Woo the Hearts of Your Top Talent When Their Brains Say Go

Jul 6, 2021 | Executive Coaching

As the Coronavirus is predicted to surge again in India, some American workers are now refusing to go back to the office. This is a growing trend in the U.S. job market despite many employees having been fully vaccinated and current infection rates in the States returning to 2020 pre-surge levels. In fact, 4 out of 10 people surveyed in a poll reported by Bloomberg said they’d rather resign than return to pre-Covid working conditions. This trend has been given the moniker, “The Great Resignation.” Has the Covid pandemic let the genie out of the bottle in more ways than one?

The number one issue that keeps CEO’s up at night is the struggle to find and retain qualified talent with the proper combination of skills and attitude.


What’s Driving It?

Covid has brought our own mortality to the forefront. It has touched so many people with the deaths of family members and friends. The mindset of “life is short, and I really want to enjoy what I’m doing” is a big driver in career moves right now.

Before Covid, there were a number of people already disengaged and looking for a job change. Covid added more pressure.  Social Distancing got people to slow down, to show up differently, and to figure out how to push through with grit, determination, and ingenuity.  For the first time in their careers, many employees worked from home, had family dinner every night, and saw their kids on a regular basis. There are a lot of pluses that came out of the last 18 months of remote work, but it also gave people plenty of time to re-evaluate their relationship with work. This self-exploration created a newfound level of discontent. Now, when a stodgy, conservative corporate mandate comes out calling all employees back into the workplace, 40% of those workers are opting to look elsewhere.

The all-too-elusive work-life balance has finally been struck. Employees are refusing to be commuters, or even be bound by geographic limitations, when considering their workday. We are seeing signs of a new social contract and employee migration predicted in this blog earlier.  Highly qualified job seekers wield much more bargaining power than ever before.



What Employers Can Do About It

You can hire someone’s hands, but you can’t necessarily buy their heart. Retention bonuses may convince someone to ignore headhunter calls for a year or two, if the cash bonus is in the ballpark of 25% of annual salary. Whereas, senior executives often receive company stock awards that turn out to be quite lucrative in a bull market.

In the end, though, financial incentives to retain talent are a finite resource and can always be matched or topped by a competitor with deeper pockets.

Your advantages lie in those items that can’t easily be replicated elsewhere, and it’s typically culture. It’s much easier and affordable to keep an employee who’s culturally embedded into your organization than it is to lure a rockstar replacement to your team.

It’s time leadership began re-recruiting star performers, because the message is clear that employees are re-evaluating their commitment to the company.

Instead of spending big money on hiring bonuses, what if we just took care of the people that worked for us? What if we gave them spot bonuses? Handwritten thank you notes? Picked our top 10 people and sent them and their spouses on a fancy Caribbean holiday? The CEO attends and takes them out just to say, “You guys have done a tremendous job, and you got us through the worst pandemic in our history. We just want to say thank you.”

There are all kinds of things companies can do to show appreciation, and a lot of them don’t cost a lot of money. Flexible schedules. Extra PTO days. Complimentary massages. Sabbaticals. Ice cream Fridays.

Warren Buffett is a known proponent of hiring the best people, getting out of their way, and letting those top performers perform.

It’s a simple formula, and that’s how you retain star people.

Aim for a culture of acknowledgement, appreciation, and connectedness to embed someone into your organization. Compensation is good – it is tangible evidence of appreciation – but it’s not solely about the money. Top performers are also motivated by driving real impact and knowing they’re an integral part of company success.



The Most Efficient Place to Focus

Business maxim: People don’t quit their jobs; they quit their manager.

After a year-and-a-half of unsupervised work, to walk back into a workplace environment that is rife with micro-management, dysfunction and micro-aggressions will be off-putting to any employee. Monster.com estimates 95% of all workers are at least thinking about jumping ship. Workers are looking for intangible benefits as well as compensation, and if they can’t get that with their current employer, of course, they’re going to seek elsewhere.

Companies should be putting emphasis on developing their managers. That’s where employee satisfaction can be affected the most. Start where your critical talent exists, the people with the biggest teams that are going to have the most impact on the bottom line.

Recalibrate the top leaders who want to do well and are high achievers. Work with them to build an individual development plan to help them excel. Build up these front-line leaders who have the most contact with your labor force and watch them become recruiting and retention leaders. What you pour into your managers that make them feel loyal to the company will spill over into their direct reports.

Better relationships. Better communication. Community and connectedness. Diversity and inclusion. Cultural embeddedness. Those are key in retaining star employees.




Retaining employees mostly has to do with heart. If their brain is telling them to find opportunities for more money and they don’t feel an emotional connection to your organization, they’re going to leave. There’s no question. It’s not a matter of “if.” It’s a matter of “when” something alluring comes along.

Now is the time for corporations to reverse the trend of gutting investments into employee development. Retain star employees by helping them plot their trajectory to the top. When they catch the vision and know the timetable, they’re more likely to stick around through fruition.

If internal management and human resources departments are too overburdened to keep talented players from leaving, a second line of defense is available. inclineHR and other executive coaching companies are able to dovetail with the HR team to provide leadership assessment, talent selection, executive coaching, or training and development that can help the entire organization navigate “The Great Resignation.”

Contact inclineHR. We build exceptional leaders.