Did the Great Resignation Catch You By Surprise?

September 2, 2021 Staff Writer

In April, May, and June of this year, 11.5 million workers quit their jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. A Microsoft survey of 30,000 workers found that 41 percent overall are considering quitting:

“Recent studies indicate that it’s likely not over. A survey of over 30,000 workers conducted by Microsoft found that 41 percent are considering quitting; that number jumps to 54 percent when Gen-Z is considered alone. Gallup found that 48 percent of employees are actively searching for new opportunities. And Persio reported that 38 percent of those they surveyed planned to make a change in the next six months.” 

That’s one third of the respondents who are considering leaving their jobs. How would you respond if 30 percent of your workforce left in the next six months?

Considering the cost of turnover, that much job switching in the workplace has a real and potentially massive impact on bottom lines across industries. It has economists worried. It should have business owners worried, too.

What I’ve wondered is why anyone is surprised.

In the many unscientific, highly personalized surveys that I’ve conducted of working friends and family, I have found few people who were happy in their jobs. Everyone seemed uneasy about the company’s future goals or how long they could manage to keep their jobs. No one, except business owners, understood where they fit into larger corporate plans. The older the worker, the less comfortable they were. Transparency was a huge joke to my informal survey pool. 

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Then the pandemic hit. Staying home during shutdowns or working from home gave workers time to think about their jobs. What had them worried?

Phillip Kane, CEO and managing partner at Grace Ocean, wrote in an Inc. article:

Others [survey respondents] point to dissatisfaction, and even fear, caused by knee-jerk cost-cutting actions by their current employer in response to Covid-19-related business slowdowns as a reason for bolting, with many finding fundamental unfairness in holds on promotions, frozen merit increases, and indiscriminate layoffs which impacted poor performers and stars equally, particularly as they watched executive leadership refuse to participate in the pain. 

The Great Resignation caused so much upheaval, Kane wrote, because the “truths” that employers believed about labor markets no longer applied. Managers thought they could act without regard to repercussions – that because employees needed jobs, they would be grateful for anything.

They are wrong. Workers, it seems, are finally ready to put themselves first. Wacky perks like pool tables, toys, and mini-fridges full of energy drinks are not replacements for managers who really care about employees and who work toward making life better for everyone. Trust and transparency are necessary these days to retain good employees.

To our way of thinking, the difference between management behavior and employee expectations is a basic culture issue. We define culture as the collection of words, actions, thoughts, and “stuff” that clarifies and reinforces what is truly valued inside your organization. Perks may be nice but the ability to retain talented employees will focus on the deeper question of how much an organization values the people who work for it.

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If you’re losing employees at a high rate, it might be time to build a culture that values transparency, trust, and its employees opinions. To change your culture, however, you need to know where you are. Now might be a great time to start asking questions.

What Are Your Next Steps?

We think that a culture assessment is the logical first step to defining and nurturing your culture during radical change, particularly if you want your company to thrive. The results can act as the starting point for the critical conversations your organization needs.

Of course, you might not be ready to spearhead change yourself. If that’s the case, PROPEL is ready to help with the change part, if you need us.

As you work on your culture, you might also recognize the huge opportunity that volatility in the job market brings. More talented people are on the job market now than ever before. If you have a welcoming, supportive culture, you could attract the best and brightest to your company. Creating and sustaining a healthy culture is also the best way to keep your existing employees engaged.

We love to talk culture. Contact us to explore how creating a positive culture can help your organization.

 


Photo by Andrey Zvyagintsev

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