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The “Great Resignation” and the Executive Suite

In the past, Standish Executive Search has written about burnout in the workplace fueling record turnovers and a “Great Resignation” amongst workers—a challenge for company leadership to be sure.

Also in the news, much has been written about employers’ labor shortages and hiring challenges, but most accounts are referring to entry-level to mid-level staff. And most articles also focus on the industries most impacted by this, notably hospitality, travel/tourism and food/beverage.

What isn’t covered extensively is the “trickle-up” effect happening across most industries, and that many in leadership positions are experiencing the same sense of malaise and burnout. After all, they are humans too! And their jobs and leadership abilities during the continuing COVID crisis have tested them to the limits.

As a result of this—and the fact that many company leaders are of an age where they are looking at the prospect of retiring anyway—top-level employees are also considering a change or outright retirement … an exodus of their own.

This may be the ideal time for companies to prepare in advance for a potential leadership void. By doing so now, in advance of a “surprise resignation,” companies have the advantage of taking a deep-dive exploration into the company’s inventory of promotable talent, longer-term strategic goals and the attributes that new leadership candidates must possess.

Now is a great time to truly examine the skillsets that you require leadership to have going forward; the trends in your industry and what kind of expertise you will need to grow and compete; the overall culture of the company; your diversity and inclusion approaches. It’s an opportunity to see beyond current circumstances and take a fresh look at your current business and where you want it to be in the future.

With competition for top talent likely ramping up, organizations that begin the executive search process early will have a competitive advantage over those who wait to recruit top talent when everyone else is.

The time to act is now.


Greg Mickelson is a Principal of Standish Executive Search, a New England-based firm that advises business owners, executives and boards who are positioning their companies for accelerated growth, change or succession.

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