Commentary: Turning the Great Resignation into the Great Retention


Originally appeared in BenefitsPro.

By: Elizabeth Brockey, Chief Customer Officer,

Company culture previously developed naturally within organizations, as employees worked similar in-office schedules. Repetition and familiarity helped drive a sense of community and build culture amongst team members. Organizational culture grows strong and gives team members a sense of belonging when the familiarity of an environment accompanies entertaining in-person events/activities, company swag, bonuses, and other perks. Culture is a powerful force within an organization, allowing team members to thrive and enjoy their work, which cultivates an ultimate desire to stay with the company. A sense of culture often drives an employee’s loyalty to an organization. During the pandemic, working remotely became the norm and some traditional “in-person” cultural norms began to shift or fade as the team was no longer face-to-face. As company cultures began to shift in the pandemic, there was no longer a natural stronghold for employee retention, and employees began to explore opportunities outside their organizations to meet their changing needs. To avoid this migration of workers, or “Great Resignation” as we now know it, companies must focus on adapting their cultures, understanding the needs of their employees, and drilling down to the core of what is best for the business as we continue to navigate ever-changing environments.

Listening to the Needs of Your Team

It is critical to understand the needs of the team. Understanding the new needs of all team members helps to strengthen the organization as everyone adapts to a changing culture. One way to accomplish this is by ensuring an easy way to connect between teams and team members, similar to the in-person connections teams had pre-pandemic. Organizations must focus on finding ways for team members to communicate between departments and through different levels in the organization, no matter where the team is working from. Bridging the gap can be challenging; but this remains possible with technology, where remote team members and in-person team members can connect, get to know one another, problem-solve, and have fun. For example, if part of the team is remote, or not in the office on particular days, it’s important to foster communications so team members are gathering information in real time and responding to situations, problem-solving, and building relationships as a team. This allows the team to continue to build the same type of relationships through traditional work interactions that made the culture strong before the pandemic.

One large challenge many companies face is the hybrid “in-office/remote” work schedule. With remote work opportunities more prevalent, companies are now competing on a national scale for talent versus a local one. Salaries and time in-office must remain competitive on a national scale to retain current talent. Candidates have more flexibility than ever before when it comes to matching with an employer; therefore, organizations must understand what they are up against in the market and what best suits their staff and business to ensure they can retain talent, while also ensuring they meet the needs of the business. Therefore, when continuing to build out the team, organizations must create a strategy that helps all team members connect, feel included, and part of the culture. Breaking communication barriers are critical to success in a hybrid environment. In order to achieve this, if a company determines a hybrid work schedule is best, the company should gather data on communication through a collaborative approach. Surveys, quick polls in IM toolsets, or conversations can help leaders gather necessary data. Overall, there are a variety of ways to achieve a more cohesive taskforce, such as creating time for employees to connect virtually and in-person as well as opening doors for both the virtual and the on-site team to troubleshoot problems together.

Fostering relationships and connections can be achieved by including the designated times to connect through perks (i.e., team breakfast, lunch, or happy hour gatherings) and bridging the gap between remote and in-person colleagues. Companies must be intentional about their aspirations and ensure each team (manager or coach) makes this a priority. This diligence will ensure team members feel part of something bigger than themselves and they are more likely to maintain their employment with the organization showing strong cultural ties.

For companies who continue operating with a team that remains partially in-office or remote, a need for adequate arrangements exists to ensure everyone remains connected. Often times, remote workers feel neglected as in-office activities occur between those who return to an in-person work environment; so, it is important to find ways to include remote teams in these events. Make sure that all virtual team members can access group communication platforms, trainings, meetings, and the overall experience of their counterparts working in-office. For example, some companies unite remote workers by purchasing gift cards, so they can order meals from home to promote a sense of inclusion around team lunches.

Control What You Can Control

Life and business changed significantly since the start of the pandemic; therefore, anyone operating the same way they used to will face significant operational challenges moving forward. While not every company has the resources of a Fortune 500 organization, every company does possess the ability to vastly impact the day-to-day of their team members, no matter the size of their organization. Smaller companies generally possess a “family culture” and can use the advantages that come with that to make a bigger impact. Personal handwritten “thank you” cards, public recognition of achievement, and a genuine in-person “thank you” goes a long way in supporting team members. Another example for companies to keep in mind includes implementing a mentorship program. This allows team members to learn from others who had different experiences in the workplace and gather advice. The act of aligning personal goals of individual team members with the company’s goals allows for professional growth and exposure to different challenges within the organization, which can fuel the team member’s desire to continue to make an impact. These efforts help the culture grow and build strength as many companies pivot to a new environment from their traditional working ideal.

Doing What’s Best for the Business to Ensure Overall Success

Adjusting workflows and an organization’s culture is critical post-pandemic. Although there is a mass migration of talent from one company to the next, the companies who understand the needs of individual team members and develop a sustainable and rewarding job around them advantageously position their organization to retain their talent and add new talent looking for a welcoming culture and professional challenge. Being able to utilize the information you have from your team, talking to partners in your industry for ideas, and researching new ways team members connect today is important during the current environment. By having genuine conversations and listening to the reasons why team members are happy or not in their position, you can find out how to implement changes to make sure your team members succeed. In turn, then having your customer base succeed. Additionally, businesses need to have measurements in place to ensure those KPIs are being maintained and goals are being met. Even with high turnover across each industry, this is a time where companies can separate themselves from the pack and continue to grow while ensuring overall success for their organization.