The Great Resignation: practical steps to stem the flow


Insight author headshot

Dr Michael Leimbach

VP R&D Solutions

Insight author headshot

Richard Chappell

Managing Director, EMEA

It’s been called ‘The Great Resignation’ and it’s hitting organisations hard, but what if ‘Great Leadership’ could help to stem the flow? Our sixth annual Leadership Development Survey with Training magazine shows why – and, crucially, how – it can.

Leadership has long been recognised as a critical factor in employee turnover, but not all leaders struggle to retain their people. In fact, Wilson Learning’s previous research has shown that high-performing managers are four times more likely to retain employees than their low-performing counterparts.

The key is to develop high-performing managers with the leadership skills and character to engage, inspire and retain their teams.

So how do you do that?

Amidst Covid’s fallout, our 2022 Survey spotlights the leadership development best practices that set today’s high-performing organisations apart.

It also reveals five steps every organisation can take to create high-performing leaders, gleaned from the record 820 L&D professionals who took part.

What they said confirms that remote and hybrid working is having a significant impact on leadership effectiveness. Supporting and retaining dispersed teams is a challenge. No surprise then that Communication and Coaching remain 2022’s top two priority skills for leadership development, while the largest increase in priority is Interpersonal Skills.


What high-performing organisations do right

So, what does best practice leadership development look like? Key elements revealed by our Survey include:

Learning Practices: high-performing organisations focus on development methods that require the active involvement of senior leaders, such as action learning assignments.

Leadership Character: they are more likely to provide programmes specific to developing character and focus on curiosity, promoting diversity and openness as priority traits.

Executive Involvement: high-performing organisations engage their executives in visibly supporting leadership development programmes and modelling effective leadership behaviours.

Transitioning New Leaders: they are more likely to develop potential leaders early, manage expectations, provide mid-transition mentoring and develop advanced leadership skills.

Responsibility for Development: high-performing organisations support new leaders to take personal accountability by making development a KPI, providing stretch assignments and assessments to guide progress.


Practical steps to strengthen leadership development

New for 2022, our Survey also invited L&D respondents to share their own top five practical tips. Their insight echoes Wilson Learning’s experience and research.

1. Adapt to a new work environment. Understand and re-evaluate your audience’s needs on a regular basis. People and teams change. L&D must change with them.

2. Focus on collaborative learning. Leaders need to wrestle with problems in the context of your business and one another. Establish a ‘community of practice’ to lean into for advice.

3. Get senior people engaged. Senior management should want to be involved in leadership development. If they aren’t, it won’t be viewed as important enough.

4. Support the next generation of leaders. Provide insight into behaviours, make development a KPI and use failures to learn. Tailor learning methods and get current leaders involved.

5. Expand your definition of learning methods. Leadership development isn’t a one-off activity – it requires ongoing attention and time. Use technology and realign metrics to account for non-traditional progression.

“The stand-out revelation from this survey is the need to focus on developing the essence and character of leaders,” concludes Wilson Learning’s MD Richard Chappell. Adding; “Leadership skills aren’t innate. Leaders aren’t born, they need to be developed. The data clearly indicates that it’s the human side of leadership, rather than the mechanics of management, that truly connect with employees, it’s that connection that sets the tone, the culture and ultimately, retention.”

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