The Great Resignation: how to hold onto your staff by keeping them engaged

Dr Fran Longstaff
February 25, 2022
min read
Man strength training in the gym

Recent reports into the great resignation suggest as many as a quarter of us are intending to leave our jobs within the next six months, and resignation rates are already at their highest since 2009. The financial impact of this mass exodus could be enormous, with the average cost of employee turnover in those earning over £25,000 a year estimated to be £30,614.

As many businesses face potentially spiralling costs in front of them, many will inevitably be asking what they can do to stop their staff leaving. But perhaps a more effective question to ask is: “What can we do to keep our staff engaged?”

Moving from quick-fix perks to long-term engagement

For those businesses currently under threat and focused almost exclusively on stopping their employees making their way to the exit, it is likely that they will be turning to quick-fix perks. This is what happens when we’re under threat – we make ineffective, often expensive decisions. But ultimately the effectiveness of these perks will fade quickly.

With this understanding, I often encourage employers to reflect on what they want to achieve rather than what they want to avoid when selecting and rolling out employee initiatives or programmes. By doing this, the focus inevitably moves to more sustainable long-term solutions as they work towards building positive systems, structures, values, and behaviours.

So, when I am asked how to stem employee attrition, I say – focus on employee engagement instead. Employee engagement relates to employees’ enthusiasm and investment in their job, and it’s consistently identified as one of the strongest predictors of organisational performance and staff retention, because engaged employees don’t leave. 

How to achieve genuine employee engagement at scale

Employee engagement is truly achieved by creating a culture and environment where every employee feels that their contribution is meaningful, important, valued and recognised, they feel autonomous and confident in their work and connected to those around them. However, it is a vast and sometimes intangible concept, which can make it challenging for key decision-makers to select and roll out appropriate initiatives, with many wondering where to start.

It is my belief that the vital, often missing, first step to increasing engagement within an organisation begins with building a good level of mental fitness across every leader and employee. 

An individual’s mental fitness relates to their proficiency in seven core mental skills:

  • confidence
  • positivity
  • motivation
  • focus
  • meaning
  • connection
  • stress management.

It is through the development of these skills that each employee can build the personal resources that enable them to feel more engaged in their work. Leaders can then develop the knowledge and self-awareness to successfully create a culture that supports purpose, autonomy, confidence and connection. 

Our data with 97 leaders and employees confirms this hypothesis, finding that those who are more mentally fit tended to be more engaged in their work. Likely because they are more confident and optimistic in what they are doing, better able to withstand the pressures they face, more connected to and recognised by their colleagues, and better able to find meaning in the work and support others to do the same. 

Investing in mental fitness training pays off in engagement

Many organisations aren’t aware that it’s possible to train your mental skills just as you might your physical skills. But firms that invest in mental fitness training for all employees, at every level, will invariably experience improved employee engagement and the benefits that come with this. We have data from 10 partner organisations to demonstrate that just two weeks of mental fitness training consistently leads to average mental fitness uplifts of 10%. 

But offering mental fitness training for leaders and employees needs to go beyond the delivery of tokenistic workshops. Leaders and employees can certainly learn the mental skills that will engage them and those around them more in their work, but there is evidence to suggest only 12% of employees make use of what they learn in leadership and development programmes. 

Integrating mental fitness into workplace ecosystems and culture

Successful mental fitness training requires a fully integrated approach, which makes space for ongoing skills development and habit formation. Training must always be accompanied by clear practical follow-up actions and resources that prompt employees and leaders to make use of their mental fitness skills at work. As an example, we work with organisations to integrate the seven skills of mental fitness into the way they offer feedback to one another, and provide tools and techniques to improve the way in which meetings are held. Simple mental fitness touchpoints that collectively improve engagement.

So, if you want to keep staff engaged, start with mental fitness training. 

This article was first published on REBA Global:

Share this post

Dr Fran Longstaff
Head of Psychology

Dr Fran Longstaff is Head of Psychology at Fika Mental Fitness. With more than 15 years' academic and applied experience in sport and exercise psychology, Fran oversees Fika's Behavioural Science output, designing and implementing organisation-wide Mental Fitness training programmes for Fika's client-base of more than 80 businesses, education institutions and healthcare organisations. She is passionate about training leaders and managers in how to build their own and their team’s Mental Fitness in order to transform the culture, output, productivity and happiness of their workplaces. Fran worked as a lecturer in Higher Education for 13 years before joining Fika, and still works closely with Fika's board of academic experts.

Leadership bulletins, brewed monthly and served to your inbox

Awesome, you subscribed!
Error! Please try again.
By subscribing you agree to with our Privacy Policy and provide consent to
receive updates from our company.

Related posts

Podcast image for meaningful connections

How to turn 'conversations' into meaningful connections

When it comes to talking - there's talking, and there's really talking, isn't there?

Rose Wilkinson
February 3, 2022
min read
Team working together

Inclusion is a choice: Micro-exclusions you are probably guilty of and how you can stop them

Not all exclusion is direct and intentional. The majority of exclusions we experience are micro-exclusions i.e. small behaviours that go under the radar but when experienced consistently are causal in our feelings of individual exclusion. As a result, people often come to believe that things will never change and, eventually, leave their roles. At Fika, we propose some micro-behaviour changes you and your teams should make that will help your colleagues feel more included.

Dr Amanda McNamee
December 6, 2022
min read