Careers, Work Strategies, Working Professionals

Spin your Story (Determine Your Own Destiny)

I just read the McKinsey article about huge turnover in the labor market, referred to as the “Great Attrition.” Companies are facing a conundrum across industries. The researchers at McKinsey layout a simple challenge to businesses: be part of the continued disenfranchisement of employees or become known as a “Great Attractor”, an organization that is successfully recruiting top talent over the next 12 months.  

The past 18 months of COVID Pandemic panic was tough on a lot of businesses (including mine) but thankfully since January 2021 businesses in several industries came booming back. This is great news for me as a recruiter and for the talented candidates that I place with client companies.  

The McKinsey challenge to organizations forces employers to confront the disconnect between their mindset (transactional) and the mindset of employees (relational). For HR professionals, career coaches, and recruiters, this is not exactly breaking news – but the impacts of worker discontentment are glaring post-pandemic. I’ve been watching a rise in burnout and a shift among employees to being more introspective about what really matters.   It prompted me to ask a follow-on question: 

What type of story will you tell to your employees and the talent you hire in 2021-22?


The first step in  “romancing a candidate” is a mindset.  I coach my clients to highlight the company’s strengths that matter to candidates (e.g. focus on the relational!) 

The current job market favors the candidates and for companies to attract talent, the costs are high. As a recruiter, for example, the talented people that I identify are sometimes not active job searchers.  This means they were not considering a change until presented with an opportunity. Attracting these candidates requires companies to think more about what makes their organizations wonderful places for people to work. 

The McKinsey authors suggest that companies will continue to lose workers and struggle to attract new talent in the “Great Attrition” until they shift toward a relational mindset; and get focused on understanding the motivations and needs of their people. As companies seek to stabilize following the pandemic, workers are reassessing their lives and thinking even more about the mission/ethics of a company, or about the location and the willingness of their employers to be flexible.

Businesses that want to become “great attractors” would be wise to understand what values are important for people who can make their companies succeed. 


Some companies measure success by shareholder earnings. Others measure it through innovation, low staff turnover, and career satisfaction. Lowering costs and boosting higher profits is a business priority agreed upon across industries by all.  Determining how to get there, however, differs by company, the attitudes of leaders, and the subsequent culture that emerges. 

Universities and college administrators have begun to realize that by not accounting for job market needs in curriculum planning, they fail to prepare students with employable skills. Businesses can take a similar approach and prepare workers for greater success with professional development opportunities that not only advance their careers internally/externally but provide a better-trained workforce for the organization. 

Educational and business leaders can take the same page from the proverbial book to train individuals and prepare them with in-demand skills that fit market needs.

Information is powerful and knowing what forces motivate workers is key to becoming a successful “attractor.”


Based on the article and other studies in work/labor research that pre-date the pandemic, these factors have been identified as the missing components from corporate cultures. Simply put…

“The top three factors employees cited as reasons for quitting were that they didn’t feel valued by their organizations (54 percent) or their managers (52 percent) or because they didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51 percent).” (McKinsey, 2021) 

The impact of the COVID pandemic was especially hard for working families with young children. The need for flexibility, already a growing priority, became critical for parents as they shifted to home offices and homeschooling, simultaneously. A gaggle of 20+ kids ran around my neighborhood for months, as parents were challenged trying to turn picnic tables into school desks. Now as they resume commutes into the office, many are considering the opportunity cost in a relational way. 

Employers must listen to hear what employees value and remain supportive as needs evolve.  Employees who feel valued stay longer.  Retention not only saves money over time by reducing HR costs but protects institutional knowledge.  As a long-time recruiter, these were facts I often shared with hiring managers when they were resistant to investing in the right hires and the importance of a culture shift to focus on the relational needs of employees. 

Company leadership has the power to create a culture that is responsive to employees and good for business.   


Consultants can provide an evaluation and give feedback to companies about specific strengths and weaknesses. Coaches for executive teams are also great resources for helping to kickstart a shift in an organization’s culture.  

A teacher I had used the phrase: “don’t assume … it makes an ass out of you and me.” Find out from the people on your teams how they feel and what matters. The McKinsey article has a great list of questions to ask!

