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Overcoming The Great Resignation

Updated: Jan 4

The post-Covid19 workforce mass exodus, creating what is now known as The Great Resignation, has left organizations in all industries struggling to recruit and retain enough staff to effectively serve their customers.

Some have speculated what caused The Great Resignation, including employee burnout, enhanced unemployment benefits offered during the pandemic, health and safety concerns, and inadequate rates of pay. While these may have been contributing factors, I believe the main cause of The Great Resignation was a sharp increase in employee disengagement, driven by people resetting expectations of their desired working experience.

Employees’ working experience is driven by their level of engagement, which is the emotional connection they have with their job, supervisor, and organization. Historically, we have looked at employee engagement survey scores as the best predictors of employee engagement and performance, to determine if leaders are meeting their employees’ needs. The Gallup organization measures employee engagement through 12 elements of engagement referred to as the Q12. The Q12 provides a framework for how leaders can create engagement because these elements measure areas a leader can directly impact.

The Great Resignation due to employee disengagement should not be surprising. Since Gallup began measuring employee engagement in 2000, the average percent of workers not engaged in the United States has ranged between 64-74%. On top of that, workers had to navigate through significant changes at work and home during the Covid19 pandemic, which drove many of them to the brink of physical and emotional exhaustion. The pandemic also created space and time for people to reevaluate their priorities and what is important to them. And for many, having a working experience that allows them to have work/life harmony has become very important.

According to Gallup, the three most common reasons Gallup found employees to be disengaged at work were:

  1. Not seeing opportunities for development

  2. Not feeling connected to the company’s purpose

  3. Not having strong relationships at work

While increasing wages to competitive levels is very important, merely increasing wages is not enough to attract and retain top talent. Today, leaders must work towards meeting the expectations of peoples’ desired working experience. This starts with meeting their employees’ critical needs. Based upon Gallup’s Q12, I believe these are the 5 Critical Needs of every employee that leaders can impact:

1. The need to feel a sense of belonging

As humans, we are social beings. We have innate needs to relate to others and do life together. This requires knowing and being known by those we work with and being accepted by them for who we are.

2. The need to be equipped

In order to feel a sense of competence, we need to be fully equipped with access to all the supplies, equipment, systems, applications, and training necessary to be successful in our jobs. We also need to have expectations of our job duties, workplace practices, and behavioral guidelines driven by our organization's culture, clearly defined.

3. The need to be valued

We all want to feel valued by our leaders and the organization we work for. This includes having our personal qualities and skills recognized and trusted, to have autonomy, and to be empowered to do great work. We also want to feel cared for as people and not just as cogs in a machine.

4. The need to engage in meaningful work

We all want to feel a sense of fulfillment in the work we do. This is achieved by engaging in meaningful work and knowing how our work impacts our organization and the people we serve. We want to feel like we are making a difference in our organization and in doing so, making the world a better place.

5. The need to have opportunities to grow

If we are not being stretched, challenged, and grown in ways that result in personal and professional growth, complacency takes over and opens the door for employee disengagement to set in. Having opportunities to grow our skill sets and advance in our organization will positively impact our levels of engagement, satisfaction, and productivity.

Although many organizations have implemented initiatives to improve employee engagement, the impact of many of them are often short-lived because many employees perceive them as being rooted in getting more productivity out of them, rather than improving their well-being. While it is important to maximize employee productivity, leaders must be careful not to fall into the “Goose and the Golden Egg’ syndrome by prioritizing employees’ output over their well-being, or by viewing them as “human doings” rather than “human beings.” Instead, leaders need to focus on what they can do for their employees rather on what their employees can do for them.

This year I presented an educational session, “Reigniting Post-Covid Employee Engagement by Creating a High-Performance CommuniTEAM”, at several LeadingAge virtual and in-person state conferences around the country on how to initiate this workplace culture shift. To encourage you to consider this approach to recalibrating your workplace culture, I have attached a link to the video of my session here.

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