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How to triumph over the Great Resignation and avoid a talent exodus

The past two years have been difficult for the many Australian professionals juggling work and personal commitments through extended lockdowns. With job vacancies and worker confidence at record highs, employers are preparing to deal with the ‘great resignation’ as people seek change.

Looking back on the past couple of years, it’s been an exhausting experience. So many people have done a fabulous job of maintaining productivity under challenging circumstances, but mental health and general wellbeing have taken a hit.

We used to walk from one meeting room to the next in pre-pandemic office life. We travelled around to see customers or business partners, and sometimes we even met them for lunch or to chat over coffee. Much of our working experience since March 2020 has felt like a relentless cycle of video calls.

The pandemic experience has also been a time of reflection, with research showing that many workers are motivated interested in work-life balance than a pay rise or promotion. Our priorities have shifted.

There’s usually little movement in the Australian jobs market as we head into the holiday season, but high resignation rates will likely hit towards the end of March 2022. It’s clear that people want to retain the flexibility of making their day work for them, so this will be critical in retaining people. Employers who try to enforce a full-time shift back into the office will likely be hit hardest.

Turning challenge into opportunity 

Since July, we’ve grown the Intuit Australia team by more than 50 full-time diverse and talented employees, despite our Sydney headquarters being in lockdown for most of that time. We’ve enhanced our excellent gender diversity reputation by hiring five more women in leadership roles while recruiting a slew of engineers at a time when competition for tech skills is higher than ever.

Our recent success in the jobs market has been enabled by the right mix of recruitment and retention strategies. Here are my tips for turning a highly mobile jobs market in your favour and avoiding a mass exodus of top talent during the ‘great resignation’ and beyond:  

Consistent messaging and experiences – Make sure you’re telling a coherent story from the moment a candidate reads a job ad to when they join your business. You need to get them hooked on the employee value proposition. Tell them about your company culture, your commitment to their personal growth and development, how you plan to look after their health and wellbeing, and the impact they will have on the world.

Listen to what your people are saying – Be clear about the business priorities that will have the greatest positive impact on customers, then set realistic expectations for everything else with the mental health and wellbeing of your people at the centre. Know when to say “no” and when to push deadlines back to avoid burnout.

 At Intuit, we have always emphasised the voice of employees, and now as we emerge from COVID and life changes, it has cemented the fact that this is perhaps even more integral to lead and operate with empathy at its core. We have applied a ‘go broad to go narrow’ approach that has allowed us to prioritise three workstreams that we identified through employee surveys, with the objective to gain a deeper understanding of our employee experience and identify measures to address our top opportunities at a leadership, team and individual level.

Let them know what they can do to help – Apart from mandating a return to the office, the other big mistake employers make is failing to give people visibility. It’s a bad idea to paint an unrealistic picture that everything is going well if it isn’t. People understand that there are challenges in the current climate and want to know their role in helping to overcome them. People don’t feel as connected as they did in the office, so double down on communication and bring them on the journey.

Create networks of like-minded people – Intuit Australia has a women’s network, a pride network and a charity foundation. These reflect our core values of diversity and inclusion. We’re currently looking at how to make our hiring process more suitable for neurodiverse candidates. What else could you do to attract a broader range of talent and enable them to do the best work of their lives?

Find new ways to reward people – Personal development isn’t just about earning a pay rise or a promotion. Find creative ways to help people develop new skills through stretch projects and new initiatives that give them room to experiment. Tailor a development approach that recognises the different priorities of individual people at various stages of their careers.

Business leaders are turning their attention to fuelling growth plans as we emerge from lockdown life but attracting and retaining the right people to achieve these goals will be a challenge during the next six months.   

Those companies that provide consistent experiences, keep people connected and empower them to make a difference will emerge from the ‘great resignation’ in better shape than they entered it. Those that don’t should buckle up for a bumpy ride.

Read more: Let’s Talk: How to find and keep great staff

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Nada Wassef

Nada Wassef

Nada Wassef is a well-regarded technology HR business professional and HR Business Partner, People and Places, at Intuit Australia. Prior to joining Intuit in April 2020, Nada held senior HR roles at Atlassian, Adobe and Liquid Capital. Nada is passionate about the future of work and cultivating a diverse, empathetic workplace.

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