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The Great Resignation has been prevalent for some time now, and unfortunately for businesses, the search for greener pastures is still picking up pace. Nearly 4.3 million people left their jobs in January 2022. In February, another 4.4 million people called it quits. An estimated 44% of workers said they actively looked for new jobs at the end of 2021 or planned to find new employment at the beginning of 2022, so these numbers could continue to jump for the foreseeable future.
Needless to say, employee retention has become a top priority. Some companies have chosen to go the monetary route, using compensation increases to attract and retain employees. Others have given more perks to reengage their teams, offering greater flexibility, remote work options, and paid parental leave. These solutions can work in some instances, but they don’t truly address the root cause of the Great Resignation problem.
The pandemic gave people time to step back, reassess their lives, and unlearn the old ways of working. Many people have realized that life’s too short to stay in jobs that aren’t fulfilling, especially when staying doesn’t allow them to grow. An increasing number of employees now want future-oriented job opportunities, so a solution to the Great Resignation can be found in the unlikeliest of sources: succession planning.
Succession planning is often just thought of as a means for identifying and developing future company leaders. Though that’s certainly true, succession planning is also vital for every other area of a business—especially employee retention.
Establishing a companywide succession plan
Although no two succession plans will look the same, certain elements have proven to be most successful when retaining and attracting talent. The following should be part of your succession planning process:
1. Create a mentorship program.
It’s no secret that mentorship programs benefit employers and employees alike. Such initiatives can support career development, strengthen onboarding efforts, reduce training costs, and even help nurture a culture of learning. Mentoring is also essential to succession planning and talent retention, as it develops your future leaders and can even increase the momentum of a mentee’s growth within your company.
How you go about establishing a mentorship program is entirely up to you. Vince Dawkins, president and CEO of Enertia Software, suggests a systematic approach: “Assess your workforce and ask yourself where you see each person fitting within your operations. Then, carefully pair junior employees with more seasoned team members.”
“For your mentorship program to work, however, don’t forget to set mentoring goals,” Dawkins writes. “Each pairing will have different objectives, and participants should revisit these objectives regularly to keep knowledge transfers on track and ensure ownership among the team.” Once mentors and mentees are paired and goals are set, it becomes much easier to measure the program’s success across both development and business objectives.
2. Employ individual self-selection.
In many organizations, one of the biggest issues in succession planning—and leadership development in general—can be attributed to the selection process. Though logic would tell you to evaluate team members and select the worthiest candidates based on a mix of performance and potential, such an approach leaves room for biases. It’s akin to the unconscious biases seen in certain recruitment practices where “like hires like.”
Although evaluation will always play a role in succession planning for specific positions within your company, a much better approach is self-selection. It’s simply more inclusive. And according to Janice Burns, chief people officer at Degreed, “This creates a pipeline of unexpected (and otherwise hidden) talent committed to proving their success and, therefore, more likely to remain at the company.”
Allow team members to nominate themselves for development opportunities that put them on track for leadership roles. Ask interested individuals to provide a business case for the investment and then monitor their progress. You might be surprised at the hidden talent within your organization.
3. Prioritize organizational culture.
Culture impacts all aspects of a business. Everything from engagement and productivity to collaboration and decision-making can be traced back to the health of your organization’s culture. The time is now to review your mission, values, goals, and expectations, as they collectively serve as a North Star to guide teams and motivate employees to do their best possible work.
Culture is a living, breathing organism, so it can change when left unchecked. That change might be gradual but is still consequential to your company. So, make a habit of seeking feedback from employees. Ask your team where they might need support, resources, and so on. Invest in them, and they’ll invest in you. As writer Kat Boogaard explains, “Regularly asking employees what you can do to support them and implementing that feedback can reduce your organization’s attrition, which is even more important during ‘The Great Resignation.’”
What’s more, your efforts will create a pool of devoted employees, all with a greater understanding and appreciation for your organization’s mission, vision, and values. Each one could be a future leader.
4. Practice transparency.
Individual aspirations can take an employee only so far. Sometimes, people need to hear where leadership sees them progressing within operations to truly find the right career development paths. Therefore, schedule time with each employee to discuss your plans for their future growth. And be sure to open the floor for their input. Maybe you see a sharp and talented customer service representative moving into management, but that person’s interests don’t match your vision.
The ultimate goal is twofold: identify the ideal development opportunities to keep employees happy, engaged, and content to stay at your organization and develop a succession plan for all operational roles. If you haven’t taken the time to discuss a team member’s future, you could miss out on a great leader—and you might lose the person to another company in the process.
Succession planning won’t necessarily be a cure-all for your talent woes. Recognition, respect, autonomy, and communication all contribute to whether a given employee will pull up stakes. Still, succession planning can serve as a solid foundation to build up future talent retention and acquisition efforts within your organization. It demonstrates a commitment to and an investment in your employees’ futures, which can go a long way toward keeping them engaged at your company for the long run.