The Great Resignation

Nick Gallimore on how to retain talent in a world of post-pandemic disengagement

Over the past eighteen months or so, the employee experience has undergone a shift the likes of which we’ve never seen. For a while, working from home became a duty rather than a privilege, with thousands of businesses desperately scrambling to facilitate remote working by migrating hurriedly to the Cloud. According to McKinsey, some sectors crammed around a decade’s worth of digital transformation into the space of just 90 days in order to keep their operations moving. This is all well and good, but such a dramatic change in working processes can take its toll on employees, and as the economy recovers many are now reflecting on their future in something that’s increasingly being referred to as ‘The Great Resignation’.

Recent research found that more than 50% of employees are currently thinking about switching jobs. With job vacancies reaching a 20-year high and employers now competing relentlessly for talent, ripples in the market are slowly beginning to turn into waves. So what’s driving it, and what can employers do about it? 

More than a pandemic aftershock
It’s convenient and tempting to dismiss The Great Resignation as a simple aftershock of the pandemic, resting on the hope that the market will correct itself over time. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to be the case. One of the small silver linings of the pandemic for many workers was that it opened up new possibilities around the idea of home working. Employees that previously never would have entertained the idea of working from home suddenly had to make it work, and many found themselves enjoying it. As a result, more than two-thirds (66%) of employers in 2021 are planning to redesign or downscale their office space to better facilitate hybrid working, and 7 in 10 employees have said they want flexible remote working options to stay permanently.

To feel engaged, staff need more than seeing several talking heads on a screen while being cc’d into various email chains

Businesses, therefore, have work to do. Not only do they need to facilitate remote working technologically, they also need to support it culturally. Different employees have different needs, conditions and ideas when it comes to home working, and it’s crucial that businesses ensure their staff are heard, looked after and supported just as they would be in the office. It’s one thing to throw tools like Slack, Yammer, Zoom and Teams into the mix and expect people to get on with it, but it’s another thing entirely to ensure positive working culture and good HR practices are preserved and maintained. 

A culture of disengagement
Gallup’s 2020 State Of The Workplace report revealed that employee disengagement results in an annual loss of more than $5 trillion dollars’ worth of productivity for businesses around the world. In this light, the disengagement crisis is a pandemic in and of itself, and it’s only likely to get harder as hybrid working and the distribution of teams becomes commonplace. To retain their staff and get the most out of them, employers need to turn their attention away from cloud migration for the facilitation of work, and instead focus more on using technology for community, inclusivity and engagement. In order to feel engaged, staff need more than seeing several talking heads on a screen while being cc’d into various email chains. They need real conversation, community and a performance management methodology that recognises their unique circumstances and tracks performance accordingly. After all, employees who feel they are listened to are five times more likely to feel confident, empowered and motivated to deliver their best work remotely. So what constitutes good performance management? 

Nurturing inclusivity and community
Tackling engagement, productivity and rising attrition is something that requires an integrated company-wide approach. Technology is key, but it needs to be about more than simply opening channels of communication via Teams or Zoom. Businesses need to set short-term and contextualised goals, basing them on KPIs that factor in the new hybrid working environment. Regular wellbeing check-ins should be prioritised just as much as they would be in the office, if not more. Team managers should be touching base with staff members individually, nipping any rising problems in the bud and ensuring that team members feel valued, comfortable and, above all, heard. 

One of the things businesses often miss is that they can leverage technology to help in the creation of an inclusive digital community. Things like mood trackers, polls and surveys can be employed to get an overall feel for employee morale. Interactive questionnaires can be distributed to get vital employee input on C-suite level decision-making, giving staff a sense of belonging, identity and ownership when it comes to the direction of the company tnd their role within it. 

Chatting around the water cooler may not be as common as it was pre-pandemic, but businesses should be working hard to replicate that same sense of camaraderie and community among their teams. Only then will they be able to stave off The Great Resignation and turn their attention to building a sustainable future.

Nick Gallimore, director of talent transformation at Advanced

Training Journal

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