Some 4.4 million employees, or 3% of workers, left their jobs in September 2021, leaving employers scrambling to fill vacancies, particularly in the low-income sectors. A large portion of this number, 40%, came from bars and restaurants, hospitality, health care, travel and manufacturing industries. These are traditionally low-paying, high-stress jobs that were among the hardest hit by the pandemic. They are also jobs where many workers see no viable path to get ahead. 

But what about executives, however, and other people in middle- to high-level positions who leave their jobs? In some cases, it’s because of the money. But not in every case. And particularly among the executive ranks, money would seem to be a relatively easy problem to fix. If it were only that simple. Money may just be a red herring for executives who abandon the ship. Before you throw money at the problem, it helps to take a closer look at some of the other underlying issues.

In this article, we’ve outlined some of the reasons why people resign and what it will take to retain your most valued people. 

Reasons Why Executives Leave

The Pandemic Has People Rethinking Their Priorities 

Suddenly, nothing was as certain as it had seemed before COVID-19 broke loose. Even though most people were fortunate enough to hang on to their jobs, the world went through a collective existential crisis

The early days of the pandemic had business executives vowing to improve their work-life balance and even maintain a slower pace of life. For many, these feelings of upheaval make it easier to initiate other big changes. Both blue-collar wage earners and white-collar executives want more from their jobs than just a paycheck.

The Sheer Number of Openings Make It Easier for People to Leave

In the past, executives were less willing to make a move, even when they felt they should. There were simply too many highly qualified applicants for every available job. The pandemic changed all that. With so many job openings, it may now be easier for applicants to get a foothold in certain industries — and at higher levels, too. It’s no secret that companies no longer have the upper hand when it comes to hiring. The time for job-seekers to move is now, when there are more opportunities than there are applicants.

People Want Greater Flexibility 

A survey of 10,569 knowledge workers in the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K. found that 44% of executives and 17% of employees working remotely want to return to the office every day. That means that more than half of the executives surveyed will not be happy to return to the building. Another recent survey suggests that one-third of the employees who are now remote say they will quit if forced to return to the office. That number includes all levels of employees. It is probably less for executives. But even a fraction of this number is alarming.

They Are Unhappy with How They Were Treated during the Pandemic

The pandemic is still with us. Many people worry about contracting the virus and are uncomfortable returning to their offices. There’s a risk-benefit analysis that goes along with the decision to leave the safety of home. It isn’t always about enjoying the work. During the pandemic, employees want to know that they have a voice. They want their concerns heard. Others are re-evaluating whether the paycheck is enough to compensate them for the office politics, the commute time and expense, and the lack of flexibility when it comes to their personal lives.  

Stemming the Great Resignation at the Executive Level

Companies can do more to help ensure that executives want to stay. The following proactive moves can help your company create the type of culture and experience that keeps employees engaged

Build Flexibility into Work Schedules 

It’s not so easy to transition from a structured 9 to 5 office-based work environment to a more flexible schedule. It’s worth investigating, however. As mentioned, although 44% of executives want to return to the office, only 17% of employees share this desire. Your company will need to find the right balance to keep teams happy and productive at all levels. There is no plug-and-play solution and you can’t please everybody. But if you involve executives and employees in the discussions so that they feel more vested in the solution, you’ll have greater success. In addition, managers may need training to make the transition. 

In addition to working from home, a more flexible schedule might include the following measures.

  • Flex time: Allowing employees to change their start and end times; allowing for core hours when everyone must be in the office — for example, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
  • Compressed week: Shortening the workweek by lengthening the workday; for example, to 4 days per week, 10 hours each day
  • Job sharing: Allowing two employees to split the responsibilities for one position
  • Part-time: Allowing employees to work 30 hours a week or less

Provide Growth Opportunities

Nothing disengages your executive workforce faster than feeling stuck. Your best employees aren’t happy to rest on past successes. They want to progress and explore new horizons. Companies that retain their key employees will need to provide opportunities for executives to advance their careers. 

Not everyone can be the successor to the CEO, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways for them to grow. Don’t be afraid to move your high achievers through a series of challenging positions. Companies that understand how to develop their internal talent have three advantages: (1) it encourages cultural cohesion; (2) the company becomes more attractive to outside talent; and (3) executives tend to stick around.

Build Strong Connections

Your brand isn’t just what you show to the external world. The best and most loyal employees must embrace the brand as well. They feel a strong, personal connection with the company’s vision, mission and values. This doesn’t happen by accident. It occurs because the company’s internal culture is built to foster a positive work environment. When you pay as much attention to the employee experience as you do to the customer experience, you’ll unleash a fierce competitive advantage that few companies can match. 

How do you create a great employee experience? It starts with the recruiting process and continues throughout the employee’s life cycle with your company. The most important thing is that you have clear and open communication with your executive team and your employees. Also, it’s essential to equip your executives with the tools they need to succeed, empower them to make decisions, and support them when they make mistakes.  

The Bottom Line

The Great Resignation doesn’t have to happen at your company. Of course, you want to make sure that you offer an attractive compensation and benefits package. But the culture is even more important. Follow the tips above to ensure that you are providing the type of environment in which your executives — and every employee — can thrive.

If you’re looking for your next addition to your leadership team, Y Scouts can help. Contact us today to learn more.