The ‘Great Resignation of 2022’ is on the tip of every organisational HR tongue, but will it actually happen here? The trend that started in the US last year has now been felt in many countries around the world and it is increasingly likely that Australia and New Zealand will be impacted.
In the US, April 2021 saw many workers resigning from jobs and going to work for the competition. Organisations like Amazon are now losing more than one-third of their workers annually, placing greater pressure on employers to ramp up hiring efforts.
In Tim Sackett’s article Why 2022 could be the year of the Great Retention (oracle.com), he suggests that whilst 2021 could be described as the “Great Reshuffling”, in 2022 we’re likely to see even greater numbers of employees deciding to move. So, organisations and leaders need to act now to stem this tide and find new ways to hold onto their best people.
We’ve seen a seismic change in the past two years and for many of us, this has been a highly reflective period. Important choices are being made about what we want from life and work. Importantly, we’ve been reassessing what we don’t want in our working lives. High on the list of things many of us don’t want, is to go back to tightly controlled work patterns and times.
Like it or not, the demand for workplace flexibility is here to stay. Employees in roles that can be performed from home have proven they can be highly productive under flexible arrangements. Organisations and leaders who are not onboard and back-peddle on flexibility commitments are likely to lose good people.
Newer industries (e.g. technology, fintech companies), operate very differently from traditional organisations, offering attractive Employee Value Propositions, investing in technology, being more purpose-driven, having younger leaders and innate flexibility in their DNA. In these sectors, we’re seeing some very bold offerings to employees, such as the option to work from home indefinitely.
Dr Ben Harmer (Post | LinkedIn) shares that some US organisations have seen massive spikes in resignations, after mandating a return to work three days per week. Josh Bersin (Post | LinkedIn) cites data showing that 50% of employees in the US are willing to forgo as much as 5% of their pay for the option to work at home. And whilst 70% of leaders want their teams back in the office, less than 40% of line workers feel the same. There are exceptions of course but given more than 45% of employees are currently working remotely, changing jobs can be as simple as getting a new email address. This is certainly not a time for complacency.
So what’s the likelihood Australia and New Zealand will experience similar trends? It’s not entirely clear, but we’re already seeing indications of hiring difficulties and a squeeze on finding and retaining great talent across many industries. Couple that with the increasing likelihood of real wage inflation for the first time in many years and there certainly is cause for concern here at home too.
And even with the right working arrangements in place, if organisational culture is not supportive and conducive to making people want to stay, they will likely leave. Bersin talks about employees migrating from “crummy jobs” to “better jobs”, and from “companies who don’t seem to care” to companies who demonstrate they “really really care.” (From The Great Resignation To The Great Migration – JOSH BERSIN)
So, the challenge for leaders is how to create and maintain a positive working culture and ensure that employees feel cared for and valued in this fragmented, hybrid virtual world. We can’t afford to be passive about culture and the drivers of employee engagement have shifted to include greater emphasis on things like a sense of wellbeing, aligning with purpose and meaning, and organisational reputation.
The good news is there are many things we can do right now, to get ahead of a possible Great Resignation curve. In Tim Sackett’s article, he makes an important observation, that whilst we’ve all got used to working in a crisis, it’s not just about having mechanisms and benefits to help hold onto great people. It’s also about ensuring we have a robust and positive workplace culture that supports and helps them thrive.
So what do we need to do? The first step is to know your culture – what does it feel like to work in your organisation. Workplace culture often happens by default, but organisational leaders have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to shape and design positive culture. Here are three simple areas of focus to do that:
Whilst we can easily blame the likelihood of a ‘Great Resignation of 2022’ on the pandemic effects of COVID-19, perhaps future wage inflation, or even new competitors into the war for talent, there are many strategic and deliberate actions you can take today to super-charge your workplace culture and boost your organisation’s ability to hold onto your best people in a post-COVID world!
At Steople we specialise in supporting you to build your positive workplace culture and ensure it is most conducive to retaining the best people, in order to achieve your strategy and support strong business growth. If you would like to know more about how we can help you, please contact us today to discuss your individual needs.
“Is wellbeing a fad?”
We were asked this question recently and our instinctive response was “We hope not!”. Not given how much positive change we have seen come about through the recent focus on wellbeing. But, thinking more about it, it’s a fair question. Wellbeing/wellness programs and initiatives have popped up like mushrooms all over workplaces – and in some quarters, this could feel a little like ‘jumping on the bandwagon’. But our true response is a firm no – that like many other ‘themes’ of recent times (diversity, psychological safety, even engagement), wellbeing is an essential ingredient in creating a workplace culture where people do their best work, are creative and innovative, collaborate effectively and perform sustainably at a high level to meet organisational objectives.
