Some are calling it the turnover tsunami: One in four workers plans to quit their current jobs once the pandemic is over. That number jumps to\u00a0one in three\u00a0for Millennials and employees with children. As for the IT profession, a new survey by Blind, an anonymous social network popular with tech workers, found that almost half of their users (49%) plan to land a new position this year.\nThe headlines are attention-grabbing, but this has been a long time in the making. In fact, many companies were already dealing with high turnover before the pandemic. The past year may have delayed some employees\u2019 plans, but renewed confidence in the future has them looking ahead and considering their options. Now that organizations have adjusted to the idea of remote and hybrid workforces, top IT talent has more opportunities to choose from than ever before.\n[ Learn from your peers: Check out our State of the CIO 2021 report on the challenges and concerns of CIOs today. | Find out the 7 skills of successful digital leaders and the secrets of highly innovative CIOs. | Get weekly insights by signing up for our CIO Leader newsletter. ]\nAs leaders, we\u2019re at the proverbial fork in the road. We can choose to be victims of circumstance and resign ourselves to losing our best people. We can keep doing what we\u2019ve always done and hope for different results (we all know how well that turns out). Or we can recognize that changing times offer us a great opportunity to reimagine how we inspire, grow and retain our workforces.\nBecoming an engagement-focused IT leader\nThe CIOs I\u2019ve been talking with are firmly focused on that last prong. They\u2019re thinking about how they can seize this moment and turn it into a differentiator. While the last year proved how important IT is to the business, it also left a lot of frustration, fear, isolation, and burnout in its wake. These CIOs aren\u2019t waiting it out and hoping their best people will stay. They\u2019re proactively working on engaging their top IT talent so everyone is in a strong position to compete and deliver greater value as the economy picks up steam.\n Dr. Beverly Kaye\nOne of the smartest people I know in this area is Dr. Beverly Kaye, speaker, thought leader and author of numerous books on talent, engagement, and career mobility, including her bestseller, Love \u2018Em or Lose \u2018Em: Getting Good People to Stay, now in its sixth edition.\nIn a recent conversation with IT leaders in our TechLX leadership development program, Bev shared four strategies that even the busiest IT leaders can start implementing right now to get results.\nHelp employees engage themselves\nMost IT leaders are well aware that the competition is coming for their talent. The reality is, you probably are going to lose a great employee at some point. But the worst way you can lose someone is when they\u2019re still with you. They haven\u2019t left, but they\u2019re not contributing their energy, enthusiasm, or ideas. More often than not, the leader plays a big part in that. It\u2019s an old saying, but it still holds true: People don\u2019t leave organizations; they leave managers.\nOf course, it\u2019s not just on the leader. Everyone engages differently, and employees need to be advocates for themselves. But the leader sets the stage for engagement in some very specific ways. Bev\u2019s research found that engagement-focused leaders concentrate on three areas:\n\nThey are intentional about growing their people.\nThey focus on the relationship, because they know relationships breed loyalty.\nThey pay attention to culture. Even in a fully remote organization, there\u2019s a culture, and it\u2019s up to leaders to create and sustain a culture that people want to work in.\n\nHelp employees grow\u2014in all directions\nWhether or not your employees are actively reaching out to talk about their development and career plans, this is something you need to be focused on. Bev\u2019s research found that if people don\u2019t feel like they\u2019re learning and growing in their careers, they won\u2019t stay.\nLeaders sometimes dread these conversations, especially if they\u2019re worried the person is going to ask for a promotion that either isn\u2019t available or isn\u2019t the right fit. But keep in mind, career growth isn\u2019t just about going up the ladder. With the constant, rapid changes happening in technology, there are plenty of opportunities for people to learn and grow.\nIt\u2019s also worth noting that, especially in IT, moving up often means moving into management. But once they\u2019re actually in the role, many talented people realize it\u2019s not for them. When that happens, they might decide to look outside the organization for their next opportunity because they don\u2019t want to feel like they\u2019re being demoted or that they can\u2019t step back.\nSome people are \u201copportunity-minded\u201d while others are \u201copportunity-blinded,\u201d as Bev puts it. Not all employees can envision other ways to grow besides up. Engagement-focused leaders are opportunity-minded for their people.\nIf you\u2019re stuck on how to get those conversations off the ground, here\u2019s a quick tool from Bev to get you started. Think of the word LEVER:\n\nLateral: How might they move across instead of up?\nEnrichment: Can you do something in their current job to help them feel like they\u2019re growing vertically?\nVertical: What is the next step up\u2014and what are the pros and cons of a vertical move?\nExploratory: Is there a short-term assignment or gig they can take on to get a sense of whether a move or opportunity is right for them?\nRealignment: There\u2019s a lot of talent hoarding in IT, but keeping your best people from opportunities won\u2019t keep them with you, at least not for long.\n\nBev says she often adds one more R: relocation. Some people simply want to find that greener pasture.\nAll of these are opportunities for conversations. Bev\u2019s advice is to approach them like you\u2019re running the organization. Think about the dual benefits to every one of those moves.\nDon\u2019t be a jerk\nBev\u2019s team spent a lot of time researching why employees leave, including reviewing people\u2019s exit interviews and then interviewing them directly to dig deeper. In the process, they uncovered some clear patterns.\n\u201cWe found them in their next organization and said, we have your reasons right here. But why did you really leave? And people told us \u2018my boss was a jerk\u2019 in so many ways,\u201d she says.\nThe word \u201cjerk\u201d might imply extreme behavior, but this isn\u2019t just about hurling abuse or belittling someone in front of their peers. In fact, the typical \u201cjerk\u201d characteristics they identified involve subtler behaviors that you probably see all the time, like micromanaging or failing to listen.\nSome of the common complaints they heard are also ones you might recognize. Talented people were frustrated that, even though they came to the job with a whole set of skills, their managers weren\u2019t interested in their ideas or were resistant to changes and suggestions for improvement. They also wanted more feedback, especially in the moment, when it could help them shift gears before it\u2019s too late. And many simply didn\u2019t feel valued for their contributions or recognized for their accomplishments.\nThere are some who will say these issues boil down to generational differences. But the truth is, no one wants to work for a jerk. \u201cWe all want a leader who cares. We all want work that excites us,\u201d Bev points out.\nCreate a culture people want to work in\nHere\u2019s one finding from Bev\u2019s research that might surprise you: Pay never came up as the number one reason people stay. That\u2019s why her advice is to compete on culture, not dollars.\nLeaders have enormous influence over the culture, and many of the most impactful things you can do to create a positive culture aren\u2019t that complicated, but they do require intention: writing thank you notes; giving highly specific feedback and kudos for a job well done; paying attention to your employees\u2019 wellbeing and wellness; understanding what different people need, especially when the workforce is remote.\nIt\u2019s a tough time to be a leader in IT, but it\u2019s also never been a better time to be a leader in IT. And it\u2019s up to you to engage and retain the talent you\u2019re going to need to anticipate the future and continue innovating the business. This work is never done, and neither is the work of employee engagement. But if you have any doubt that focusing on this is worth your time, consider what it will cost you to lose your best people. As Bev says, you will pay if they don\u2019t stay.