Great Retention Effort to Counter Great Resignation

Great Retention Effort to Counter Great Resignation

An extraordinary situation requires extraordinary effort; hence, the Great Resignation must be countered with “Great Retention Effort”.

During my casual conversations with HR friends, I observed the majority of them worried about the “Great Resignation” hitting in 2021 and beyond. To combat it, realignment of salary structure, compensation ratio, etc., appears to be the common approach across industries. Although compensation realignment is a crucial step in the right direction, in my opinion, this talent war will not be won over by merely increasing compensation. Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index showed that 41% of the global workforce is considering resigning this year, and in one of McKinsey’s surveys, 40% of those polled said they are at least likely to quit in the next three to six months.


While there was a spurt of resignation in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, it’s different this time. During an economic crisis, the larger ecosystem outside the organisation is no different, but the current situation, which is induced by COVID-19, has led to an external environment that is a mix of organisations striving and thriving. From an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) perspective, the differentiating factor is “the way an organisation has taken care of its employees during the pandemic.”


Gartner has predicted that in 2021 and beyond, an employer’s priority will shift from managing Employee Experience (EX) to managing the Life Experience of Employees (ELX). This is where the key to managing the Great Resignation lies. An organisation needs to realign HR policies, benefits, and working models to create an ecosystem capable of managing the life experience of employees. ELX will be more critical than EX from the EVP perspective.


An extraordinary situation requires extraordinary effort; hence, the Great Resignation must be countered with “Great Retention Effort (GRE)”. The very reason for calling this GRE is that it is a business imperative to go beyond classical attrition analysis wherein the top three reasons appear as “better career opportunities, professional growth, and personal reason.”


A five-pillar approach to combating GRE is as follows:


1. Work Flexibility as a Strategic Pillar


According to physics, no material in the universe has 100% elastic value. Similarly, regardless of their level of preparedness, supportive digital infrastructure, well-defined policy, and so on, organisations that have been pressed to adopt the WFH model will never return to their old ways of working.


According to a study done by Robert Half, one-third of professionals (34%) who currently work from home would quit if required to be in the office full time.


Organisations may like to adopt the following two support systems –


• Infrastructure Support: WFH is no longer a luxury for organisations; it is an essential ingredient of their culture. Organisations forced to WFH for the first time need to design policy/guidelines, create physical/digital infrastructure, and help employees set up WFH infrastructure. Companies wherein WFH is challenging to adopt may start identifying specific roles wherein strategic flexibility can be granted — instead of becoming “WFH-less” organisations, one should opt for “less-WFH” in an organisation. Remember, if we do not provide this flexibility, someone else will.


• Cultural Support: Flexibility of working from home or anywhere should be complemented by the organisational culture. People leaders must engage with team members regularly and empathetically. Performance assessment should be unbiased and based solely on merit. The professional maturity of people leaders plays a crucial role here. Remember, “people join an organisation and leave their managers.”


2. Enhanced Collaboration


Simply hiring the best talent from the market does not guarantee success; rather, organisations need to create a culture wherein employees feel valued, feel comfortable, and contribute to the best of their potential in a collaborative manner.


Buffer’s study on the State of Work in 2020 reported that 40% of remote employees surveyed cited lack of collaboration, communication, and loneliness as their biggest struggles.


Virtual work environments should not impact team interactions. The trust factor, which is a prerequisite of collaborative culture, must be built through speak-up culture, open communication, dialogues and discussions, fearless work environment, supportive work infrastructure (including collaborative digital platforms, like WhatsApp), real-time performance feedback, and business updates accessible electronically, anytime, anywhere.


3. EX to ELX


COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis. To counter the Great Resignation, we need to relook at HR policies and create a great employee life experience.


• Flexible Policies and Benefit options: The idea is to look beyond classical benefit plans. Companies may opt for allowing unlimited sick leave options, having creches near homes, ensuring mandatory leaves, including expenses related to mental/psychiatric disorders in health insurance plans, sharing leaves amongst employees, having uncapped maternity expenses, adding in-laws to health insurance schemes/vaccination reimbursements, establishing digital platforms for virtual consultations, and so on.


