What Leadership Looks Like During the Great Resignation

Authored by Guest Blogger Rachel Jepson (Edited by Melanie Hicks)

The past year saw the beginning of a human capital revolution. At record rates, employees all across the world began to voluntarily resign from their roles. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, the most common reasons for employee resignation included low pay, poor treatment at work, and limited opportunities for advancement. Today’s employees seek roles with companies that offer higher pay, clear advancement opportunities, and a better work-life balance.

Employers and managers can reduce their turnover rates during this employment crisis by paying attention to modern HR trends. The latest generation of HR managers are taught modern practices during their training at higher education institutions, which helps them adapt to the new digital workforce. Today’s HR management degrees train future leaders to use modern HR principles and technology to facilitate talent recruitment and development. This includes understanding cultural effectiveness, communication, and relationship management. All key principles today’s leaders need to be aware of in the new normal. With that in mind here’s what effective leadership looks like during the Great Resignation.

Focus On Inclusivity

As the Pew Research survey revealed, 63% of employees that quit during the Great Resignation did so because they felt disrespected at work. Often, this disrespect can stem from prejudice against an aspect of an employee’s identity, such as their race, gender, sexual orientation, and age. In 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 22,064 claims of race-based workplace discrimination. Knowing how common discrimination in the workplace is, it is imperative that leaders foster more inclusive work environments.

In particular, leaders need to work on cultural effectiveness. A culturally effective leader will value the perspective of any employee, no matter their background or identity. By promoting cultural effectiveness, leaders can make their employees feel more accepted. Promoting acceptance can also model open-mindedness to other employees.

Make Mental Health A Priority


The Pew Research survey showed that 45% of employees quit due to a lack of flexible work options. Flexible work is necessary for a number of reasons. Some employees have children or family members to take care of. Others might have health conditions they need to work around. Mental health, in particular, is a pressing issue for many employees. 2020 statistics show that about 52.9 million adults, or 20% of the United States population, live with a mental illness.

Beginning 2020, mental health issues have become especially common due to the problems caused by the global pandemic, such as financial instability, social isolation, and increased exposure to death and illness. Again, flexible work options can help employees manage their conditions while still being productive. Additionally, leaders need to promote psychological safety in the workplace. Good communication and relationship management skills are key: management can stop warning signs from worsening by proactively checking in on their employees. It can also help to point employees to useful resources, such as screening tools, webinars, counselling, or coaching programs.

Create Opportunities For Learning And Development

Just as employees help their organizations grow, companies should also help their employees grow. 33% of employees interviewed in the Pew Research survey said that they resigned from their roles because their companies offered no opportunities for advancement. Leaders then need to give their employees a clear idea of how they can progress within the company. By doing so, companies can prove to their staff that they are invested in each employee’s development, while also ensuring that skilled members will remain. Leaders can also point their staff to learning opportunities that align with each employee’s interests and skills. For example, a manager might be able to direct a people-focused receptionist to a mentorship program in the human resources department.

Provide Useful Feedback

One way to help employees progress within the company is to provide useful feedback. When employees receive actionable and constructive feedback for the outcomes they produce, they gain a clearer picture of how they can grow within their role. Empathy is key — before giving critiques, imagine how the recipient of feedback might feel. It’s best to focus on outcomes rather than an employee’s personal attributes. Lastly, give praise when it’s due to ensure that each employee understands what they are doing right.

Keeping employees satisfied during the Great Resignation is no easy task. Leaders need to make sure employees understand that they are valued by the company. Focusing on inclusivity, mental health, and advancement opportunities can help.

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