In 2020 as the pandemic raged, many businesses were forced to make excruciating decisions. Some business owners were forced to reduce pay, others were forced to lay off employees, while others were forced to shut the doors completely. During this period where fear and uncertainty weighed heavily over the populace, many people with secure careers hunkered down to weather the storm. Now, as the pandemic gets further in our rear-view mirror, and things are starting to get back to normal, professionals across an array of industries are calling it quits giving credence to the namesake; “The Great Resignation”. Why is it that only a year earlier people were holding onto their jobs, and today people are walking away in droves. Given this undeniable trend is in full effect, what should entrepreneurs and business leaders do to retain the talent they’ve worked so hard to recruit.
Understanding the Great Resignation
Employee Mindset During the Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic is without question an event that will have made its mark on everyone who’s lived through it. It reached far and wide to alter the lives of every person regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, nationality, etc. As the pandemic raged on in 2020, we saw various aspects of our society impacted in significant ways on the daily. With daily infection and death records seemingly being broken day in and day out it seemed less clear as events unfolded when we would see some form of a peak or a plateau? Frustratingly, we did see several peaks only to be followed by a surge in numbers that made us wish for the numbers that freaked us out only a month before.
Furthermore, a global pandemic was not all that we had to worry about in 2020. Every time we turned on the news we were met with atrocity after atrocity.
Here’s Just a Few Low-Lights of 2020
- Australia caught on fire
- Political divide in the US
- Death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Alton Sterling, and too many more
- The worst recession in US history
- Harvey Weinstein
- Tensions with Iran
- Death of Kobe Bryant
- Murder Hornets
The bottom line is that 2020 was a multifaceted crucible of fear and anxiety that uniformly took a toll on mental health. Throughout all this uncertainty, if you had a job/career, you held onto it.
Employee Mindset in the Post Pandemic World
As we rolled the odometer moving from 2020 to 2021 there was still much to be concerned about. However, largely thanks to an effective and safe vaccine for the pandemic (I wish that we had a vaccine for the aforementioned items) the overwhelming and pervasive sense of fear and anxiety is receding. As these clouds roll back people are emerging changed. The consistent presence of fear and uncertainty have impressed upon all of us that life is short, life is fragile, and we only have one shot.
Effectively, many people have felt something akin to a “wake up call” and are approaching life with the new outlook and point of view. Yes, their job is secure, and it pays the bills, but are they really happy? Do they derive joy from their 2-hour commute? Do they feel appreciated by their coworkers and leaders? Do they feel a sense of fulfillment from their work? Is what they’re doing with their time in alignment with their purpose and passion? The answer of “no” is coming back in resounding abundance, and thus you have “The Great Resignation” amongst employees with secure, and high paying careers.
Work used to be about paying bills, buying things, increasing prestige, etc. Now, people are aware more than ever as to the importance of their time and aligning it with something more deeply rooted in deep satisfaction, meaning, and fulfillment.
The Best Strategy to Retain Talent
Given the “higher order” of needs many are pursuing with their careers compared against the traditional or status quo hallmarks of success, business owners and business leaders must form appropriate strategies to retain the talent they’ve worked so hard to requit. The simplest question that entrepreneurs and business leaders need to address is as follows….
How can I/we help employees find joy, satisfaction, fulfillment, and purpose in their work?
The Macro Answer | Autonomy & Agency
The macro answer as to how entrepreneurs and business leaders need to frame their thinking about retaining talent through the great recession can be found within two simple words: autonomy & agency.
Autonomy: a self-governing state
Effectively, we’re talking about some very basic human principles here. These people leaving the same good paying jobs that the clung to only a few months ago want their lives to matter. They don’t want to be a drone doing the same mindless work that offers no impression of tangible impact. They are seeking some deeper meaning to what they do and how they spend their time, and status quo will simply not cut it for many of them. With this in mind, here are four specific angles entrepreneurs and business leaders need consider if they want to keep their top talent by providing Autonomy and Agency.
Power to Author Their Narrative Part 1 | Control
What we’re talking about here is the fundamental principle of one having control of their destiny. We are all living our own lives and we want to have some control on where we go and what we do. Empower your employees with the ability to have a say in how they spend their time and energy relative to achieving their job
Power to Author Their Narrative Part 2 | Aspirational Future
As your employees what they want to do and where they want to go within your company. Really listen to them and work with them to shape what this future looks like. Then create an attainable path to help them achieve this plan. Invite them into the story and you will connect them with an aspirational state of what they can be.
Power to Work Where They Want
For most of us we’ve crossed the line of working from home vs. working within an office and we’ve realized it really is possible. Given this is the case many people are thinking thoughts such as
“Wait, I don’t really have to spend two hours of my day commuting to and from an office.”
“Why am I living in this area when where I really want to live is ______________?”
Give them freedom, within reason, to live where they want to live, and/or consider a continuation of remote working if that meets the employee’s desire. In any case, what you’re really looking to do is give your people a choice in the matter rather than exerting an authoritarian mandate over them.
Power to Work When They Want
For some jobs it’s a requirement to work certain hours. If you’re in sales or customer service, you need to revolve your schedule around the schedule of your clients. However, there are some jobs or task within a job that are not directly reliant upon standard office hours. Again, give your people more of a choice as to when they perform their job functions so long as those core job functions get done.
The Wrap Up
As the US continues to deal with the great recession, the most important thing for leaders to do is learn how to retain their top talent. Giving your employees autonomy and agency at work will not only help them find joy in what they’re doing but it may also drive sales for you as well! There are many ways that companies can provide these two things: Power over narrative; Aspirational future; Freedom of where they live or remotely working; Flexible hours. Find out which tip would be best suited for your company and give the people who make up your team a choice on how they want to spend their time during this challenging economic period. Remember, your people are so much more than a means to and end for you and your company. They are people with their own lives, their own families, hopes, dreams, and ambitions. By giving them agency and autonomy, you’re giving them choice and freedom. You are creating an opportunity to connect what they do with their own unique higher purpose.
As a premium consulting firm one of our greatest pleasures is helping connect entrepreneurs and business leaders with the higher order of their employee’s needs. The results are all too often astounding when you align what someone does with their purpose, passion, and who they want to become.