If you’re in the people business you know all about the “Great Resignation.” They call it “great” for a reason.

This year, we saw the highest spike of workers leaving their jobs in more than two decades. And it’s far from over. Over 40% of employees who haven’t already quit their jobs are considering it. 

So how are companies responding? They’re hiring. And hiring. And searching. And onboarding. As they lose their best people, many are looking outside rather than within. They’re turning to search firms and recruiters over investing in their best people.

It’s been a while, but we’ve seen this movie before. There’s a jolt to the economy. Companies cut spending and stop investing in their people. Cultures erode. Bad bosses emerge. And, as soon as they can, people quit.

So here we are. Do you let your best people leave and try to replace them as fast as you can, or do you break the cycle and start investing in your best people, right now?

It’s magical thinking to believe you can create a great culture by simply finding, and hiring, the right people from the outside. Yes, you need to get the right people on the bus. But you won’t keep them unless you make sure you’re creating a great place to work.

Tend to your own house first

In general, organizations shouldn't spend more time and resources trying to attract new employees than they do in trying to keep their best people. It's a reactive trap that erodes culture. Organizations can, and should, stay focused on creating a place where high-performers want to work and few want to leave.

The easiest leverage point for most organizations to begin this work is with their high potential managers. When your best managers are empowered and feel cared for, they make their best individual contributors feel the same. The best, and most resilient, organizations support and invest in their new managers, especially those who show the most promise.

Spend your leadership development dollars where they’ll have the most impact

The vast majority of leadership development dollars are spent at the senior level of organizations. It seems logical, but here’s where that investment falls short: C-suite leaders who have great execution skills but are terrible to work with are expensive to fix. If only they had been taught the skills necessary to be effective people-leaders earlier in their careers…

Effective leaders make their people feel seen, heard, and appreciated, even in the most challenging times. They make them feel safe. They communicate clearly and take the time to understand everyone’s “why” so their team works as a cohesive unit. These skills can be taught, but it gets harder and harder as bad leader habits develop.

Your high-potential new managers are the most ripe for help. For many of them, leading others is the first significant challenge of their career, and they're desperate for a safe space where they can discuss those challenges with others, grow, and learn. By providing it for them, you simultaneously improve their experience, and the experiences of their teams, with your organization. As they ascend through your organization, they’ll continue to have an impact and improve the culture with ever-widening reach.

What does a space look like that creates leaders worth following?

It’s often a place outside the organization, with others who find themselves in similar situations. And it doesn’t have to take much extra work (or money) on your part. 

At Lead Belay, we offer a peer-supported, coach-led leadership program that helps your high-potential managers build trust-based relationships with other managers from other organizations, encouraging them to learn new skills and develop as whole leaders. Then, they take those skills back to their own teams, spreading the impact to the best individual contributors, who later become your organization’s next generation of high-potential managers.

As we move forward from the Great Resignation into a new era of work, don’t let your organization fall into the mythical thinking that all you need is someone, somewhere out there, who has the perfect skill set and can solve all your problems. Instead, make sure you first address your culture on the front lines. Your people will thank you for it


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