The latest Labor of Statistics reported in November a record number of 4.5 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs. This was on the heels of the previous Labor of Statistics Report that reported a record number of 4 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in April. This trend has been dubbed as “The Great Resignation.” As I speak with different organizations that have been affected by this trend, they usually give the same rationalization: “They can make more working for another company.”
While people need to be able to pay their bills, most motivational surveys do not have compensation in the top three motivators for people. Over the last two years of lockdowns, social unrest, and polarization, many people have thought about what is important to them and/or how they want to spend their lives. People in today’s work environment want more than just money.
Below are five of the reasons many people are leaving their jobs today and what organizations can do to start retaining these valuable employees.
- Unhealthy work culture. Managers that use the old command-and-control leadership style are not tolerated by most employees. These managers are creating a toxic work culture that can drive employees away.
What can organizations do: It is amazing how many companies know they have “bad managers” or “toxic cultures” and do nothing about it. Many organizations promote people into management without any formal leadership training process in place. Or, they have managers that never evolved to a more people-centered leadership style. Organizations should invest in training their managers on “how to” lead their teams. Then organizations should review and hold managers accountable for using their defined leadership processes and internal best practices to retain employees.
- Lack of growth opportunity. People today want to feel like they are being mentored or growing within their organization. If entry-level jobs have no growth path, employees can become disengaged and start looking for a company with more growth opportunities.
What can organizations do: An organization that I was working with mapped out cross-training for employees one week out of every month. While this is not always realistic, managers could sit down with employees to understand their goals. Every employee may not have a growth path in the position they are in but there may be other opportunities within the organization. Managers can provide cross-training, stretch assignments, coaching, and help them to become subject matter experts within the organization. Small investments in time like these will help employees see that they are learning and growing to keep them engaged.
- Increased workload. Today, many organizations expect employees to do more, better, faster, and with fewer resources than ever before. On top of that, they are short-staffed because of open positions or absenteeism causing them to continually shift more and more work on the employees that show up. While this is a short-term fix for the organization, it is adding additional stress on the employees causing many to leave.
What can organizations do: There are several different ways to address this problem. Let’s look at three of them:
- Use temp agencies. Organizations may need to look at temp agencies to help fill workforce shortages. This can also give organizations the ability to see whether the temp is someone they want to work with, or if they want to “send them back” for someone else if they don’t work out.
- Hire part-time shifts. One of my neighbors is a teacher that works 3 days a week while her co-teacher works the other 2 days. Organizations could look at hiring part-time employees that may be able to split shifts or work weeks with other part-time people. While this may not be their normal modus operandi, they could relieve stress for the full-time employees by considering this strategy.
- Set realistic customer expectations. Organizations may need to look at their project timelines and product backlog to re-adjust expectations with customers. With resources on backlog, many organizations are having to do this. It does no good to work employees into the ground so they leave. This will cause more stress on employees and make it even harder for the organization to hit future deadlines.
- Unfair recognition and reward processes. Diversity and Inclusion have been a big focus for organizations over the last couple of years. Unfortunately, many organizations have not figured out how to recognize and reward employees without making other employees feel alienated.
What can organizations do: Organizations need to move to more objective (factual data) vs. subjective (personal point of view) reward and recognition systems. This will allow for fair treatment of employees meeting goals. A simple example is when I used to get performance reviews from a prior company, I would always get “Exceeded Expectations” in every area. This was not helpful to me because it provided no areas for me to improve in. It also could have been seen as favoritism by others that did not get all “Exceeds” on their evaluations. Organizations can avoid this type of “unfair” evaluation system by using realistic quantifiable metrics for performance reviews. For example, instead of saying, “Have they met expectations?;” the review would say: “Have they completed 95% of product orders on time resulting in a minimum of a 98% acceptable quality rating?”. Achieving 100% of deadlines, and 100% quality, 100% of the time is unrealistic. In this example, it does not matter what age, gender, or ethnic background the person has, if they met the expectation they would be rewarded with the proper recognition and/or reward. If it is an increase in pay, to keep it subjective, the organizations should use defined and published pay scales for years of service and/or job titles. This will allow employees to see they are on a level playing field.
- Rigid workplace requirements. With many organizations having to quickly move their workforces online during the pandemic, it gave employees a glimpse of what it would be like to work from home. Employees also had plenty of time to think about what was important in life to them, and many wanted more work-life balance, so they decided to scale back on the time they spent at work. On top of that, many employees still do not feel safe going back to an office environment (and may never feel safe being around other people again).
What can organizations do: A neighbor of mine just resigned from her director-level position due to multiple mandates that her organization was requiring of the employees. The organization quickly approved her to work part-time remotely even though they had repeatedly told her “NO” for the same thing prior to her resignation. This indicates that organizations are being ridged of workers when they may not need to be. As I mentioned earlier, organizations may need to change their modus operandi to include “remote workers” or “flexible work schedules” to retain employees or attract new employees in the future. This is becoming even more critical if they are putting new mandated requirements on them that they do not agree with. Organizations should determine what positions can be split into multiple part-time positions or which positions could be given to remote workers.
With the Great Resignation making it even harder to find great talent, organizations need to take a more proactive approach to evaluate their turnover. Once the root causes are identified, they need to address them with the highest priority. These root causes are costing organizations in the United States billions of dollars annually. Organizations that can take steps to reduce turnover like the ones mentioned above will have a much better chance at retaining and attracting the critical talent needed to help their organization’s long-term success.
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Combating the Great Resignation: Managers Matter
February 16, 2022
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