The Great Solution to the Great Resignation and Great Remorse: A Fortune 100 Talent Retention Case Study
Written by Jim Hurlburt
In our recent article, we explored “Quiet Quitting,” which we learned is another dimension of the “Great Resignation.” According to Gallup’s State of The Global Workplace: 2022 Report, the underlying condition in both terms is profound job dissatisfaction, estimated to exist in 2 out of every 3 workers. Tragically, this widespread low engagement level costs the global economy $7.8 trillion in lost productivity. That’s a huge number, so big that we sometimes gloss over how it impacts us. To get straight to it, do you know the cost of job dissatisfaction to your organization? Your team? In this article, we’ll share a recent Fortune 100 case study that highlights a proven, science-backed strategy that lowered and even eliminated low engagement costs.
Before diving in, we quickly note another new buzzword has emerged in the post-pandemic lexicon, the “Great Remorse.” The simple take is this: “The latest workers to join the Great Resignation aren’t having as easy a time finding a new job as they thought it would be.” The main lesson? For one reason or another, the old adage remains true: the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
While the Great Remorse gives employers an advantage (likely just in the short-term), the data reveals the true moral of the Great Resignation/Quiet Quitting and the Great Remorse is for leaders to focus on improving conditions that can raise employee engagement. We know this can be done – because we’ve done it. The talent retention case study below shows how we tackled the root causes of low engagement, substantially lowering common talent retention costs.
The Costs of Low Engagement
Before sharing the case study, it’s helpful to understand key costs. Forbes has estimated average costs resulting from low engagement/quiet quitting and actual quitting for a middle manager, summarized as follows:
- If the employee has previously been hitting targets and is now quiet quitting, there’s an estimated 20% drop in productivity, a 37% increase in absenteeism, and 15% drop in productivity. In dollars, this correlates to 34% of a disengaged employee’s annual salary. If their salary is $60,000, disengagement costs you $20,400 per year. As well, there’s an additional negative ripple effect because they often pull down the team, too.
- If a middle manager quits, the cost is (1) at least one year’s salary (i.e. recruiting, onboarding, training costs) and (2) if the employee is also a high potential employee, you lose both their current and future high performance. This would cost the organization 2-3 times the employee’s current salary.
Clearly, these are significant costs organizations want to reduce or avoid entirely. Don’t let anyone tell you they’re not avoidable. They are. Here’s how we did it.
Fortune 100 Talent Retention Case Study: A Human-Centered Story
At the invitation of visionary leadership, we recently implemented a unique leadership and culture development program inside a Fortune 100 company of 50,000 employees. What made it unique was a combination of format and peer-to-peer experience: ten employees meeting every six weeks over 12 months, with a defined curriculum.
At the heart of the program were transformative and confidential conversations about what was really going on in the organization, including candid opinions on leadership, culture, operations, etc. As explained more below, by creating a safe space to have these conversations, we were taking direct aim at the roots of chronic disengagement.
But there were more than candid conversations about the business. Each meeting – called a Gathering – started with a “check-in” process where participants were invited to share about their lives beyond work, moving beyond titles and roles. The participants learned it was ok to not always have their “game face on” or “shields up,” allowing them to be more real, vulnerable, and present with each other. The growth wasn’t just professional, it was personal. It was human. And, the participants hungered for it.
Science-Backed Learning Strategy – Built On Psychological Safety
According to a McKinsey 2021 survey, neuroscience tells us the program’s overall format was fostering a strong, positive team environment, built first on mutual trust and respect – which critically operates to reduce fear – all of which was creating what is known as psychological safety. Science tells us that creating psychological safety better positions the mind – frees up the mind – to focus on learning. In the context of this program, the learning focused on relevant leadership development content and mindsets – e.g. challenging the status quo, developing growth mindsets, solving business challenges, etc. The 12-month length of the program drove the learning deep.
Critically, this foundation of psychological safety set the direction and tone for the program objectives: what began with curiosity from 10 individual co-workers grew into a new community of trusted allies on a shared organizational mission. Learning and engagement levels deepened and soared, driving individual performance which in turn drove specific business results. A true win-win.
4 of 10 Were “Quiet Quitters,” Looking to Leave
But there was more than gaining key business results. The most significant impact was in talent retention. Shortly after implementation, we learned that 4 of the 10 participants self-identified as “Quiet Quitters” and who had been actively looking to leave the company. Over the course of the program, each of the 4 had decided to stay.
Why The 4 Chose To Stay?
When asked why they chose to stay, each pointed to their experience in the program, specifically their newfound experience of authentic community in the workplace. Drilling down further, they described a visceral sense that they weren’t alone in holding challenging views of the company. We routinely heard participants say: “I finally feel heard, feel validated, feel safe to speak my mind.”
When we say “validated”, we don’t mean their view on a topic was necessarily found to be true/accurate; not at all in fact. Instead, what they actually described was the validation that comes from being listened to in full and being recognized in their personhood – as a human being, not a human doing or human asset.
But they also pointed to this new sense of psychological safety, that they wouldn’t be penalized for speaking their minds. Science confirms this experience, explaining that reducing fear in the mind is like reducing a strong headwind or reducing heavy friction. Often times we aren’t aware of how much it distracts or diminishes. But when it is reduced or removed, it is liberating and empowering, and opens new paths to creativity and innovation.
It was at this point in the program – when psychological safety and community had taken root – we saw a palpable shift occurring in the participants individually and as a group. Like an influx of O2 in the room, we saw the participants experience a personal lift, leading to the chain reaction described above: increased engagement, increased performance, better results – and talent retention.
Case Study Confirmed
The core concepts in this Fortune 100 case study were recently affirmed in Accenture’s October 2021 article “Why Psychological Safety At Work Matters To Business”, where they write:
“What makes people reach peak performance? When can they be the most innovative? It turns out that one of the foundational factors is psychological safety. This topic has recently attracted quite a bit of attention, especially within the context of the pandemic. In her recent book, Amy C. Edmondson, Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard’s Business School defines psychological safety as the ability to speak up in a work environment without the fear of being humiliated or penalized.”
Explaining the win-win nature of building psychological safety at work for both employer and employee, Accenture states: “Psychological safety in the workplace opens a fundamental reexamination of success and of the scaffolding that leads to achievement. It opens the door to innovation at scale. And in the long run, it creates a more sustainable long-term growth trajectory that leaves people net better off, while the company benefits from a stellar employer brand, the ability to attract, engage and retain the most sought-after talent, and the highest levels of performance and innovation.”
The Accenture article highlights the benefits of engineering in psychological safety: “27% reduction in turnover, 76% more engagement, 50 more productivity, 74% less stress, 29% more life satisfaction, 57% workers more likely to collaborate, 26% greater skills preparedness since workers learn at a faster rate when they feel psychologically safe, 67% higher probability that workers will apply a newly learned skill on the job.”
Our case study confirms the same science, practice, and benefits. It’s no surprise that we saw Quiet Quitting fade away, replaced by renewed engagement, higher performance, business results, and thriving by the participants.
The results are in, and it’s good news. If you have the courage to lead, what’s described in the case study above will work for you and your organization. We’re ready to help! Contact Renaissance Partners today to address how Quiet Quitting/Low Engagement impacts your team. We have offerings specifically designed to facilitate your learnings in talent retention, burnout, and the integration of purpose and productivity, among others. Our offerings range from small workshops to large organizational programs and can be customized to meet your needs. Your learnings will convert to better and more sustainable business results.