For months, the so-called Great Resignation has been looming over business leaders. Post-pandemic employees are rethinking life and work and some are heading for the doors for more fulfilling opportunities. The upheaval has largely been portrayed as a negative. But the reality is that it’s an opportunity: call it a “Great Realignment,” in which people and organizations redefine who they are.
It’s a once-in-a-generation moment for organizations to reassess and reinforce the glue that keeps them together: their values. To ensure their organizations come out of this disruption stronger, leaders must look back at the last 18 months and consider where they might have strayed. It’s easy to follow your stated values when things are going well—it’s when they are under pressure during a crisis that the true priorities of an organization come to the surface.
Related: Is there really a Great Resignation?
Values for organizations exist to define collective behavior and inform its ways of working, and that behavior has a direct impact on retaining and attracting the right people. The Great Realignment isn’t just a reallocation of individuals, it’s an opportunity for business leaders to reflect on their values and update them moving forward. Here are five actions you can take to start:
A pandemic redux
A lot has happened in the last 18 months, and many organizations have found themselves doing things differently out of necessity—only to realize that they preferred the new ways of working. It’s only natural that after a period of great disruption new perspectives and values take root while preexisting ones are left behind. Reflect on what matters to you and your teams, and how that’s changed since March 2020. Think about what your own takeaways have been and how your values have shifted as a result. Maybe it’s a newfound respect for working parents, the joy of an in-person brainstorm or even the benefits of ditching the long commute. The more concisely you define what matters to you, the more easily you can bring on board like-minded people that together make these values a reality.
Be clear, consistent, and proud of your values
There’s nothing worse than a set of organizational values that try to cover all bases—the muddle won’t attract top talent, nor provide current employees with the clarity they need to know if they’re trying to decide whether to stay or go. You’re likely to lose people that you might not have otherwise. Spending time to clearly articulate what you stand for (and what you don’t), and then proactively communicating is key to making the Great Realignment a positive force of change for your organization.
Walk the walk
Employees are hyper-aware of the signals coming from leaders and they evaluate both the policies and values their bosses have put in place—and the actions they take. As a leader, you need to ask yourself whether your own behavior matches the stated set of values. Don’t be surprised to find a mismatch. The point is to use this to update your values and make “walking the walk” something that comes naturally. The goal is progress, not perfection.
Make one-on-one connections
People are tired. They are stressed, maybe even burnt out. Their tanks are drained. So, feeling like your organization cares for you at a human level—not just as a productive cog in a machine—has never been more important. This Great Realignment has made engaging with your existing employees more important than ever. Start by devoting time for one-on-one chats, set up anonymous surveys to gather data, and conduct group discussions to review how values are applied in the company. It’s also important to be completely honest with your teams about how you and the company as a whole, have lived up to the values. Being vulnerable in this way is extremely powerful to build trust.
Quantify and track your performance
We often think that values are qualitative and so can’t be measured. I disagree. For instance, if one of your values centers on having happy teams, you can track the results from employee NPS scores or Glassdoor reviews. “What gets measured gets managed” is even true for values. Platforms like Lattice, CultureAmp, and Leapsome can help gather and track employee satisfaction across key value dimensions over time—just like you do for customers. And make sure your head of people has a seat at the table and 1:1 time with you as a leader. Push them to bring you data, analysis and recommendations that use your company values as strategic objectives. After all, why do the hard work of defining them if you won’t see whether they are being met?