Discuss with your HR team the best benefits that have an authentic value to employees – find out what’s changed and what hasn’t. My takeaway for you … it was never all about the money!

Here are some of the *relational benefits* that I suggest: 


Let’s Talk About Timing…tools for negotiation

When someone tells a good joke, I have a hard time repeating it and getting the punch line right.  If someone walking past me has blue hair, I’ll blurt out loud “blue” instead of thinking it to myself. 

Timing is really everything: knowing when to listen and when to speak is an important career tool. When you tell a story, the depth of detail you share can determine whether you keep an audience’s attention or not. I once took a writing class that emphasized the importance of pace, tension, climax, and the finale in a story. It’s the difference between an ‘okay’ book and a really stellar one. In negotiations, the story we tell can impact the result of a business agreement or salary review. 


The first conversation typically does not include compensation so be patient.  Once everyone is convinced they want to work together,  be prepared to receive an offer and recognize that it is open to negotiation. Compensation is not just your base pay, it includes many types of benefits some are more traditional like healthcare or retirement.  Other benefits have grown in importance like flexible location or hours, how leave can be used, or childcare/eldercare benefits.

This isn’t a first interview topic when the romance of the interview process has just begun and both sides are looking for chemistry. If there is alignment the company will raise the topic naturally.  

Once the discussion moves to compensation you may be asked to provide an answer about your expected salary. If so, redirect with a query about a range for the role. Once you know the range, explain that you are willing to accept a salary within it but do not state a specific number. Remember! Compensation talks are negotiations. The first offer is the company’s first move, and your opening to respond with a counter request. At this point the hiring process is serious and you should only proceed if you are confident about your role, the organization, and you are sincerely interested. 


Most organizations have an annual review protocol.  Some are self-evaluations and others include 360-degree input. Whatever format the review is in it’s good to understand what is expected, which goals are important, and key milestones for you as a professional. Roles and responsibilities can change, if that happens it’s time to ask for guidance: additional input, a review out of cycle, or a re-evaluation of your last review. A special request can be made for lots of reasons: additional training or a license earned, a request for overtime or resources for one person who’s doing the job of 2 people. 

Request feedback, support, and documentation, so you can measure progress and continue to grow as a professional.  


As we emerge from a global pandemic the economic impact and realities are different than in any previous crisis. When asking for a raise, consider the market and business landscape before you make your move. Do the research and build a business case to support your “Ask”. You should be able to demonstrate, based on the value you contribute to the company, why you have earned a raise. If you have learned new skills or a professional degree, or recently had a positive review, use this as leverage.  This supporting evidence can demonstrate additional impact on the bottom line of your organization and how you deliver higher value to clients.

A concise story that highlights the impact of your initiative on a company will deliver good results! 


Are you constantly taking on more responsibility? Would you like to move up to the next level in your organization? Sit down with your manager to discuss expectations and make a plan before you are burned out. If you need additional skills or training to achieve these results, then create a timeline to prepare you for a promotion. Track your progress on mutually agreed-upon goals and build a strong pitch that provides details on how you are ready for the next step. If it’s a long-term career goal then do research to understand what actions will set you up for future growth. 


You have been dedicated, loyal and love your job and co-workers.  Unfortunately, you feel stuck or stale. Communicate your frustration in a professional way to managers. If your feedback isn’t taken seriously following a review, your raise request is denied without merit, or you get passed over for that promotion (again) despite meeting your milestones consistently — or your heart is just no longer in the job — it’s time to warm up your network and begin to ramp up the process of informational interviews. 

This is a healthy approach to identify other opportunities and your next role so that you are able to make your career transition in a thoughtful way!


Timing is everything.  If you are intentional, do your homework, and find win-win situations that benefit you and others the results will be strong.  A business is better suited for growth with the right people in the “right seats on the bus”.  Intonation, punch lines, and your delivery truly matter.  

Take a pause, think about your goals, imagine what organizations and others value, and position yourself for success. Remember, if your “Ask” doesn’t work the first time, it might not have been the right time. Recognize what you learn from the failure to do it differently the next go-around!