As the pandemic starts to subside, one in four workers plans to look for a new job. The reasons for the ensuing exodus are wide-ranging, but the huge market for talent has given employees the upper hand as employers call them back to the office.
Now that workers have enjoyed the ability to work remotely for more than a year, they aren’t clamoring to go back to the workplace fulltime. Many are unwilling to give up their newfound autonomy and flexibility. A survey of American workers has found that 68 percent believe the ability to work both remotely and at the office is the ideal model. But even at companies who are planning a hybrid work model, the urge to jump ship runs deep.
One motive for wanting to find a new job may come down to disenchantment with the way company leadership responded to the pandemic. Corporate response to the coronavirus exposed leaders’ true characters and their crisis-management styles. If they put their company’s financial health ahead of their employees’ health and safety it could have repercussions for those who hold their employers to a high standard of social responsibility. Today’s workers seek empathetic leaders. Four out of five surveyed said that they’d consider leaving a current employer for a more empathetic one.
The pandemic also made workers rethink their career paths. Without the meaningful bonds and social interactions of the office, their jobs were whittled down to the task itself and some found it lacking. Stress and burnout increased for workers juggling work and home life responsibilities while the country was in lockdown. Workers were confronted with the reality that life is short, and many made up their minds to find work that’s satisfying at a company whose mission aligns with their values.
This threat of an ensuing mass departure challenges leaders in the coming post-pandemic era to create a more empathetic culture and accommodate flexible work models — while at the same time managing the company’s recovery from the pandemic.
To reduce the flight risk of your valued employees, consider making these overhauls to your workplace culture:
- Listen to your workers.Give employees a voice in how the future of the company will look. Ask their preferences regarding working remotely versus on-site. Query their impressions of the corporate culture and where they wish to see improvements. Challenge employees to come up with suggestions for specific policies, along with any other useful tactics for inviting insights from staff. Show you value your workers’ input by describing ways in which the company has incorporated the feedback.
- Focus on the employee experience.Retaining top talent requires more than offering an extensive benefits package of unlimited vacation, access to wellness programs, and the like. Today’s workers crave autonomy and flexibility. They long to be empowered to exercise their talents and skills, and they chafe at imposed unnecessary demands. Trust their ability to complete assignments and give their best, and they will deliver. If not, you then have cause to intercede.
- Make work fun.Introduce regular team huddles to discuss work priorities, troubleshoot obstacles, and ensure team members feel like an integral part of your office community. Get creative. Consider producing internal podcaststo occasionally take the place of over-used Zoom or Teams meetings. Interview a manager about a hobby, provide cross-departmental updates, or introduce a new initiative in a fun format.
- Show authentic appreciation to workers.Everyone deserves to feel valued in his or her role. Provide positive feedback, invest in staff training to expand skills, reward accomplishments, and be sure to say “Thank you” whenever it’s merited. Don’t overlook the support staff that have a hand in making the successes possible. Ways of showing gratitude can include taking staffers to an in-person sporting event (remember those?), throwing a morale-boosting picnic, or even just writing appreciative emails. You really can’t say “Thank you” often enough.
- Put play into work.Make a point of injecting fun into work life — regardless of whether it’s remote or in the workplace. For an upcoming Zoom staff meeting, ask participants to choose a background that has special meaning to them — where they wish they could be, where they honeymooned, where they grew up — and invite them to share the story behind their choice. Learning more about your colleagues’ life stories brings everyone on staff closer. Inject a spirit of competition, such as inviting nominations for the best example of carrying out the company mission. Offer a valuable prize to spur participation.
If high employee turnover occurs as predicted, all may not be to the complete detriment of your organization. It can present an opportunity to recruit innovative thinkers, reshuffle teams, reassess organizational policies, and realign goals. The challenge, though, is to retain the best workers on your team.
For the past year and a half, the pandemic shrunk our working world. Now through creativity, empathy, and a spirit of fun, it’s time to stretch our working world again.