How can HR leaders combat the Great Resignation?

Ted Bililies, managing director at global consultancy AlixPartners, explains how companies can recruit and retain talent in 2022

The Great Resignation, in which 47 million Americans quit their jobs in 2021, isn’t slowing down.

The Labor Department reported that 4.4 million Americans left their positions in February, up from 4.25 million in January. Although it’s still below the peak of 4.5 million in November, the data suggests that HR leaders shouldn’t rest on their laurels when it comes to recruiting and retention. To combat the nationwide staffing shortage, employers are having to increase their compensation and benefits packages beyond the traditional healthcare, dental, vision and 401(k) offers.

In this interview with HRD TV, Ted Bililies, managing director at global consultancy AlixPartners, offers a strategy for HR leaders to win over new talent and keep their current employees happy.


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HRD USA The Great Resignation 

John: [00:00:15] Welcome to HRDTV. I'm John Corrigan with HRD America. And today I'm joined by Ted Bililies, managing director at Global Consultancy AlixPartners. Today we're talking about the hottest topic in HR The great resignation. Ted, thanks for joining me. 

Ted: [00:00:32] John it's a real pleasure. Thanks for having me on. 

John: [00:00:35] Before we talk about the great resignation, Ted, is there anything you want to say here to really set the scene for our viewers? 

Ted: [00:00:44] Thanks, John. Yeah, actually, you know, there's a lot that's been said and a lot that will be said about the great talent resignation. I think it's important to take a quick step back so that we can take a quicker step forward and AlixPartners. In our Disruption study, which we just released, we actually identified four major forces that are transforming the world economy. And I think answering the the resignation question, the talent resignation question in the context of those four factors may be helpful. So real quickly there, there are demographic declines around the world, Europe, Japan, Asia in the productive portion of the worldwide workforce. That's really important. Labor labor pools have been growing for decades. They're starting to shrink. Number two, technological acceleration and the rate of innovation and digitization has just exploded and that's just exponential. And to talk about human capital and talent, irrespective of technological advancements, I think would be incomplete. And then there's this other process, the globalization. So for decades we've been benefiting from open borders and open trade. Many countries are pulling back from that, as you all know. And then finally, in terms of the climate crisis we're in, moving to greener energy is going to go slower than I think people anticipate. So those are four major forces that are that are really transforming and restructuring the world economy. So now in light of that, let's talk about human capital and talent. Labor pools are shrinking, right? Whether you look at Japan, whether you look at Europe, whether you look at China, the labor force growth has been slowing and for decades, decades, labor labor forces have been growing. So that's some real significant headwind in what we are commonly referring to or has been referred to as the great talent reckoning. You've got a lot of people that have, you know, what I call I refer to them as kind of pandemic epiphanies, right? They've taken a look in the mirror and they said, Do I really want to be working for this company at this time, this hard? And whether it's boomers that are saying, I think I'm just going to cash in my chips and retire early, or it's Gen Z saying, you know, I don't think the leadership of my company, my organization really cares about me for a variety of reasons. People are people have decided to make that that change now. And there's something that I would just highlight in that, John, and that is the whole notion of the psychological contract. It's very easy to understand, you know, I work for a company and they pay me for the work that I do. That's the financial contract, the employment contract. Everybody understands that. But there's also something called the psychological contract. Right? And this is kind of what I expect from my employer, what I expect from my organization and what they expect from me. And I think we've seen a real disruption in the psychological contract, certainly in the United States, between employees and employers. And I think the psychological contract is really being rewritten now. 

John: [00:04:08] Are you talking about this psychological contract from I guess from what I'm interpreting is, is that employees are looking for more. From what? From their employers. More than they've ever asked for before. More than they've ever expected before. What are these top challenges facing the workforce right now? 

Ted: [00:04:27] I think you're spot on. I think that, first of all, let's talk about let's talk about who we're talking about when we refer to the workforce, depending on on what studies you look at, 46, 47, 49% of the of the workforce in North America are made up by Gen Z and younger millennials. We know that they demand ethical leadership. They demand concern for their well-being. They expect concern for their mental health and their general well-being. We're going through a pandemic, for goodness sakes. And there's an enormous amount of stress. There's that psychological contract, again, being rewritten. What are you employer giving to me and supporting me? And I got to tell you, John, I think a lot of senior leaders, a lot of CEOs, even the ones that I speak to, have really been on the back foot and slow on this one. That's not to say that their command and control top down leaders, but there's still a lot of that leadership in business. And that's not going to fly precisely for the reason that we're talking about right now. Gen Z and Gen Y want ethical leadership. They want leaders that are committed to inclusion, to DEI, to diversity. They want to feel cared for and they want to feel like there's a balance between people and profits in their organization, that it isn't all about profits and people are down here. Those are some of the things they want and those are some of the factors that are fueling the great resignation. 

John: [00:06:05] Well, now that we know what they want, how can employers alleviate these issues? How can employers give employees what they want? 

Ted: [00:06:14] Well, I think that that's a that's the $64,000 question. Right. So let's let's get let's not get too far away from technology, since that's such an important factor in what's going on right now. People are saying, you know, we're being replaced by robots. A.I. is going to replace human beings. That's not true. And it certainly doesn't need to be true in places like BMW and their South Carolina plant. Humans and robots, humans and machines are working together to improve life, you know, for the customer, for the client, for the organization. So organizations have to embrace technology and use it as a way, as a collaboration to help improve what human beings are doing on the job. Diversity has to be a core commitment of all senior leaders that that, you know, that has to be genuine, that has to be authentically put forward, and it has to be woven into the fabric of the organization to attract and retain the kinds of employees we're talking about. And most important is the employee value proposition, this notion of the psychological contract, again, where chief executives, senior executive leaders have to lead with their values. They have to communicate what the organization stands for and what its purpose is for, and how those workers, how those professionals in the organization really fit in to that picture. In a short word, John, it's really culture. We have to we have to make sure that and this is this is true for our clients as well as for many others. We have to make sure that culture is a deliberate. A deliberate effort in the organization the shared values, the shared beliefs, the shared behaviors of an organization everybody should know about, they should be able to talk about and where the rubber meets the road. These people should be rewarded for those values and for those behaviors. So executives need to pay attention to culture, and that's going to help a lot in the war for talent. 

John: [00:08:22] Excellent insight, Ted. I appreciate you taking the time. I hope that our viewers take your insight and put it to good use and help their companies during this great resignation. 

Ted: [00:08:33] Thanks, John. 

John: [00:08:35] Thank you, Ted. And thank you, everyone, for watching. This has been another episode of HRDTV.