There probably are people within organisations addressing wellbeing as a fad, perhaps implementing a few ‘lunch ‘n’ learns’, supporting a ‘get fit’ campaign and encouraging healthy eating at work. Nothing wrong with any of that, but they are unlikely to achieve lasting change in behaviour. Or, for that matter, any of the desirable outcomes from seeing a real uplift in wellbeing – such as reduced absenteeism, increased engagement, innovation and retention, and sustainable high productivity and performance. (If you are yet to be convinced that these are the outcomes that investment in wellbeing can bring, then please ask and we can guide you to the evidence). That’s because these programs, by and large, are not very ‘sticky’ – and, without fundamental shifts in how the leadership of the organisation engages with wellbeing, are doomed to under-achieve, if not fail.
For wellbeing to stick, and for organisations to see the benefits, it needs to be embedded in the expectations and behaviour of all leaders.
We all know that initiatives in organisations have to be supported from the top to stand a chance of getting off the ground, surviving and achieving their objectives. With wellbeing, we would like to see this go one stage further – indeed, we believe this is fundamental to realising the cultural shifts required to truly embed wellbeing.
It’s time to view wellbeing as an essential leadership capability.
Organisations expect leaders to have well-developed skills in people leadership, emotional intelligence, stakeholder relationships, strategic thinking, problem-solving and so on. In this day and age, shouldn’t we also expect leaders to be capable of developing wellbeing?
And by developing wellbeing, we mean:
Here is our attempt at a fuller definition of ‘enabling wellbeing’, and we offer this up as a gift to stimulate your minds on what might work in your own organisation: “Making purposeful and well-informed choices to optimise wellbeing for self and others, role-modelling wellbeing as a priority, embedding reliable disciplines and influencing positive change in the system for others.”
To make wellbeing an essential skill, it needs to be documented within your organisation’s frameworks and integrated into performance reviews.
We propose you:
Leaders who role-model and prioritise the wellbeing skills and behaviours taught to them will become an organisation’s most powerful enablers of improved employee wellbeing and all the possible benefits that come with it. But it’s only strong leadership, behavioural and cultural change driven by wellbeing data that will deliver.
During a weekly team meeting at Company Zed, LaTonya, an employee who has worked for the company for nine months, questioned one of the company’s normal operating processes. She offered an idea that she believed would meet the same goal while saving the company time and money. After discussing and researching the idea, Company Zed was able to implement the new process, which resulted in a savings of both time and money. Meanwhile, at Company Alpha’s team meeting, a long-term employee had a similar time-and-money-saving idea but refrained from bringing her idea up for discussion. As a result, Alpha continued to engage in their normal process.
What differentiates these companies and results in Zed’s high level of teamwork and ability to solve complex problems? The employee at Company Alpha appears concerned with impression management. It is likely that her past experiences or the company’s culture has taught this employee that she is safer to withhold her thoughts, questions, or concerns. In doing so, Alpha does not learn as a team, improve the organization, or engage in innovation.
The employee at Zed appears to feel safe voicing her idea, even though it calls for the company to make a change to operations. Given the employee’s willingness to voice her opinion, Company Zed appears to have a higher level of psychological safety than Alpha. Psychological safety is the belief that an individual will not be humiliated or punished for being curious, offering an idea, questioning the status quo, or admitting to a mistake.
To be competitive and successful in business today, teams must be able to develop cooperative relationships and solve complex problems. Research indicates that teams with high levels of psychological safety are more likely to be open-minded, creative, curious, confident, social, humorous, persistent, and to feel more comfortable speaking frankly about ideas, concerns, questions, and mistakes. Teams high in psychological safety report that their work environment feels challenging but not threatening, which allows members to feel comfortable expressing vulnerability in front of a group of peers. The ability to engage in vulnerability-inducing behaviour encourages moderate levels of risk-taking and strategic development of solutions to complex problems.
Teams high on psychological safety also exhibit differences in their brain chemistry. Specifically, teams with high levels of psychological safety have increased levels of Oxytocin, which has been called the “love hormone.” Oxytocin levels affect how we bond with and trust others. In team environments, increased levels of Oxytocin lead to more trust, openness, and the ability to manage conflict, which results in improved team performance.
Increasing your company’s level of psychological safety may provide the competitive advantage that will continue to differentiate your company from your competitors. Please let us know if you need assistance with implementing strategies to increase psychological safety.