Is your company ready for the “Great Resignation”? Anthony Klotz, associate management professor at Texas A&M University, coined the phrase during an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek and predicts that people who stayed put during the uncertainty of the pandemic are getting ready to jump ship. A study by Microsoft found that 41% of the global workforce would consider leaving their current employer within the next year.
Why the discontent? It’s the perfect storm, says Shahar Erez, CEO of the freelance talent platform Stoke.
“The Great Resignation is propelled by three forces: the changing generation, the economic crisis, and the realization people have had that they can have a different social contract, spending more time with family when they work remote and skip the commute,” he says.
Freelancers often landed on their feet during the downturn of the pandemic. “They had built and nurtured a network and were able to hit the ground running,” says Erez. “They had the skills, structure, and internal DNA to fit themselves into the changing landscape. Employees who were let go were like deer staring in headlights. Many didn’t know how to find a job in the new marketplace.”
Erez says employees realized during the pandemic that there is no such thing as job security. “They realized being stuck to a single employer is not the best advice,” he says. “They don’t want to rely on performance reviews and pay raises. They want to take control of their own future.”
Employees are also seeking more rewarding work, adds Cassie Whitlock, head of human resources for the talent management software platform BambooHR. “Many have lost a sense of connection to the workplace,” she says. “Even if they’re getting time with their manager, we discovered they’re having fewer interactions, and the quality of those interactions is diminished. They’re not having a feeling of genuine connection. They feel less seen, recognized, and appreciated.”
During the pandemic, many employees reassessed what they want from their personal and work lives. But instead of accepting an onslaught of two-week notices, companies can reengage employees and plan for the inevitable.
Offer Flexible Arrangements
Companies that dictate that all employees must return to the office are at the greatest risk of losing them, says Whitlock.
“Employees are asking employers to continue to work remotely,” she says. “They’ve just done it for a year, and it worked. They’ll want to know why it can’t work going forward. If you do require employees to return, you’d better have a compelling case.”
Redefining the office can help determine the best place to get work done, adds Whitlock. “The office is good for training, connection, and learning,” she says. “During the pandemic, we all learned that the office is not the only place where great work happens. Provide employees with choices to select the work environments that give them the best support in their work and for their personal life.”
Develop Your Management Team
Employees don’t quit companies; they quit bosses. As a result, senior leaders need to take a close look at their frontline managers.
“They spend the most time with employees, and they make or break an organization’s goals, objectives, and outcomes,” says Whitlock. “They carry the water. Invest in growing mangers to make sure you have the quality and caliber you want.”
Connect Employees to Your Mission, Vision, and Values
Organizations need a clearly stated purpose and goal they’re driving toward, and each employee should know how they fit into the bigger picture, says Whitlock.
“You need to be great at telling stories in your organization,” she says. “How are you making a difference? And are you sharing those successes with team members to help them feel good about the goals and outcomes you’re driving?”
While a job is a fair exchange of work for pay, bigger outcomes tap into the hearts and passions of team members. “Today, it’s less about earning a paycheck and more about making a difference in the world,” says Whitlock.
Share your mission, vision, and values with potential candidates, too. “Your employer brand is your external experience, and your talent brand is the internal experience,” says Whitlock. “The two should combine in the social media space.”
For example, measure and share outcomes in town hall meetings, company newsletters, on your website, and through your online presence. “It’s important to be authentic,” says Whitlock. “Pick things that are true to you. You do your best when you’re running your race and not someone else’s.”
Fill the Gaps with Freelance Talent
Employers also need to realize that the landscape is changing. Many optimize hiring employees who will stick around as long as possible, but talent is looking for something different, says Erez.
“Creating fun days in the office and perks like all the chocolate you can eat isn’t going to get people to stay,” he says. “It goes much deeper than that. Freelancers want to work part-time or on two projects for two companies. You’ll see a lot of the top talent going down that path.”
Start the conversation about creating a blended workforce with some full-time people and other independent contractors. You may even be able to retain some of your talent as independent contractors.
As people move toward work/life integration, organizations that support them will be in the best position to retain their workforce. “Employees now know you don’t have to give up one for the other to be better,” says Whitlock. “Organizations have an opportunity to step up and bring everyone together. Continue building on the good things that have come out of the pandemic. Our personal lives are deeply infused into our business interactions. Don’t just turn it off.”