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The real key to avoiding the Great Resignation is paying people fairly, expert says

February 10, 2022, 8:25 PM UTC

As president and special counsel to the CEO of Comcast on diversity, equity, and inclusion, Steve White takes these hot-button issues seriously. And he thinks many employers are missing the mark, especially when it comes to the Great Resignation, which he calls the Great Reset.

“The reset has given everyone a chance to pause, rethink what they’re doing, and maybe start to realize what they’re doing doesn’t inspire them,” White tells Fortune. “When you’re not feeding your purpose, work feels like work. When you’re inspired, that’s where you get your energy.”

When a worker loses interest in a job, it can be tempting to start looking around for another. But regardless of where you are mentally—or career-wise—White advises against taking the long view.

“I tell people all the time: Don’t focus so much on the end result,” he says. “I know that’s difficult, because it takes discipline. Focus on the process of doing exceptional work.”

It’s a hot job market, and that’s making it difficult for managers to retain their best employees. White has advice on how to keep workers engaged. 

“This is going to sound a little simple, but I learned a long time ago, you have to respect your employees,” he says. “If your company needs special programs to promote diversity and inclusion, you’re already in bad shape. Those programs are needed because someone identified that the leadership team is not doing the essential things to make a team feel wanted.”

Respect goes beyond just feeling accepted, he says. “We’re all here to make a living; my job is for paying bills.” To that end, he argues that compensation is the main way of measuring respect.

“A lot of companies are making dramatic changes to how they pay employees because they weren’t being properly compensated,” he says.  

Another common reason employees look for a new role is because they missed out on a promotion they believed they earned. White personally reviews his direct reports’ career development plans to look for ways of helping them advance, and he’s developed some best practices over the years.

“If you’re trying to get promoted, you can’t make it about yourself,” he says. “Think, how can I best serve my teammates? If you have your own direct reports, how can you make them the best they can be? Every time I got promoted, it was because my peers supported me. Most companies promote when they hear others sing your praises.”

No matter where you are in your career, you can develop a reputation for being a person who makes the team better. 

“What are you good at? Where can you improve? Seek out those answers from your peers, or whoever you can go to for advice. Ask them what you bring to the table, and where you can close gaps.”

This leads into another one of White’s rules for getting promoted: Make yourself indispensable. “Run to the biggest challenges and opportunities, because that’s where you distinguish yourself.” 

This all culminates in a straightforward move: Ask for the promotion you want. “If you’re not getting what you need, sit down with the people making decisions, and tell them what your hopes are, and have them tell you what you need to do to get them.”

White argues that throughout your life, there are only 10 or 12 decisions that really matter. “A third of those decisions will always concern who you surround yourself with. Who do you admire and model yourself after? For a young person trying to grow in their career, who they surround themselves with plays a major role.”

“You need to work with the right people who respect and support each other,” he says. 

He also encourages people to develop their own brand and hold on to their independence. “I don’t work for Comcast, I work for Steve White Incorporated,” he says. “Comcast purchases my services.”

White urges people to think of themselves as chairman and CEO of their own company. “Ask yourself how you can invest in your company,” he says. “If you do right by your own company, others will want your services.”

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