We were talking about the trend that has come to be called ‘The Great Resignation’ before the term entered the popular imagination, and for the last seven months through our events and our network of senior leaders Executive Platforms has been part of every stage of the ongoing conversation as it grew to its present near-ubiquitous status.

First, people debated whether it was even real.

(It was and is.)

Then they wondered whether it would impact all industries, or just a vulnerable few.

(It hit the vulnerable ones hardest first —which to be fair is why we are identifying them as the most vulnerable— but so far we have not heard of any industry that has been totally unaffected.)

Next, industry experts argued over strategies to hold onto their top talent.

(This Fireside Chat with a senior executive from Nissan is an excellent example of the good ideas coming out of this area of discussion.)

We are now entering the stage of the conversation where senior executives are seeing the opportunities available to them if they take decisive action while things are still in motion.

(That’s where we drew the inspiration for this Thursday’s Thought Leadership blog post title.)

Almost every business leader would agree broadly speaking that the global pandemic has only accelerated trends that already existed and were much talked about back in 2019. Yes, many companies were forced to change the way they did business by COVID-19, but it’s not like remote work, distributed workforces, and investment in digitization, automation, visibility, and traceability were new concepts before worldwide pestilence made them necessities. The rate and success of adoption varied, but all of these ideas were already growing realities before the general public had ever heard of novel corona viruses.

No, the only new factor was the scale and timeframe of the disruption: The majority of the global workforce saw their daily working lives dramatically upended all at once, and things did not return to normal for long enough that everyone developed opinions about what the ‘New Normal of Work’ should look like. When employers were finally allowed to invite their employees back —and it is worth saying that timing for that has been uneven, with some governments even now asking non-essential workers to stay home— many of their employees did not want to return to the old way of doing things.

Upwards of two years to think about work-life balance and personal and professional goals has changed what people want from their lives and careers. The pressures of working through a crisis has also motivated some people to look for a fresh start even if they were happy with their employer in 2019. Whatever the combination of motivations, millions of people are now looking around at their options and thinking seriously about making a change. Many organizations have found themselves losing the employees they depend on to succeed at the very moment where they are trying to return to business as usual.

For leaders trying to guide their organizations through a tumultuous time, the added risk and uncertainty of who will still be on their team moving forward can be paralyzing to long-term planning and implementation.

On the other hand, there are a number of businesses who suddenly find themselves in a position to attract their competitors’ top talent by being a better fit for what they want out of their working lives, and while that is not a one-size-fits-all solution, figuring out what matters to the people you already have and the new people you want is going to be the key to success as the global labor market plays musical chairs in what was already a war for talent in most industry.

There is an opportunity right now for companies to win the time and talents of the best employees by being the best employers.

Let’s talk about how your organization is addressing the challenges and opportunities of the Great Resignation:

  • What are you doing to understand what your people want and need from their employer? How has your employee engagement changed during the global pandemic? How are you acting upon the information you gather at a company, team, and individual level? Here is an excellent interview about these questions.
  • Once you know what people want, how can your company adapt its day-to-day working rhythms, benefit options, education and training opportunities, and other outside-the-box options to be as attractive and accommodating as possible to both current employees and potential future employees? Here is another excellent interview discussing that.
  • Does your company’s brand excite people? Is there a way to leverage the desirability of your brand into a winning argument for your current workforce to stay with you, while also actively engaging and attracting new employees who love what you do and how you do it? Here is a great case study from Neiman Marcus about that.
  • Are you being proactive about understanding and building the ‘New Normal’ Top Talent wants? How are you going beyond the tried, tested, and true to really innovate and set yourself apart from other employers? Here is yet another great interview about those questions.
  • Are you confident that your organization is using the right HR tools and technologies? With all that has changed in the last two years, sense-checking where you are and what you need is important. Here is one more interview exploring that topic in detail.

Geoff Micks
Head of Content & Research
Executive Platforms

Geoff joined the industry events business as a conference producer in 2010 after four years working in print media. He has researched, planned, organized, run, and contributed to more than a hundred events across North America and Europe for senior leaders, with special emphasis on the energy, mining, manufacturing, maintenance, supply chain, human resources, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, finance, and sustainability sectors. As part of his role as Head of Content & Research, Geoff hosts Executive Platforms’ bluEPrint Podcast series as well as a weekly blog focusing on issues relevant to Executive Platforms’ network of business leaders.

Geoff is the author of five works of historical fiction: Inca, Zulu, Beginning, Middle, and End. The New York Times and National Public Radio have interviewed him about his writing, and he wrote and narrated an animated short for Vice Media that appeared on HBO. He has a BA Honours with High Distinction from the University of Toronto specializing Journalism with a Double Minor in History and Classical Studies, as well as Diploma in Journalism from Centennial College.