• Managing job stress: Employee stress, burnout, and mental health issues arising from the pandemic will remain a major concern in the coming days. Organisations focusing on employees’ well-being and resilience will stay ahead in retaining talent. For many employees, working from home has become like 24 hours of working for the organisation, which is causing job stress and has to be dealt with on priority by people leaders. Team deliverables must be structured in a timely manner. Additionally, a clear guideline by the organisation concerning general work timings containing dos and don’ts will make people leaders’ and team members’ lives better. In addition to EAP support, it is also crucial to set up team-level culture.


Gartner predicts that employers who support employees with their life experiences will see a 20% increase in the number of employees reporting better mental and physical health and a 21% increase in the number of high performersvs organisations that do not provide the same degree of support to their employees. Remember, healthy employees create healthy organisations.


4. Cross-Skilling, Reskilling and Multiskilling


Managing skill erosion arising from attrition is key to the overall talent strategy. With the increased pace of digital transformation along with 5G and edge computing, it is strategically important to ensure the availability of the right skills at the right time. We can either build it or buy it from the market. However, always buying from the market (lateral hiring) is neither a long-term sustainable model nor business-friendly. Rather, organisations must focus on cross-skilling, reskilling and multiskilling the existing workforce to ensure the availability of the right set of skills at the right time. A structured model for job-shadowing, internal job/gig opportunities across verticals and domains, certifications and training will be crucial to make the workforce future-ready and at the same time create an ecosystem wherein employees feel their career aspirations are met.


5. Data-Driven Retention Plan


Data and analytics should be leveraged as a tool for enabling organisations to look beyond the obvious. An organisation may be likely to adopt the following three approaches:


• Dissatisfaction to Delight: The hypothesis is that dissatisfied employees leave the organisation. The pool of dissatisfied employees can be identified under these broad categories:


i. Who had raised a grievance over the last year?


ii. Whose appraisal rating had been on a decline for three successive years?


iii. Whose appraisal rating dipped by two scales, from A to C or from B to D (with A being the highest and D being the lowest)?


iv. Who among the lateral hires have lower appraisal ratings than expected over the last six months?


v. Who has spent more than three years in the same role and is a better-than-average performer?


vi. Who has a compensation ratio of less than 85% or 100% and is an average or a better-than-average performer in the last two years?


I have observed that the attrition percentage of such groups of employees is higher than the business unit’s or the company’s attrition percentage. Organisations should create a cross-functional team to interact with dissatisfied employees, understand their concerns, detail the actionable feedback with ownership, and work towards a resolution with the concerned stakeholders. Most importantly, communicate with the employees on the redress for their concerns.


• Combo to Tango: The idea is to identify diverse employee segments through a combination of multiple HR data/metrics and then plan a proactive retention strategy addressing the specific needs of the diverse pool of employees.


 Combo Groups That May Have a     Higher Attrition Rate                            

Potential Retention tools*

 Female team members, experience       bracket of 3–5 years

Flexible working options 

Relocation support

Higher education opportunity

 Employees, experience bracket of 2–4   years

Higher education opportunity

Leave options

Opportunities for Foreign                                  assignment/certification

 Low engagement score of a team;         Higher disciplinary cases

Cultural sensitisation

Training people leaders

Peer mentoring for people leaders


*To be applied only after deeper analysis


AI-based interventions: Organisations should leverage advanced technology like AI to identify employees who might be dissatisfied with their jobs. Few indicators are increased time on job sites over weekends, increased time spent on social media/job sites during office hours, increased number of leave days—year-over-year (YOY) comparison—absence from crucial meetings, etc. The idea is not to transgress their privacy but to identify such employees well in advance and increase leaders’ one-on-one interactions to understand their problems and determine the best approach to turn dissatisfaction into delight.


The ‘Great Resignation' is coming. Why millions of employees want to switch jobs (

Making the Great Attrition the Great Attraction | McKinsey

9 Work Trends That HR Leaders Can’t Afford to Ignore in 2021 (

Hybrid Working is Here to Stay. But What Does That Mean in Your Office? | World Economic Forum (

The Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Questionnaire (

Productivity, Collaboration and Communication in the New Normal: 5 lessons from the masters (



Pramod Kumar Jha is a seasoned HR professional with MBA-HR from XISS Ranchi. He is passionate about creating quantifiable business impact through quality & innovative HR practices. With over 15+ years of experience in the corporate world, he has worked with a diverse industry leader in IT & ITES, bank, automobile & tech product company. Currently he is associated with Dell Technologies as Sales HRBP Leader for APJ(Medium Business) & India (Core Sales).


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