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  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

So, you want to retain your staff?

EGM On A Mission: Let’s Build Better Companies

Great resignation?

Or - great re-think?

Nobel prizewinning economist Paul Krugman says that developed countries are witnessing a new form of worker revolt – after years of substandard conditions and treatment.

‘Workers are using growing job openings to look for better or less demanding work or are simply retiring early. The balance of power is shifting from employer to worker – and it’s no bad thing.’ (1)

Resignation rates are up globally – particularly in the U.S. (2)

For Australia, Smart Company reports:

With New South Wales and Victoria finding a ‘new normal’ after months of lockdowns, workers have become more confident about seeking new career opportunities.

Insights from LinkedIn show that the number of workers changing jobs was up 26% in October compared to the same month before the pandemic in 2019 - with men and women changing companies at the same rate. (3)

‘It’s not the resignation rates we should be worried about - instead, it’s the ‘contemplation’ rates of quitting that spells danger.’ (4).

‘It barely matters what piece of research is reviewed – or which of the developed economies is studied - the quit rate contemplation statistics range between 40% and 80%. That is, there are millions of employees worldwide that are envisioning their next move in 2022.’ (5)

Now, more than ever, it’s how people are treated that matters.

People are asking:

  • Can I continue to work with my manager?

  • Am I paid fairly, respected, and valued?

  • Is the culture something I can work in?

Do the working arrangements suit me?

  • Am I developing in my role?

‘Unsure of what's next, some leaders pause, squint and deliberate. But the top-performing companies of the future are taking action - not to mention a competitive lead.’ (6)

  • ‘Those companies that see what’s happening and take action can prevent the Great Contemplation from turning into a massive disruption.

  • But for those companies who don’t act, 2022 is going to see contemplation turn into a talent war. In fact, it’s no longer going to be coined a ‘talent war’ - we’re heading for a talent ‘apocalypse.’ (7)


  • Too many companies doing similar things – implementing the same old people practices that didn’t work in 1995 and don’t work now

  • Too many companies driven on by thought leaders, commentators, HR gurus and consultants - who don’t have the ‘real world’ experience to understand how their recommendations play out

  • Too many companies unprepared for what’s coming. (8)

So, what can be done?

Consider this short story.

Imagine an office building in the centre of Adelaide.

Next to the main entrance there’s a small courtyard – staff go there for their break.

Monday morning.

Two smokers are chatting on one side of the courtyard.

Two I.T guys are drinking coffee out of paper cups.

The smokers finish their cigarettes – and before they go back inside, with casual flicks, they send their cigarette butts spinning into the corner of the yard.

The IT guys follow. As he approaches the front door, one of them scrunches up his cup and throws it towards the same corner of the yard.

The receptionist sees what has happened – shakes her head in disapproval - and does nothing.


The pile of cigarette butts and paper cups has grown – joined by empty coke cans, sandwich wrappers and a torn newspaper.

Staff go in and out of the building. They notice the state of the courtyard – remark on the impression it gives – and do nothing.


Cardboard from an Amazon package, empty juice cartons, chocolate bar wrappers – an ever-expanding pile of rubbish.


A smoker returning to the office casually flicks another cigarette butt into the mountain of rubbish and goes back inside.

The cigarette butt smoulders for a few minutes - before the rubbish catches fire.

Workers look out of their windows - the same people who had walked on and done nothing.

  • ‘I knew this would happen.’

  • ‘I’ve been saying for months that it’s a disgrace.’

  • ‘What kind of image does this give of our company?’

  • ‘Something should be done about it.’(9)

It’s the choices each of us makes that shape the culture of our companies.

And inside so many of our workplaces the story of the courtyard plays out every day.

People notice, watch – and do nothing.

Someone drops a piece of rubbish – in the form of an indiscrete comment about a colleague, or gossips in the kitchen at the expense of a teammate.

A leader micro-manages their team – making work lives miserable. Unnecessary project deadlines are imposed. Bureaucratic processes mandated – when people are already stressed.

Or we witness a toxic leader go about their business.

  • A little bit of favoritism.

  • A disparaging joke about an individual in a meeting.

  • Taking the credit when things go well – blaming their team when things don’t.

  • Nothing important – ‘Frank’s been like that for years.’

But once a few scarps of rubbish float around, people get used to it – and when they realize leaders aren’t going to do anything – the situation gets worse.

People feel safe to leave their own rubbish behind.

And every time we turn a blind eye, do nothing, and walk on – the pile of rubbish builds.

So, you want to retain your staff?

Leaders - need to complete an honest audit of their company culture, employee experience, and leadership practices – and clear out any rubbish they find.


And for those not in a position of authority, who feel they can’t help in the clear up operation, they also have a part to play. If nothing else, they can look out for those on the receiving end.

In his book ‘The Promises of Giants,’ John Amaechi writes:

‘There are so many people in our workplace whose full story we don’t know. They may have hidden problems at home, financial issues and are anxious or insecure. They face the day in apprehension of all the rubbish that will be strewn in front of them.

But if they can count on their teammates, or even one colleague, to looks out for them it can make a world of difference. Their ability to get through the day is dramatically enhanced by authentic interactions with people they trust. (10)

  • ‘If a person is in a bad company – but a good team. They will stay.

  • If a person is in a good company – but a bad team. They will leave.’ (11)

Now isn’t the time to walk on – and do nothing.

Everyone can pick up the litter.

  1. Working out: Is the Great Resignation a Great Rethink? New York Times, 5 November 2021

  2. Quit levels and rates by industry and region, US bureau of labour statistics

  3. The Great Resignation Down Under: Aussies begin job hopping, LinkedIn data shows,, 15 November 2021

  4. The Great Resignation’ isn’t really a thing. Something else is, Forbes 22 November 2021

  5. The Great Resignation’ isn’t really a thing. Something else is, Forbes 22 November 2021

  6. How to win the 'Great Resignation, Gallup, 1 November 2021

  7. The Great Resignation’ isn’t really a thing. Something else is, Forbes 22 November 2021

  8. Coming soon? Or already started? – the Great (Australian) Resignation, EGM blog

  9. The story of the courtyard and related material based on - the promises of giants, John Amaechi

  10. The promises of giants, John Amaechi

  11. 9-Lies about work, Marcus Buckingham

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