Canadian Underwriter

During the ‘Great Re-shuffle,’ don’t forget the ones who stay

May 16, 2022   by David Gambrill

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With people leaving all around you during ‘The Great Re-shuffle,’ the temptation may be to emphasize recruitment to backfill the people who have been lost, but industry leaders would be well-advised to instead focus on retention, according to a blog authored by two HR and leadership-development experts.

“The best way to stabilize your business is to stem the tsunami of attrition and increase your retention,” Debbie Cohen and Kate Roeske-Zummer wrote in a blog for Harvard Business Review. “In the frantic need to hire more people, the group we often forget to attend to are the folks who stay — those showing up day-in and day-out shouldering the work that needs to get done.

“Think about what these people — the ones who are here, working for and with you — need now. The short answer is they need to be seen for who they are and what they are contributing. It’s your job as the leader to make sure they’re getting the recognition they deserve.”

Post-pandemic, many Canadian employees in all industries have put their own health and well-being ahead of their careers. Published studies show 15% of Canadians reported heading off to a new job in 2021, and 37% said they’d move for the right offer in 2022.

But Canadian Underwriter’s 2022 National Broker Survey showed the trigger fingers to move may not be quite as itchy. Of the more than 200 brokers polled, 23% said they were highly likely to leave the profession within the next three years for any reason — the exact same percentage who said the same at the start of the pandemic in 2020. Perhaps more notably, those who reported it being ‘very unlikely’ dipped to 48%, down from 52% two years ago.

But one thing that might convince them to stay is for leaders to give them the respect and attention they deserve, Cohen and Roeske-Zummer wrote. Retaining your existing employees involves taking three pro-active steps.

One is to ‘re-recruit’ them, meaning leaders should have the same types of discussions about career goals and aspirations that they would have with an employee during the recruitment process.

“Spend time to understand their motivations and ambitions,” the authors said. “With so much new hiring happening, identify where opportunities might exist inside the organization (even if it is outside of your team) to help them fulfill unrealized dreams and ambitions.

“Help them see and claim the positive impact they are making in the organization. Acknowledge not just what they are doing, but why it matters. Let them know what you appreciate about how they are showing up during difficult times. People want to know they are making a difference.”

Two, reward them for their efforts. Hold new hires accountable for their performance, and make sure the pay structure is well understood by all. And, if current employees are able to contribute ideas that may overturn the status quo, reward them by being ready to let go of a status quo that’s not serving the company. Acknowledge their efforts and ideas in driving positive change.

And, third, engage the employees who stay. Be vulnerable by asking for their help, and give them the power to effect change that will make their work better, easier and more efficient.

Giving people recognition they deserve also extends to recognizing the value of employees who leave, the authors noted. It needs to be okay for people to leave the company for other opportunities that may be more in line with their life circumstances.

“In far too many companies, when an employee gives notice the reaction is akin to an emotional breakup — you’ve been left and you feel rejected,” the authors wrote. “This triggers some not great behavior like a tendency to make the person leaving ‘wrong’ and doubt their trustworthiness or integrity — even though that was not the case before they gave notice.

“There is a penchant to dismiss their presence and devalue their contribution. Think deeply about what this type of behavior signals to the departing employee and remember, those that remain and are watching.”


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