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How an Integrated Leadership Development Strategy Can Help Retain Employees in the Midst of ‘The Great Resignation’

Jason Diamond Arnold

September 28, 2021

We are in the midst of “The Great Resignation.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over 40% of the workforce is actively seeking to leave their current jobs. And over the summer of 2021, almost 4 million employees actually did! Resignation rates are at an all-time high. Why? Because employees are exhausted and burned out after a year of complete personal and professional disruption, and they’re reassessing their lives and careers, looking for opportunities that are aligned with their personal values.

These types of staggering numbers demand that companies have a clear and effective retention strategy, or our business challenges of the past year could get even worse than they were for the past year and a half. The Federal Reserve’s latest Beige Book notes that, despite strong demand for employment, the low worker supply is “impeding business activity.” 

Underneath this curious data lies a subtle truth that has been developing for the past few decades, but was spotlighted due to the pandemic and subsequent quarantine of 2020: Employees want stable, healthy career options that allow them to be flexible and productive. The Wall Street Journal has recently found that millennials want a different path than the one they’ve been on, and many workers are leaving cities for “exurbs” in search of a more balanced lifestyle.

How will you and your organization respond to these significant workforce trends in a post-pandemic economy?

One of the core elements of business that was disrupted by the pandemic was an organization’s ability to lead and inspire high levels of performance in a virtual or hybrid (semi-virtual) workflow. While large portions of the workforce were already moving to virtual work experiences before the pandemic, it has become clear that virtual work, or some variation of hybrid work, is the new norm for the modern Knowledge Worker

Progressive organizations are looking for ways to adapt to these new norms, upgrading their organization’s systems and processes to enable high performance in any environment, as a means to engage and retain top talent.

Coupling an effective Leadership Development strategy through a Continuous Performance Management (CPM) process can provide the foundation for engaging and retaining employees at every level of an organization.

How Leadership Development Helps

When employees are contemplating whether they should quit their jobs and find a new one, most of them are sincerely seeking a better future for themselves. They’re taking stock of their skills and desires, and cross-referencing those to the opportunities available in your organization. The fewer the opportunities to grow and develop within your organization, the more likely they are to leave for opportunities that they believe will advance their careers.

There are two sides to the employee retention issue: You can give employees new opportunities (the supply side), or you can develop their skills to attain new opportunities available (the demand side). Inspire Software helps organizations focus on developing employees through effective leadership practices, in the flow of an employee's performance process. 

Great leaders proactively assess an employee’s skills and work motivation before they offer direction or support to employees. Inspire’s Leadership Genius language frames four main contexts for effective leadership: Self, One-to-One, Team, and Organizational.

The first context helps individuals continually assess their own performance needs and motivational outlooks while pursuing critical performance objectives. It also helps individuals gain a better understanding of their unique disposition, values, and motivations in order to perform at a high level and continually advance their careers.

The next few contexts analyze how leaders understand their own leadership styles and how they can have a positive impact on direct reports, align performance through team dynamics, and promote organizational objectives, vision, and values that are integrated into the way employees work. These and other leadership skills enhance performance through the regular practice of setting and pursuing SMART goals, individual dispositions, and personalities through DISC assessments, and the ability to align OKRs with the workflow of the organization. 

From this holistic analysis, employees can gain a better understanding of their strengths and motivations toward their goals, and how their career path fits within the wider organization, while they excel in their performance toward meaningful goals. 

Continuous Performance Management and Retention

Effective modern leadership practices are closely aligned with and applied through continuous performance management (CPM) programs to further build the capabilities and motivations employees seek when assessing their careers.

For example, you’ve heard that, in addition to the goals systems mentioned above, feedback and recognition play an important role in how employees view themselves, their work, and their relationships with their broader teams. Inspire Software combines these systems into one easy-to-use software.

Regular one-to-one meetings, where an employee and their manager assess their performance needs and overall motivation, enable excellent performance while helping them clarify where their current performance could lead them in terms of career advancement. 

Setting attainable objectives through OKRs or SMART goals, and meeting with employees regularly to assess their performance toward those goals, is the foundation of great performance and sets the stage to have regular conversations around performance and development needs related to those goals and career options. 

While pursuing the key results of an objective, leaders are able to give real-time feedback and recognize an employee's achievements with their team and the rest of the organization. These complementary tools help define the target, track progress toward that target, and then continually course correct, and ultimately celebrate success together as goals are accomplished.

Leadership Development embedded into an effective CPM process allows employees and managers to orchestrate their efforts and stay aligned with not only the company’s vision but employees’ professional passions too.

Inspire Software can help your organization retain the best and brightest employees before they join “The Great Resignation” by giving leaders at every level of your organization — including those individual employees — the skill set and mindset to meet the demands of a modern work experience. Inspire your people — and your organization — through a platform that helps people find purpose and meaning in their work.