets the expectations of top talent, thereby retaining them and keeping them from looking for a better working life elsewhere.

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Download the full report, “Global Workforce of the Future: Unravelling the Talent Conundrum” for insights into the attitudes of the current workforce and food for thought to help organizations and leaders future-proof their talent.