The Great Reality

Posted by MarchFifteen and Edyta Pacuk & filed under Reflection.

It is not called the “Great Resignation” anymore.

It is called “Reality”.

When the trend of the “Great Resignation” was acknowledged a year ago, many of our clients saw this as a reaction to the pandemic, a fad that would fade away within a few months.

Now, a year later, we have to come to the realization that based on the geopolitical and economic issues, the trend will remain. The war for talent, in a way, is over and the employee won.

In addition, we are facing the double-whammy effect – people are leaving organizations and it is becoming increasingly harder to bring talent in.

What worries me most is not only increased pressures on employees to do more with less – a statement we are all bored with – but with the loss of people, we are experiencing the bleeding of the tacit knowledge critical to the organization’s success. Things happen so fast and, if we have unreliable systems, we are unable to capture the knowledge to protect performance long-term.

Thank heavens for the boomers delaying their retirement!

Retention and engagement of people we already have is therefore imperative. So, what can we do to address employee retention? Here are a few suggestions – some of them will be a reinforcement of what you are already doing, but I hope here you will find also a few thoughts that will make a difference for you:

  1. What the pandemic taught us is that technology enables us to literally work from anywhere. Forcing the old model of getting back to work, will only create a resistance and resilience. The recent decision of Tesla’s founder Elon Musk demanding people to come back to the physical office otherwise their absence will be interpreted as resigning is already facing a backlash. Despite the fact that Tesla has a great brand and its products are seen as being as gamechangers, we have learned that flexibility in work arrangements does not compromise the individual performance and the gained quality of life benefit has become non-negotiable. You simply must update your work model and adopt some form of a hybrid model providing people choices as to how they can deliver the work.
  2. The shift has also created a realization in many that the workplaces they have left for are not better than the workplaces they left. Many of our clients receive phone calls 3-6 months after the employee has left, learning that these employees are willing to come back—provided the pay increases they are enjoying through the job change will be recognized and respected. This creates a difficult dilemma for the employer, who now faces inequity issues with the employees who never left. So, taking the employee back becomes a non-option, unless the organization addresses company-wide salary increases and culture. This one is a tough one. Your position on the re-hiring of a good person who left has implications beyond financial. However, your clarity and congruence regarding this position will send a powerful and necessary message internally and to the market.  
  3. During the pandemic, we made a clear effort to show that we care for the wellbeing of our teammates. We all remember the social events including tasting of wine, ice cream and cheese, we have done communal cooking and clay-pot-making classes. We remember coming on Zoom meetings in costumes or showing off the artwork of our children or our COVID-pets. Some of you may experience a bit of the “love fatigue”. I hear your “Do I have to do another check-in?” or “Do I need to go to another Zoom-social?” Let us not forget: there was incredible value in these meetings as well. You created an intradepartmental intimacy and feeling that everybody mattered. People knew that you were interested. The time invested in these touchpoints was tasking on the manager and figuring out how we stay connected in a meaningful way as we try to somehow get back to the office. Just simply abandoning these acts of care will diminish the work done over the last few years but, more importantly, compromise your integrity moving forward. Figure out how you want to stay connected. Do it with your team. Let them co-own the rhythm and the way you connect. Consider also expanding the connectivity to other teams – to crosspollinate thinking and reintroduce organic teaming and innovation. 
  4. One of the great things of coming to a new job or any new environment is that you learn so much. You get an on-boarding buddy, a mentor and you are placed in a program to learn about the organizational culture, offerings etc. If fatigue and stagnation are some of the reasons why your employees are leaving – invest in learning and development.  Your mentoring program is a powerful mechanism to be in touch with the “inner-workings” of your employee’s mind. Your managers conversations about career ambitions and ability to respond to it in a real way – through work assignments etc. Going on a course where you meet other people (like outsiders and competition) can re-invigorate the joy of part of this entity.
  5. The leadership style of today, that is connected with the employee engagement and retention includes the following attributes:
    • Lead with a clear context – the “why” matters
    • Recognize great work
    • Demonstrate trust and give autonomy
    • Ask for feedback and listen to it
    • Consult broadly, tap into the genius of people around you
    • Increase your information sharing
    • Encourage co-creation and collaboration
    • Make sure your organizational values are not just laminated posters -live them and be a culture role model

Please use your judgment to determine if these apply to your circumstances. But you get the gist of it – if you want to engage and retain your people, look in the mirror and be honest. How you led yesterday might not be good enough today… Is it time to reinvent yourself?

As always, let us keep the conversation going. Your comments and reactions are most welcome.


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