Over the past year plus, many people who had plans to change jobs ended up staying put due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. The “Great Resignation”, coined by Anthony Lotz of Texas A&M University during an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, predicts that those employees are now ready to make their move. In fact, a recent study by Microsoft found that 41% of the global workforce would be open to leaving their current job within the next year.
These are some scary statistics from a business owner and a human resources perspective. So why the discontent? What’s propelling the Great Resignation? And can it be avoided or prepared for?
It’s important to understand why it’s happening. It comes down to three factors: generational shift, economic crisis, and a trend in how people want to work.
Generational Shift – Many millennials who were forced to work from home realized that they like working from home. With offices reopening and employees being asked to return, employees are reassessing their work-life balance and many want to remain working remote. If this isn’t an option, they will look elsewhere. The Baby Boomer generation is more eager to return to the office as they felt a loss of connection to the workplace, with fewer daily interactions and even fewer quality interactions – they feel less seen, recognized, and appreciated. If a remote or hybrid option is now the norm, they may jump ship to find work that is 100% in-person.
Economic Crisis – Many employees found themselves in uncomfortable situations during the pandemic, feeling like they didn’t have any job security. They didn’t know if they would be let go tomorrow and they had no idea how to job hunt during the current market. This led to many employees starting to put feelers out just in case… and now that things are returning to normal, that job hunt is in full swing or they are being head-hunted.
How People Want to Work – It’s not just about working remotely or working in the office. With much more time spent at home over the past year, many people had plenty of time to assess their career, their passions, and what they really want to do with their lives. This has led many people to realize that they want to make a major career shift and do something that has meaning and purpose to them. It requires them leaving their current job and even possibly working for themselves.
It’s not all doom and gloom for employers though; there are things you can do now to help prevent a mass exodus.
- Offer Flexible Working Arrangements. Companies who demand all employees work a certain way are at greater risk of losing them. Employees were asked to work remotely for a year, some want to continue working that way, others want a hybrid, and the rest want to be back in the office full time. Provide employees with choices to select the work environment that gives them the best support for both their work and personal life. Many employees don’t want to leave their current employer if given the opportunity to have more flexibility.
- Develop Your Management Team. You’ve heard the phrase that employees don’t quit companies, they quit managers/bosses. Senior leaders need to take a close look at their frontline management team who spend the most time interacting with employees. Your employees are the ones who help you reach your organization’s goals and objectives – and your management team can directly affect how well your team performs. Invest in your management team with training.
- Culture Connection. Your company should have a vision, mission, and/or values statement. It’s important for employees to understand how they fit into your culture. Share with them how they make a difference and how they contribute to the bigger picture. Employees understand that a job is trading time for money in the most simplistic terms, however when they understand the bigger outcomes, it becomes less about a paycheck and more about making a difference in the world.
If you aren’t able to prevent employees from leaving, there is something you can do until you can fill that role with the right person. Utilizing freelance talent is a great way to fill the gaps. The days of keeping employees happy with pizza parties and casual Fridays have gone by the wayside – the landscape has changed. Many employees now want to be their own bosses, and freelance talent is booming.
Having a mix of employees and independent contractors could be a win-win. You may even be able to retain some of your top talent as independent contractors. Contractors can work as many hours as they want or on a per project basis, but a mix of talent could be the perfect solution.
Organizations that support their employees and their work/life integration post-pandemic will be in a better position to retain their workforce. Keep in mind that most employees have had to completely merge their work and personal lives, and many aren’t willing to completely separate them again. Employers have the opportunity to reconfigure company culture, how employees work, and restructure their management team to best support all employees. In return, they can grow their organizations to be bigger, better, more efficient, and thereby delivering an enhanced customer experience. Happy Employees = Happy Customers = Happy Shareholders.
Change is on the horizon, if not already here. Many of my clients are bringing 100% of their remote workers back into the office over the next few months, several are creating hybrid models – some remote, some office time – while others are closing brick and mortar offices in part to embrace the “new way of working.”
It’s about who you know. The power of your network. Most business owners are only tapping into a tiny fraction of that power because by nature we feel uncomfortable admitting we have a gap and/or we have a hidden fear that it’s a sign of weakness if we need to ask for help.
With the myriad regulations and laws in place, we shouldn’t still be talking about Gender Equality in the workplace, but we are. Pay equality is vital, and while that’s a big part of the big picture, it’s not the only issue at play. Poor maternity leave policies, sexual harassment, and unconscious bias also top the list of disadvantages preventing women from succeeding and thriving in the workplace. It’s not just a US problem, it’s a global problem.
We are seeing a huge paradigm shift in corporate business culture where companies are embracing the mindset of Millennials – flexibility, culture fit, community, collaboration and team versus the “way it’s always been is the way we are going to be.” In fact, I believe that shift is our new normal.
Wayne Gretzky, retired NHL hockey player, is famed for saying “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. Babe Ruth, famous Red Sox turned Yankees baseball player, has several famous quotes to his name, one of them being, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”
Have you ever noticed that some of the happiest and most fulfilled people are those who spend time giving back? Volunteering isn’t only about the impact that you make in the lives of those less fortunate and in one’s community; it also teaches you a lot about who you are and helps you improve certain life skills. You may discover that you’ve become more patient, open-minded, less judgmental, and more compassionate. I’m not talking about volunteering so you can toss that board membership title on your LinkedIn Profile – this isn’t Quid Pro Quo – this is just giving for the sake of giving.
My family and I just returned from a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. While I possess a fairly extensive record of international travel, this was my first trip to Southeast Asia. Each trip to a foreign country possesses its own remarkable aspects but the idea of visiting countries as “foreign” as Vietnam and Cambodia came with both excitement, as well as trepidation. Let me just start by saying, it was fantastic! The people, the culture, the history, the food, all of it.
I’m just going to come right out and say it: I think the younger generations get it. I know, I know there have been countless articles written about the generation divide, the Boomers versus Millennial debates, but I’m going to add one more to the mix. I’m not going to bash the idealism of the younger crowd, in fact, I embrace it and I encourage you to open your mind and put yourself in their shoes for a bit.
If only I had a dollar for every time I conducted a candidate interview during my career and I was asked, “what is the company culture like!” Yes, it is universally the most frequently asked question during an interview, a networking conversation, or cocktail party when discussing where someone works.