Lindsey Estes

On March 11, I had the honor and privilege to attend the Big East Tournament Women’s Networking Luncheon. The program was titled “The Great Resignation and the Shape of Work,” moderated by LMA’s own CEO, Nancy Lane (proud Villanova alumna, class of ‘87).

The panel included female Villanova graduates from companies such as Boston Children’s Hospital, The Co-Co Collaborative, PayPal and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Panelists included graduates from Villanova University.

The panelists started the conversation with a temperature check: On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being a full-blown crisis moment, how concerned were they about the Great Resignation and why? All four women rated this moment in time an eight or higher. Some people are currently seeing 20-25% churn in their industries.

Everyone knows the obvious reasons for the Great Resignation, but below are some of the reasons the women discussed as to why they see employees resigning:

  • The pandemic forced people to get their values in order and they are carrying those forward through their work.
  • People are focusing on themselves. That can mean a lot of things, but career development is one aspect.
  • Lack of flexibility.
  • Toxic work culture. They didn’t feel they could escape before, but now with the demand in workers, people feel comfortable leaving.
  • Poor leadership, and lack of support.

Surprisingly, pay/compensation is not one of the top reasons for people leaving their jobs.

Nancy Lane, CEO of Local Media Association, moderated the event.

So much has been written about this moment in time, explaining the situation and raising the red flags, but the true heart of the conversation during the luncheon focused on what companies can do to retain employees. And let’s be clear: The emphasis is on retaining employees you want to keep. What do your best employees want, or need, to stay?

Here are ideas discussed by the panelists and shared from the audience:

  • Wellness Fridays. This company has a “wellness day” every six weeks. This means no emails are allowed to be sent, and no emails are allowed to be read. No work is done from the top down. This allows employees to really take time to do what they want: spend time with their family, spend time on themselves, take a class, do what they want to do without the guilt of feeling the need to check in to work.
  • Teach your employees how to relax. Bring in a professional to teach employees how to breathe, how to meditate, share relaxation apps, and provide resources to employees.
  • In the world of Zoom calls, research shows 45 minutes is the longest a video call should last to be effective. Honor that time block. Create no-video-call days for your team. Don’t require employees to have their camera on during all calls, all day, every day.
  • Companies need to support the leaders in the organizations. The leaders are burned out as much as or more than all the other employees. Leaders have been tasked with so much during the pandemic, and they also need the support and resources.
  • Recognize the unconscious biases in the workplace. Everyone is in a different situation at home and at work.
  • Survey your employees and ask them what they want. One company did this and learned employees wanted the week off between Christmas and New Year’s. They now have that week off without it counting against their PTO.
  • Provide employees with extra half-days off work. These days can be used for self care, create less stress when tracking PTO, or provide time in their week to try something new.

The word “flexibility” needs its own paragraph. Flexibility on work hours. Flexibility on work location. The panel recognized that some industries can be more flexible than others (think a hospital nurse vs. an accountant), but you can be creative and innovate within your own industry restraints. Look at why employees are leaving and create a solution within that.

Panelists agreed one thing is clear: people aren’t going to go back to the way things were before the pandemic. Most employees don’t want to be commuting five days a week when they can do their jobs from home most days. Parents don’t want to go back to the life of not having dinner as a family like they were before the pandemic. One thing this pandemic has taught us is that our time is valuable, we are valuable, and our skills are valuable. If employees aren’t feeling valued, they will go somewhere that does value them.

Here at LMA, we are diving deeply into this topic and want to hear from you on what your company is doing to help retain employees. Reach out to share your experiences: