Power is a word that makes a lot of people uncomfortable… one that is frequently linked with those in positions of authority and control. But it need not have negative connotations and is especially relevant when you consider the power shift that has occurred in the world of work. 2022 is proving to be the Year of the Employee (Forbes), the Year of the Worker (The Economist) with a heightened emphasis on the employee experience to mitigate the Great Resignation.
Is it, however, the Great Resignation or the Great Reawakening that we are witnessing? More of the latter is what I suggest. Few could have predicted that the greatest health crisis of our time would yield so much change and reactivity as employers and employees come to terms with new realities. And why have millions of workers decided to change their vocation during a time of great uncertainty?
The answers are not as complex as you may think.
First, the pandemic served as the main catalyst for employees to reclaim their purpose and power. Disengagement and rising concern over toxic workplace cultures influenced many workers’ decisions to simply quit when they witnessed or experienced layoffs, a lack of support, communication, and clear direction at a time when they needed it most.
When the pandemic began, Amanda was working as a manager at one of San Diego’s five-star hotel properties. After twenty-four years of employment, she was told via email that her services would no longer be required. Like many sectors, hospitality was hit hard by the pandemic and Amanda knew that business would drop significantly. What struck me was the way she was terminated. For many years, Amanda worked with a senior leader who acknowledged every team member personally, prioritizing connection by spending one-on-one time with each person. She told me that the leader who replaced him preferred electronic communication and didn’t take the same interest in her. Consequently, things were never the same for Amanda or her colleagues.
Values drive decisions
Amanda’s experience profoundly impacted the trajectory of her career. Employees like Amanda who are either laid off or who choose to leave are evaluating their life purpose and aligning their values to guide their next work/life movements. The Barrett Values Centre, a Global firm renowned for developing assessments that determine the degree to which human needs are met in the workplace, identified notable values shifts in their in pre-and mid pandemic surveys. For example, when participants were asked in 2020: What (top ten) values mean the most to you personally? respondents noted: Making a difference, adaptability, well-being and caring as four values that replaced honesty, respect, trust and integrity, noted in 2019. Continuous learning and family ranked as #1 and #2 respectively during 2020, moving up from positions #8 and #5 in 2019.
Additionally, as a result of this values shift and change in employee lifestyle preferences, companies have been pushed to respond. Hybrid workplaces are now thriving while the fabric of organizational cultures evolves accordingly. In a post-pandemic world, leaders who demand that their employees return to work won’t be able to stem the flow of discontent, mass resignations and talent shortages. Future Forum’s latest global Pulse study highlights the following insights: 55% of knowledge workers prefer to work fewer than three days a week in the office and full-time in-office workers are the least satisfied with their working arrangement.” The study also notes that “an organization’s flexible work plans have a significant impact on employee experience scores.”
Companies that offer greater flexibility regarding work arrangements, including the opportunity to work remotely, are ideally placed to attract talent, increase overall job satisfaction and stem the flow of resignations.
Purpose over Paycheck
To say that all workplaces are not created equal is an oversimplification. Many people do work for the pay check. Receiving financial compensation in exchange for performing work makes perfect sense if we are going to sustain ourselves and our families. Over the years I have had many discussions with leaders and teams about whether people simply show up because they have to (if they wish to be paid), or whether there is a deeper reason. Some have fervently argued that it’s only about the paycheck. I disagree.
When the employee/employer relationship is purely transactional, the work is void of meaning. Conversely, when a manager clearly articulates the purpose of a task or project and demonstrates the value of the individual’s contribution, the task or project takes on greater meaning. Millennials and Generation Z are attracted to businesses and employers whose values are in sync with theirs. The 2020 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey Executive Summary aptly captured the long-term aspirations for both employers and their workforce: “The organizations that can make the future brighter for millennials and Gen Zs stand to have the brightest futures themselves.” To my mind, adopting and fully embracing this concept would be a powerful antidote to the Great Resignation.
The Great Reawakening necessitates a new approach for leadership. Your workforce wants flexibility, room to be creative, to be challenged, ultimately, to know that what they are doing is making a difference. Increasing your understanding regarding their perspectives, career aspirations, and expectations means you will achieve higher levels of success with your talent management strategies.
When you are committed to learning more about the values, needs, and desires of your current and next generation of talent, you will be ideally positioned to not only mitigate the impact of the Great Resignation, but also to create the type of organization that reflects what is important to your employees.
Post Script: About Amada
Amanda is now happily working for a great company. She loves her job and is appreciated by her managers and clientele alike. Amanda is grateful to have found a vocation that offers her the opportunity to use her skills, while having the flexibility in her work schedule to enjoy her five grandchildren.
For more information about how to book Michelle and have her present her latest keynote: Leading in Real Time: How to Be Ready, Responsive and Relevant in a Radically Changing World, please contact her here