Overcoming the Great Resignation

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Bruce Berlin

Bruce Berlin, Founder & Chief Experience Officer, Prioriteams

The post-Covid19 workforce mass exodus, creating what is now known as The Great Resignation, has left senior living and long-term care communities struggling to recruit and retain enough staff to provide quality care and services to their residents. Some have speculated what caused The Great Resignation, including employee burnout, enhanced unemployment benefits offered during the pandemic, health and safety concerns, and inadequate rates of pay. While these may have been contributing factors, I believe this phenomenon that has created our current staffing crisis has been driven by employee disengagement, due to people resetting expectations of their desired working experience.

The Great Resignation due to employee disengagement should not be surprising. Since Gallup began measuring employee engagement in 2000, the average percent of workers not engaged in the United States has ranged between 64-74%. On top of that, workers had to navigate through significant changes at work and home during the Covid19 pandemic, which drove many of them to the brink of physical and emotional exhaustion. The pandemic also created space and time for people to reevaluate their priorities and what is important to them. And for many, having a working experience that allows them to have work-life harmony has become very important.

Employees’ working experience is driven by their level of engagement, which is the emotional connection they have with their job, supervisor, and organization. Historically, we have looked at employee engagement survey scores as the best predictors of employee engagement and performance, to determine if leaders are meeting their employees’ needs. The Gallup organization measures employee engagement through 12 elements of engagement referred to as the Q12. The Q12 provides a framework for how leaders can create engagement because these elements measure areas a leader can directly impact. Based upon the Q12, I believe there are five critical needs people need to have met in their working experience:

  1. The need to be equipped
  2. The need to feel a sense of belonging
  3. The need to be valued
  4. The need to engage in meaningful work
  5. The need to have opportunities to grow


While increasing wages to competitive levels is very important, merely increasing wages is not enough to attract and retain top talent. Today, leaders must work towards meeting the expectations of their peoples’ desired working experience. This starts with meeting these critical needs.

Over the years many organizations have implemented programs and initiatives to improve employee engagement, but the impact of many of them are often short-lived because many employees perceive them as being rooted in getting more productivity out of them, rather than improving their working experience and their well-being. While it is important to maximize employee productivity, leaders must be careful not to fall into the “Goose and the Golden Egg” syndrome by prioritizing employees’ output over their well-being, or by viewing them as “human doings” rather than “human beings.” Instead, leaders need to focus on what they can do for their employees rather on what their employees can do for them.

This will require leaders being very intentional in giving their employees attention, in order to support them, engage them in their strengths, and help them grow. Leaders also need to be intentional in creating a sense of belonging for their employees. Recent research by McKinsey showed that the top two reasons employees cited for leaving their job or considering leaving their job was not due to pay or lack of work-life balance, it was because they did not feel their work was valued and because they lacked a sense of belonging.

If leaders can shift their focus from prioritizing business outcomes to prioritizing the well-being of their employees, they will be well on their way to overcoming The Great Resignation.

5 comments on “Overcoming the Great Resignation

  1. Mary on

    I agree with part of this article/argument. The fact still remains that when the government was paying out more money than workers were making working, it was a “no-brainer” that people were going to choose to stay home rather than work. I have worked in the healthcare field for years, and watched first hand when Covid-19 hit employers where I worked were threatening workers with their jobs if they didn’t come to work. We lost many CNA’s and several nurses due to this. The healthcare field in Nebraska grossly underpays their help in this area. “Competitive wages” at $11.00-$12.00 an hour, really?? Nebraska is in the 25th percentile at these wages, and companies wonder why the smart ones go contract work making $5.00-$15.00 more per hour?. Healthcare workers are such a valuable asset to the faciliities, but underpaid, overworked, and unappreciated. I worked as a supervisor for dietary and listened to these workers grumble. The workers didn’t want a pizza party, they wanted acknowledgement for a job well done, whether verbally, or in a card. Management looks at numbers, and results, this pandemic hit hard and threatening people with their jobs, and no bonuses or increases does not help morale. If the boardroom people hit the floor and actually invested in their employees and LISTENED to them, they might be be able to retain employees. I understand the CNA license is the easiest attainable thing out their, but it is a job with very little praise and rewards. I was a CNA and Med Aide, the higher corporate cats get rewarded, but not the little guys who are a vital link in that chain. It wold do corporate good to get out their, roll up their sleeves and do the job for a day, and realize, these people are a huge part of the industry and need more appreciation.

    • donna k woodward on

      Mary, I could not agree more. Until every organization that purports to support long-term care residents and workers addresses the wage issue–and the staffing issue, they are living in LaLA land. We cannot provide person-centered care without a sufficient number of CNAs, and LTC organizations won’t attract and retain CNAs if they continue to pay substandard wages. This isn’t rocket science.

  2. Eunice on

    In addition to a living wage, caregivers need to be given benefits and sufficient hours to qualify for the benefits. Reports that I have read regarding the spread of COVID-19, indicate that caregivers did not have benefits (like sick leave) or were not given enough hours to qualify for benefits. Therefore, staff may have worked when they were ill, or were forced to pick up additional hours at another care center, all of which would have contributed to the spread of COVID-19.

  3. Lori on

    This great advice for ALL employers & not just in healthcare. I am an RN in long term & staffing is rough.

  4. donna k woodward on

    I beg you to add a sixth need: Theemployees’ need for a living wage. Increasing wages might not be sufficient as a recruiting tool, but a living wage is a necessity. And right now, too often direct-care workers aren’t getting that. Whatever else an employer might do, if an employee lives with an undercurrent of fear about supporting him/herself (and family), all the other great things an employer does will achieve little.

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