The Great Resignation is creating unprecedented challenges for leaders, many of whom were already struggling under the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anthony Klotz, the person who is credited with predicting The Great Resignation and coining the term, is a professor of management at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. Klotz has said “pandemic epiphanies”— a phrase that implies wholesale reevaluation of one’s values and life — could be responsible for mass turnover in the workplace.

The workforce is bearing the brunt of pandemic epiphanies. People are asking questions such as: “What is important in my life?” “Is work fulfilling?” “Does it give me energy?” Many want to work for companies with values that mirror theirs, a diverse workplace, opportunities for growth and more.

The Great Resignation is a call for leaders to meet the needs of a pandemic-fatigued workforce. It is a challenge to establish and live uplifting values, reignite hope and demonstrate inspiring behaviors that will drive the great retention of top talent.

Create a Culture of Significance

Turnover contagion is real. A few brave employees leave, and more cautious ones find the courage to follow. This condition has now infected vast swaths of the workforce.

The first antidote to turnover contagion is creating a culture of significance. A famous example of this comes from NASA. A reporter asked a janitor what role he played at the agency. The man’s answer was “I’m putting a man on the moon.” The janitor knew he was part of a culture of significance.

Here’s how to create the same feeling in your people.

1. Connect people to the organization’s mission, vision and values: We conducted a legendary service training initiative at Petco Park, where the San Diego Padres play. Our challenge was to help 3,500 guest service personnel know and feel that their jobs were very important. When we started working with their leaders, their mission was to be in the sports entertainment business. We explained that all workers — not just baseball players — need to see their place in delivering the customer experience. When the meeting ended, it had been decided their mission was “to create major league memories” for their guests. That phrase energized everyone and helped them to see the importance of their role.

Have your people lost sight of your organization’s mission due to the stress of the pandemic and the deluge of day-to-day tasks? Invite your team to share how their efforts improve the lives of others. Create a mission statement that energizes everyone to unleash their greatest gifts.

2. Have people keep an achievement journal: When people keep a journal of the impact of their efforts, it reduces stress, instills confidence, ignites inspiration and more. Ask team members to start keeping track of their victories at work. Then ask them to share the list at your next team meeting. You’ll be astonished how everyone’s mood changes.

Having people share insights from their achievement journal is also an uplifting and educative experience for you as a leader. If you’re feeling tired and need some inspiration, hearing these stories can work like a tonic.

3. Value contribution: celebrate, appreciate and recognize: We all love to be recognized for good work. However, research shows that leaders praise their people less often than they think they do. The takeaway is that you can’t be too generous with praise.

Appreciation and recognition is personal and can take many forms. Maybe it’s putting a ping pong table in the break room. Or giving someone a dozen roses. Make the act memorable so the person cherishes it for years.

Courageous leaders who have good relationships with their people should also ask them these questions:

  • What would make you stay?
  • What do you like about your job?
  • What part of your job do you wish would go away?
  • What energizes you at work?
  • How would you like to be recognized?

Be ready to act on what you hear. Sometimes a small change in a person’s responsibilities can result in a big change in their attitude.

Companies can also create retention plans to help their leaders. Here’s a simple tactic: Make a spreadsheet with a list of every employee’s name in the first column. The next few columns could describe what’s important to everyone, what energizes them, what drains them, how they want to be recognized and their career or growth goals. Then, as their leader, use the information to help your people feel significant.

Turn the Great Resignation Into the Great Renewal and Retention

Creating a culture of significance. Connecting people to your organization’s mission, vision and values. Celebrating accomplishments. Developing retention plans. You have numerous tools at your disposal to stop The Great Resignation.

People can be reengaged, and that starts with helping them be magnificent. As a leader, you can help your people fulfill these inherent desires, which will keep them engaged and loyal to your organization. And you’ll turn The Great Resignation into The Great Renewal and Retention.