I manage a massive sales function for a software company. I am so exhausted from all my people quitting! What is going on? At the end of the Q1, FOUR of my managers quit. And a month ago, my right-hand person, who followed me from our last company, submitted her resignation. At least she gave me a month to replace her and train someone new.
We always expect a little attrition at vesting periods, but I have never seen anything like this. It isn’t like our quotas are going to change, so everyone else is overburdened. The regional VPs can’t keep up with onboarding and training all of the new hires. Our recruiters are bringing us fewer viable candidates and the viable ones are demanding starting salaries that are more than what I make! I’ve been doing this a long time but have never felt so exposed.
I don’t know what to do. I just feel—
I am hearing the same thing from my clients and we have experienced the same thing in our company. One client recently reported that a candidate for an executive assistant position demanded $300K as a starting salary. He literally did a spit take at that. That is an extreme example of how people are aiming high and also illustrates the point that unemployment is at an all-time low.
What is going on? Well, the collective wisdom is that the world grinding to a halt, the fear of imminent death during the height of the pandemic, and the massive changes in the workplace have sparked a collective re-evaluation of how we all spend our time and resources.
People are asking themselves:
- What is really important to me—and does what I am doing right now reflect those things?
- What are my long-term goals—and am I going to be able to achieve them where I am now?
- Do I really love my job? Or have I let myself get complacent?
And why wouldn’t people ask these things, given all that we have been through? There is nothing like a deadly virus that makes a trip to the grocery store feel like a commando maneuver—or, far worse, losing a loved one—to starkly accentuate the reality that we only get one shot at this life so we’d better make the most of it. Seen in that light, the phenomenon you are currently struggling with does make sense.
What can you do? As a senior leader, a lot. The first step is to actively strive to re-engage your people. Find out what makes them tick and show them you care. You can get more detail on how to do that in this wonderful article: 8 Keys to Re-engaging a Fatigued Workforce.
Another idea is to task all of your VPs with having stay conversations. A review of exit interviews conducted before the pandemic revealed that a common answer to the question “Why are you leaving?” is “Nobody asked me to stay.” If employees don’t see and hear evidence that their boss and their company value them and want them to stay with the organization, they will assume their leaving won’t be a problem for anyone. This is just human nature: in the absence of information, people will make things up. The antidote is to have bosses literally ask their employees to stay and ask for insight into what will make that likely.
Our own research on employee work passion shows that people are as motivated by meaningful work, appreciation, and connectedness to colleagues and the organization as they are by money. So you can:
- help your people understand the value and meaning of their work,
- make sure they feel seen and heard as actual humans, and
- actively build ways for them to feel more connected to each other and the company.
More detail on stay conversations can be found here.
In terms of attracting viable candidates, again, money is not the only thing that matters. Make sure your recruiters are emphasizing every potential benefit of joining your company—flexible WFH options, career paths, the quality of your leadership—anything you can think of that makes your company special.
Action is the best antidote for the kind of anxiety you have. You can get the ball rolling by having stay conversations with your VPs to demonstrate what a good job looks like. Start today. No time to lose.
So, take a deep breath, make your plan, and get going. It will make a difference. I promise.
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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