Rising inflation and a shrinking economy have pushed “The Great Resignation” off front pages and on corporate agendas, but make no mistake: the movement born in the COVID-19 crisis is always here, despite economic turmoil still strong .
More than 4 million people have quit their jobs every month this year, bringing the total number of layoffs to more than 71 million, and surveys show the trend is not abating. If anything, the new economic uncertainty and insecurity only increases the urgency – for workers thinking about making a change before circumstances worsen and for employers trying to retain talent in what remains a tight labor market.
Leaders who don’t want to try to weather a recession while bleeding talent need to understand what’s driving this movement, which Mike Clementi, EVP/CHRO Global Markets & Organization Transformation at Unilever, has dubbed “The Great Exploration”: the COVID-19 pandemic both forced people to reassess their personal and professional lives and showed them that alternative, more flexible ways of working and living are possible. The result is that millions of people are continually exploring their priorities and ways to achieve them. Far from ending these trips, the faltering economy spurs them on. But resignation is only one end of this process. When companies accept the fact that we’re exploring what’s really important in our lives, they can get to a different end — or no end at all. In other words, quitting is not an anticipated goal in this journey, but the result of a moment that many may have misunderstood.
In fact, a Pew Research Center poll found that feeling disrespected at work is the second most cited “top reason” people quit their jobs. A FlexJobs survey found that “toxic culture” was the top motive for employees to leave the company, with 6 of the top 7 reasons given being related to employee experience. “The truth is, now more than ever, employees expect companies to offer more than just a job,” said Alexi Robichaux, CEO and co-founder of BetterUp, the human transformation company and inventor of virtual coaching. “They believe employers need to take responsibility and provide the tools to improve wellbeing, particularly in relation to supporting a resilient workforce, development and learning and performance. Leaders need to inspire their people to do what matters most to them and what will help their people and organizations thrive.”
The good news is that employers face a simple question: how can they make their employees feel respected? Start with the question! Help your employees rediscover your company by actively rediscovering she — and in the process make them co-creators of a culture where they can participate in the Great Exploration without having to or wanting to leave. With the help of Shadi Bastani, a clinical therapist and faculty member at the Greenlight Research Institute, we’ve compiled a list of questions companies can ask their employees to help facilitate this process. We have divided it into three categories:
Get involved again. The first step is to create a dialogue that encourages your employees to share what motivates them, gives them meaning and builds their energy. Instead of resisting their grand exploration, sponsor them by guiding them through the kind of re-evaluation they naturally engage in anyway. And make it clear that you’re interested in them as a whole person, not just on the office side.
- Let’s discuss and prioritize what’s most important to you: work-life balance, the bandwidth to work on passion projects, home needs, further education – or something else entirely?
- What about your current role gives you energy? What about your current role drains your energy?
- Think of a time or job when you thrived professionally: what ingredients went into that situation?
- What gives you passion and meaning – professionally or privately? How can we maximize this together?
recruit new. Think of the time and money spent recruiting new employees and the resources required to onboard and bring them up to speed. How much more efficient would it be to conserve your most valuable resource—your employees—so you don’t have to replenish them? Understand that the pandemic and tight labor market have reset workers’ expectations, treat them like you’re competing with everyone else for their services – because you are. Find out what would make them confident that they are already where they can thrive.
- What do you appreciate most about your current work situation?
- What boundaries could we set together to protect and sustain your energy—and what most often drives you to push those boundaries? What could you sacrifice to better meet those limits?
- What would make the biggest difference for you in your job right now – and what would you be willing to give up for it?
- What are your core values and how do they align with your work? How can we better align them to help you bring your best self to the job?
- What is the greatest lesson you have learned about your work in your life?
Re-enter and realign. Reintroduce your employees to the company and vice versa. Drill down to find out how your structure empowers and energizes them, and get a fresh look at how their unique talents can uplift those around them. See how your organization—policies, systems, and practices—aligns with your people and where you can adjust them to create a better match. Ideally, with this process you build the emotional intelligence of your entire organization, thereby strengthening your employees’ inner resilience and connection to themselves. Smart leaders understand that the Great Exploration enables their employees to find happiness through self-actualization – their personal and professional Exploiting potential – and accepting this process.
- What is the strongest force pulling you away from us – and what can we do to mitigate it? What will success look like?
- Where and how would you like to develop personally or professionally? And how can we help you achieve that?
- What policies or practices help us be the best employer we can be—and what’s standing in our way?
- How can we turn this into a continuous dialogue? How can we build an inclusive culture together and ensure we maximize your talent and energy with business value to drive results?
While we may not be able to avoid The Great Resignation entirely, we are able to make it a major turning point for our organizations. All it takes is active listening and engagement. These questions will set you on the right path, the rest is up to you.