Attracting and Retaining Talent in the Days of “The Great Resignation”

The Great Resignation


Nearly 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in January, almost meeting the record set in November. Meanwhile, January saw 11.3 million job openings, also just shy of December’s record. “The Great Resignation” is real and continuing, but if companies are going to attract and retain talent in 2022, they have to realize a key point—this is a decade in the making.

The Great Resignation didn’t start with the COVID-19 pandemic. The underlying issues are more than the disruptive nature of the pandemic, the rapid transition to work from home, and the rise of remote operations. 

Those necessary changes in the face of a global public health crisis merely revealed the gaps between what people want from their work—a sense of meaning, community and belonging—and what they get. And the rapid changes in the nature and apparent future of work presented opportunities for those people to act on what they’ve been feeling for a long time.

Only 12% of employees strongly agree that they have substantially higher overall well-being because of their employer, and the vast majority clearly think that their job is a detriment to their overall well-being. That finding comes from a Gallup study conducted in 2010-2011. 

More recently, but still pre-pandemic, Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace study found that one-third of employees were not engaged and 51 percent were looking elsewhere.

That last stat needs emphasis: more than half of employees were checking out other employers. That means they’re observing the landscape—not just looking for job openings, but checking out the personality of other companies and whether it looks like they have a healthy and rewarding culture.

People are still looking and buying into what other employers are selling, as attested by the continued high number of resignations. Employers would do well to heed the words of Liza Haffenberg, Head of Movement Inside at agency StrawberryFrog: “People want to experience a sense of belonging, a connection to the work that they’re doing and a higher purpose.”

Many brands are walking around without a soul. Where there is no soul, there is no brand personality. Where there is no brand personality, there is nothing for talent to be attracted to.

Let Your Soul Shine

So why does marketing matter here? Because the best marketing strategies begin with understanding your brand personality and capturing the essence of your soul, letting it shine for all to see. 

Your company needs to stand out long before talent even begins looking for a job. That means having a strong internal sense of identity that translates to all your marketing and branding efforts, from your logos and colors, to your voice on social media and blogs. You need to make a strong, memorable first impression that attracts people’s attention and imbues your marketing efforts with your personality.

There are all types of positive brand personalities. Employers need to do the internal work to understand what exactly that is, so that your marketing and recruiting efforts resonate with that frequency. Your personality can be sincere, exciting, competent, sophisticated or rugged, and usually a combination of those four. Your mission can be providing structure, connecting to others, leaving a mark, or a spiritual journey.

What’s your mission? Is it clear throughout your marketing communications? Does your personality shine and can people understand who you are without ever having stepped foot within your doors, virtual or otherwise?

A great example of this is the biotech company bluebird bio—yes, all lowercase. That’s part of their branding! They put a concerted effort into what their brand looks like and embracing their personality. 

They embraced their unique name and share “News from the Nest,” and talk about their mission with the hashtag #WhyWeFly. Instead of focusing on the bio-technical side of their work, they focus on people and patients, telling unique stories and putting faces to those stories, driving home their mission and what they want to accomplish as a team. They give employees blue birds to take on trips and share videos and photos of their team with their blue birds, exemplifying and amplifying a feeling of team culture.

Recruiting is Marketing

Again, people are looking for community, a higher purpose and a chance to make an impact in the world. If you’re a brand, especially in life sciences, and you don’t seem to have a soul, what are you doing to share about your community, your higher purpose and the impact that your organization makes?

What companies don’t realize is that they often have one shot. That person scrolling social media is going to get attracted to the personality and culture you express. If you have a good culture, then talk about it, shout it from the rooftops. If you have a culture problem, address it immediately.

Once you’ve defined your culture, only then can you build a case for why your logo looks the way it does, why you write in a certain style on your blog, and what kind of content you post to your social media channels.

And keep your focus on the people you’d want to join your team. Too many organizations get lost by focusing on how to sell their brand to venture capitalists, attracting clinical trial specialists, or other bottom-line goals. But nothing is a better boost to your bottom line than a healthy, happy, meaningful culture.

And here’s the great news: the budget for this work doesn’t have to come out of marketing. It’s human resources. HR folks should always have budgets for your employer brand. And if you can’t work with an agency or outside company that specializes in branding—although we’re right here if you need us—tap your marketers internally and your PR team to help.

Pay attention to your internal culture. Undertake the serious work of capturing your brand personality. Talk with people who you offered a position but ultimately didn’t take it, and get their feedback on what you could’ve done to better attract applicants.

Your next great team member, someone who doesn’t even know they want to be a part of a team yet, is out there watching. What will they see?

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