Leading through The Great Resignation: How Leaders working flexibly, creating healthy boundaries and promoting open communication can support staff retention

talent retention the great resignation

A four minute read on strategies to help law firms combat The Great Resignation and retain talent within their organisation.

Leaders getting clued up about The Great Resignation

Of 30000 employees surveyed globally by Microsoft, 41% were found to be considering resignation or career transition. Meanwhile, in the UK, a recruiter survey revealed that, compared with the preceding year, double the number of employees were actively planning to change jobs to different firms.

The cost to employers of losing employees runs into tens of thousands of pounds when taking account of the economics of recruitment and training. It pays dividends then for leaders to seriously consider how to stem the flow of workers tempted by the post-pandemic phenomenon and implement practical steps to persuade them to stay.

3 strategies supporting leaders to navigate through – and beyond – the Great Resignation

1. Adopt flexible working, with trust at its heart

We know a huge number of women have been adversely affected by the pandemic. In the US for example, 2 million women left the workforce altogether. The most significant reason cited for such an extraordinary number exiting was caring responsibilities.

It is quite apparent from my career break returners coaching clients that one thing supporting them within the workplace whilst parenting young children is the ease with which they can access flexible working. It’s been well-documented that, with the reduction of the daily commute, many employees elongated their working day. Consequently, productivity soared (albeit burnout has been on the rise too!).

If there is one positive learning to be taken from the pandemic, it is that so many more women CAN be persuaded to stay by adopting flexible remote working, particularly so when firms trust them to be responsible for their own hours without, for example, micromanaging times to log in or off. With a shift away from input-driven office-presenteeism to a hybrid alternative focusing more on output, working women are much more readily able to balance their professional and personal commitments, making the working environment a much more attractive one to them.

2. Walk the Talk on Wellbeing

I’m not saying it is an easy shift to make and adopt long-term. Changing law firm culture is no mean feat. If hybrid working still promotes a sense that those present in the office are more visible and valued than those working remotely, or that there is an expectation that employees are always “on”, working 24/7, and under pressure from what can sometimes feel like unattainable billable hours targets, doubtless workers will continue to vote with their feet as they have been doing to date.

If leaders can instead show by their own approach that wellbeing matters – that they role model the importance of manageable workloads and avoiding digital distraction, for example, by being disciplined about time ownership and seeing to their wellbeing needs – existing employees will not only be retained as they model health wellness habits but new talent within the surplus workforce created by the great resignation will be attracted too. What’s not to like about an organisation that genuinely cares for and promotes the wellbeing of the workforce as opposed to paying it derisory lip service? A win-win for all.

3. Communicate Openly

For employees to emulate their leaders in the way that they approach flexible working hours and wellbeing, there also needs to be another critical ingredient: open communication. This requires a culture of genuine psychological safety, for people to talk honestly with each other about workload, career aspirations, levels of self- confidence and occasionally around saying no – all of which leads to the setting of healthy boundaries that are respected by all.

Firms encouraging and valuing employee input on these many different levels, listening and taking on board their views, will be rewarded not only by staff loyalty but also through increased candidate/ recruiter interest.

A simple way to demonstrate the value placed upon existing workers – instead of waiting until it is too late in an exit interview – is by encouraging a “stay interview”. Ask employees what’s going well, what’s not going so well, what they hope to achieve during their career, what success at work looks like to them and how is it that they can achieve that within the current organisational structure.

Another way to encourage open communication is through mentoring and coaching initiatives. It is a proud fact in my business that of the near 100 women in law I have coached individually, each and every one has been retained within law. Their firms have not only supported them to feel heard but also demonstrated that support through a willingness to invest – putting money where their organisational-mouths are and being rewarded by loyalty. Whilst there may be an initial investment cost to coaching, I’d venture to suggest it’s a price worth paying when the cost of loyalty must surely be priceless.

And of course, loyalty is the perfect antithesis to the Great Resignation for leaders to aspire to on behalf of their workforce. What more can YOU do to be assured of loyal employees?

Nikki Alderson Biography

Nikki Alderson, specialist coach, speaker and author, and former Criminal Barrister with 19 years’ experience:
• supports organisations, law firms and barristers’ Chambers to retain talent; and
• empowers lawyers to achieve career ambitions.

Nikki specialises in 3 areas:
• Emerging Leaders and Leaders in Transition
• Career break returners, and
• Workplace resilience, mental toughness, confidence and wellness.

Learn more about her services here: www.nikkialdersoncoaching.com.

Nikki is the author of Amazon No.1 Bestseller Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching, (https://amzn.to/3fodKQX), a TEDx Speaker (https://youtu.be/MYsuUnKt9XA), nominee for the Inspirational Women Awards, Champion of the Year Category and finalist in the 2020 Women in Law Awards, Legal Services Innovator of the Year and 2019 International Coaching Awards, International Coach of the Year Category.