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  • Writer's pictureMartin Blake

‘The Great Resignation’ – Four strategies for averting a talent exodus

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

If Australia follows US trends, there’s every indication organisations will suffer a depletion of their top talent. How can your organisation stem the flow?


The four strategies in summary:

  1. Co-design inclusive value propositions with future employees.

  2. Engage at-risk employees with targeted coaching and mentoring.

  3. Provide employees with the resources and tools they need to thrive.

  4. Strengthen commitment by giving employees the chance to build relationships.


The Great Resignation is predicted to result in millions of Aussies leaving their jobs as people reassess their priorities. Two things we can all agree on are that workplace dynamics have changed and that organisations everywhere must plan for a different future.

The question is: How is your business planning on retaining and recruiting staff to ensure it comes out stronger?

Organisational agility is essential

As the world changes at an exponential rate, organisational agility and agile leadership are key. Many industries are at an inflection point and disruption caused by the global pandemic is creating both unprecedented challenges and opportunities. There is a clear imperative for executive teams to reconsider their business models to accelerate the move from coping to thriving in this new reality.

The Great Resignation is already playing out in the US, with more than 19 million workers quitting their jobs since April 2021. This is resignation at a record pace and is disrupting businesses everywhere. Here in Australia, it’s a major concern for many firms as research shows that as many as three in five Aussies could be looking to change their jobs.

The pandemic has given people the opportunity to reflect on what’s important to them as their world has shrunk to their immediate family, local area and home. When we come into contact with life-threatening events, we tend to reflect on our mortality and consider whether the time is right to make a change in our lives.

Some may look for a career break because they are burnt out. Others may search for greater purpose and meaning in their jobs, or they simply want a higher salary or accelerated career progression. Some may want to continue to work remotely, at least part of the time.

The Great Resignation is not just a trend, it’s a movement. It will really start to bite in Australia in March 2022 – ‘March Madness’ – when people have got their Christmas bonuses and as a result of recruiting having geared up from mid-January 2022.

An unforeseen risk is that with talent fleeing, more work will inevitably fall on already overloaded staff, placing them under further pressure and exacerbating the risk of them also choosing to leave.

Retain staff for competitive advantage

The war for talent is now so intense in some industries such as financial services and professional services that senior executives talk about being in “daily hand-to-hand combat” to retain their top talent. It’s now so high on the priority list of executive teams that there are examples of CEOs of major listed Australian companies personally calling top performers to attract them away.

The ‘inconvenient truth’ is that growth strategies and aspirations for all businesses are underpinned by attracting and retaining key talent. Standing out from competitors will need to be a priority to attract and retain talent. Materially higher retention rates will be a clear source of competitive advantage for agile companies.

According to Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”. Leaders and organisations that seize the opportunity to adapt and that can accelerate their progress will benefit in the critical competition for talent.

Strategies for attracting and keeping talent

Four key strategies have emerged that we can all learn from:

  1. Future Employee Value Propositions that attract and retain the best talent (top 10 per cent) are being co-designed with these employees. They are distinctive, targeted, real and inclusive – and are driven by employees’ daily interactions with peers and leaders.

  2. Targeted coaching and mentoring of at-risk executives and employees enable connection, happiness and retention. When employees feel they belong, are included in decision-making and that their individual contributions are valued, their work becomes more meaningful and aligned to the organisation’s purpose and mission. Employees who feel included are more likely to be engaged at work and less likely to leave.

  3. Employers need to communicate regularly about where and how careers can thrive, giving people the resources and tools they need to develop. If they don’t, they’ll lose the war for talent by haemorrhaging A-players to their competitors.

  4. In this new hybrid work reality, the ‘at-risk’ employees need more intentional opportunities to build relationships with each other and others to maintain and strengthen their engagement and organisational commitment.

These strategies appear to be common sense, but unfortunately common sense does not appear to be common. Many executives are too busy rushing around the dance floor to spend time thinking and looking forward from the balcony.

Executives need to look for new angles when their business is threatened, rather than being on the defensive.

Martin Blake, Business Advisor, Executive Coach, Board Chair, NED, former NSW Chairman KPMG Australia

November 2021

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