The Big Stay: The secret to boosting your engagement and retention

It wasn’t too long ago we were all talking about (and stressing over) the Great Resignation

Between June 2021 and December 2022, “over 4 million Americans quit” their jobs every month. To be blunt, the pressure on HR was never higher due to the immense challenges of managing extreme turnover rates, reshaping organizational cultures, and maintaining morale—not to mention the relentless need for innovative recruitment and retention strategies

But fast-forward to today, and the tide has turned. The Big Stay, the Great Stay—whatever you want to call it—has taken the place of the Great Resignation. People are finally deciding to stay put.

So what’s changed? 

It’s more than just a rocky economy and declining job openings making people hesitant to jump ship. People have no qualms about calling for change with strikes on the rise and the fact that “after years of declining influence, unions are having a resurgence.” 

Ultimately, the Big Stay is a child of the Great Resignation. 

Companies hunkered down on innovative and people-centric retention strategies, and the fruits of their labor are paying off.

So, what are these killer retention strategies that motivate your people to stay and engage more, think more creatively, and tell headhunters they’re not interested in leaving your awesome company?

Let’s dive in.

The new age of the workforce

Millennials and Gen X still dominate the workforce. But Gen Z is hot on their heels, making up a sizable 15 percent, with that number likely to rise to 31 percent by 2031. 

This means that in the next 10 years, we’ll see a workforce majority made up of a generation with an entirely different approach to work and their careers. For example, 26 percent of Gen Z are unhappy in their jobs, compared to just 9 percent of Baby Boomers, and it’s unlikely that this generation will stay somewhere they’re not happy with. 

HR leaders have an opportunity to adapt their company cultures to better align with this growing workforce, focusing on people-based strategies such as flexible working, training, and employee engagement

Focus on core skills, not career paths

In this ever-changing job market, successful organizations are shifting their people strategies to focus on core skills as opposed to predefined career paths. People today choose a career based on who they want to be and the impact they want to make on the world versus what they want to be and what ladder they want to climb. 

Why form follows function

This shift represents a “form follows function” approach to career development, where “form” is the role or career path, while “function” represents the skills learned, contributions made, and impacts people want to make. 

People are focusing on the function they want to serve and the change they want to make, and they’re molding their career paths to align with these goals. 

Leverage internal talent

One way HR leaders can adapt to this shift is by placing their focus inward. There’s a great deal of value in looking internally for hiring opportunities and recognizing the untapped skills within your existing teams. 

By leveraging the diverse skill sets of your current team members, you can fill your vacancies with friendly, familiar, culture-fit faces—minimizing the risks that are often associated with external hires. 

Emphasize learning and development

L&D programs and experience-building opportunities are strong building blocks of a people-based strategy. By investing in your people’s continuous learning and development, you can ensure your organization stays adaptive, engaged, and ultimately fulfilled. 

Offering platforms and opportunities for your team to acquire new skills, knowledge, and experience helps boost retention. It also empowers your people to shape their roles to align with their own goals and the value they want to add to your organization.

Treat your people right

Treating your people well is an obvious but still important way to increase retention. 

It may sound simple, but it can be a pretty complex task. Teams can have people with varying needs, wants, and desires. But the bottom line is that people want to be fulfilled and respected. 

If an organization isn’t meeting those needs, employees likely won’t think twice before hitting the road. 

“Most people will recognize that it’s never a good time to stay in a bad role, and post-pandemic, there’s a general sense that employees have less tolerance for unhealthy workplace cultures,” says Aaron Terrazas, chief economist at Glassdoor. “We know that dissatisfied employees have wandering eyes, and it’s all the easier for them to pursue those opportunities now as remote interviewing has become commonplace in many industries.”

So take note, as the job market never stands still. Organizations that are in sync with the market’s dynamics and develop an engaging and positive company culture will be far more prepared when the market inevitably shifts again.

A culture rooted in connection

People tend to thrive in environments where they feel connected, valued, and integral to the organization’s overall success. Creating a culture that fosters these connections isn’t just fantastic for retention. It’s vital to cultivating a high-performing team. 

Autonomy, trust, and making sure your people have a clear understanding of how every single person’s work contributes to the larger success story of the company go a long way toward building this connected culture. 

Drawing tangible connections between each person’s contributions and overall organizational objectives and staying away from siloing your teams can help foster a sense of purpose and belonging. 

Why? Because people who can see the fruits of their labor are far more likely to be engaged, motivated, and committed to their roles—and the organization as a whole. 


The allure of stability

People have had to deal with a tremendous amount of instability on the back of the pandemic. So, of course, it’s only natural that people are beginning to get tired of change and are craving stability more than ever. 

People are seeking environments that offer a sense of security and predictability amidst the evolving landscape of the working world. Therefore, organizations that can provide a sense of stability and safety are becoming sought-after commodities—and are more likely to retain their talent. 

Organizations can embrace the ideals of being resilient and flexible but also dependable and consistent—assuring their people that while the business is agile and responsive to change, it remains a reliable place to build their careers. 

The future looks bright for HR leaders

The era of the Big Stay gives organizations and HR leaders a fantastic opportunity to rethink and reevaluate their retention and engagement strategies. The shifts in the dynamics of the working world have highlighted the importance of creating an organization that focuses on people-centric approaches and values-based career paths. 

With an emphasis on treating your people well, fostering a culture of learning and development, leveraging internal talent, and creating a workplace culture that values connection and stability, the future looks bright for forward-thinking organizations that embrace these ideals. 

Because the Big Stay isn’t just about keeping hold of your talent—it’s also about fostering an environment people want to be in. And if you ask us, that sounds like an exciting, rewarding task that can only elevate the working lives of you and your team.

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