Culture’s Power for Managing the “Great Resignation”

“Now Hiring” signs are everywhere, perhaps even at your business, documenting the effects of what’s being called the Great Resignation.

This Sloan study from MIT, and others, tell us that record numbers of Americans are leaving their jobs. While some people are changing jobs, others are choosing to remove themselves from the employment pool altogether.

Why so many resignations and why now?

In some cases, people are leaving simply because they can—they have tasted new possibilities as a result of remote work experience through COVID. Today’s landscape looks different now, as people realize they can work productively without being in the same location as their employer, a situation that may offer improved integration of work and family life. The world is more connected, and information is easily available; workers know when there is disparity in how they are treated versus how others are treated. Having many different jobs on a resume has become more common and less of a worry for potential employers, giving people the courage to leave an unpleasant situation. Others leave because they are upset, exhausted, or burned out with trying to keep up with multiple demands.
Whatever the reason, the fact remains that companies must redouble their emphasis on retaining and attracting qualified staff members. Just as it’s easier and less costly to retain a current customer than attract a new one, it’s easier to invest in and keep employees than it is to find, hire, and train new ones.

Now comes the task of transforming your organization into a destination workplace. Assessing the factors that have driven workers to resign helps highlight key ways to retain and attract talented team members.

Gather the facts

Get up, get out, and talk to people. Certainly, you’re already interviewing those who leave, to learn their reasons for departing, but don’t stop there. SHRM suggests talking with valuable team members to find out what it takes to keep them there—what is presently satisfying and what on the horizon might need to be addressed to keep them happy and productive.

The answers might surprise you. Although an updated pay and benefits package is a necessity, or simply the cost of entry for retaining and attracting staff, throwing money at the problem isn’t enough. Your organizational culture, and the components that make up that culture, is your best solution for building the kind of workplace that thrives.

Compensation and culture: a powerful combination

Pay and benefits are related to specific roles. Take a fresh look at the roles in your organization, evaluating them honestly and unsentimentally. Which tasks and job duties have become so excessively routine that automation may offer a supplementary solution? Revise job descriptions to reflect the way work is done now.

Once you have a clear picture of the roles you need to maintain and those you need to fill, be sure to update the pay package with attractive wages and meaningful benefits. Healthcare and retirement benefits maintain their appeal within certain demographics, but it’s important to consider the possibility of other, more innovative but appealing benefits like a one-time bonus, benefits that provide help with student loans, or work-from-home stipends.

Culture is multidimensional. It’s the linchpin not only for an ongoing healthy workplace, but for retaining and attracting workers. Several key elements contribute to the workplace culture that your employees perceive, and these can be significant factors in retaining and attracting talent.


A recent study in MIT Sloan Management Review dives into the elements of culture that matter the most to employees, and assigning scores to these attributes that reflect their relative importance to predicting a company’s culture rating in the eyes of their employees. At the top of this list is respect, being treated “with consideration, courtesy, and dignity” while “perspectives are taken seriously.” Respect is 17.9 times more powerful as a culture score predictor as compared to the average topic.

Respect affects worker morale, productivity, and engagement. What does this look like in practice? A McKinsey report points out that listening to employees is one critical factor in creating the type of workplace where people want to stay.


Opportunities to grow and advance are significant to employees. Workers want the opportunity to learn new skills and to make full use of the skills that they bring to the table. Harvard Business Review survey data indicates that “68% of workers around the world,” across both blue-collar and white- collar populations, “are willing to retrain and learn new skills.”


Your organization has a purpose, and leaders should be living out that purpose and value structure every day. Action, not just conversation, is needed to strengthen the connection with your workforce.


Connection and strengthening bona fide relationships must be a priority—both between you and those you employ and between peers. This involves genuine conversation—listening to each other and getting to know each other. For new employees, these connections are vital to retaining them on your team. Isolation is too often a byproduct of remote and hybrid work arrangements.

A recent PwC report points to the benefits of workplace connections. Some companies are taking the next step by encouraging and facilitating the formation of work friendships. Pairs of colleagues meet and follow organized steps to healthy connections that go deeper than sports scores or the weather. The goal is to form friendships and peer coaching relationships that combat stress and anxiety while building accountability. These are the types of relationships that strengthen organizations, increasing the sense of purpose for workers and enhancing their well-being with new opportunities for friendship.

Appropriate pay is a baseline condition. Cultural aspects of your organization have the power to drive good employees away or attract talented people to your team. The good news is that a less- than-stellar culture can be changed. The tools are in your hands; if this seems like a daunting task, you don’t have to face it alone. A business consultant like RoundTable Consulting can help you lay out a plan for transformation and help you move forward. If you’re ready to start, give us a call to schedule a free consultation; it all begins with a conversation.

Nancy Owsianowski is the Founder of RoundTable Consulting where her relational,  insightful approach transforms teams, leaders, and organizations. Find Nancy on LinkedIn or reach out to her to learn more about authentic leadership and her coaching, facilitation, and training services.

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