One of my favorite lines is, “The plural of anecdote is not evidence.” It means that the story you might hear from your friend or the person-on-the-street interview might not be a good representation of what is actually happening. However, those data points are great for confirming things you might already believe.

The Great Resignation is the Rorschach Test for people to project their existing beliefs onto the explanation for why workers are leaving their organizations at rates never seen before. The anecdotes are flying (and winning the narrative), while the data clearly explains why it’s happening—and it might not be what you think.

The reality is—driving the Great Resignation are Next Leaders, largely Gen Y-aged workers, and they are leaving in droves. According to Harvard Business Review, workers between 30 and 45 are resigning at a 20%+ higher rate than last year, the most significant jump of any age group. Our research shows a clear dividing line between companies knee-deep into “turnover triage” and those in a position to attract the most in-demand talent on the street.

For an analogy, imagine two medical patients: one who invested in their health by eating right, exercising, and following recommendations to avoid heart disease; and the other, who never exercised, ate a diet that was likely to be bad for the heart, and ignored advice from doctors to make improvements. Then, let’s say both individuals experience a heart attack.

The “healthy” patient is given a roadmap for recovery. After the brief setback, that patient makes small changes, settling into a previous routine that helps them recover healthfully.  The other patient requires a series of significant (and expensive!) interventions and uncomfortable and drastic lifestyle changes. These new habits are tough to form and, unfortunately, will only slow down the progression of their declining health.

That’s the tale of two types of companies.

Organizations that prioritized having a deep leadership bench and long-term planning certainly were impacted by the pandemic but could weather the storm. The team remains committed, and their next leaders stay with the organization out of loyalty and opportunity.

Companies that didn’t are scrambling. In the middle of navigating a talent exodus, their leaders are implementing too-little-too-late solutions that are incredibly costly without the organizational habits to ensure their effectiveness.

The good news is that, unlike the health example above, there’s more than one life to live for organizational effectiveness. And if you need a check-up, let us know.