The Great Resignation’s Fallout: What Happens Next?

Inc. recently published an article on the Great Resignation, or “The Big Quit” as they aptly named it. So many companies and HR teams are focused on the immediate needs before us: filling jobs as so many people resign and leave. But, what happens next?

This article was a good reminder for us all to be looking one or more steps ahead of what’s happening right now. To help bring some clarity to the chaos, we dug into a few key insights from what our clients are seeing as a result of the Great Resignation, and what this might mean for what happens next for organizations that are wanting to hire and retain a workforce.

It’s an Employee’s Market
The employment market pendulum periodically swings from employers to employees and back again. Right now we are in an Employee Market. Employees have the power and are demanding changes to improve many aspects of their work environments. The result is employers will need to listen, adapt, and ultimately change the way they engage with their employees.

During times like this, successful employers generally adjust and evolve to be better. Employers will continue to find new and creative ways to engage and retain their people. Executives will begin to partner better with their Human Resource leaders to create innovative strategies to keep talent. Supply and demand will force companies to recognize their employees as one of their most important assets.

In today’s world, engaged and happy employees are what successful companies are built on regardless of the maturity of a company’s automation efforts. We currently have half of the workforce with significantly more revenue than we had when I started working at People Element 15 years ago. That change is a result of technology, automation, and innovation. However, I would say our people are even more critical to our future success than they were 15 years ago.

Automation Evolution
The human to technology automation evolution has been going on for many years and has been primarily driven by a desire to increase efficiency and profitability. That said, there is no doubt that other factors come along that slow down or speed up this evolution. I would argue that the 2007 recession slowed the evolution in some ways because talented labor was temporarily accessible and inexpensive and automation innovation became a lower priority for investment.

While there has been significant investment in automation over the last decade, I have no doubt that the great resignation will further accelerate the investment in this area, especially with unemployment projected to return to record lows. In short, whether you like the outcomes of this evolution or not, it is inevitable, and the great resignation will undoubtedly accelerate the process, at least in the near term.

Personally, I think efficiency and innovation are worthy goals to work toward for any organization. However, we continue to downplay the unintended consequences of the negative impact this innovation, speed, efficiency, information accessibility, or tech based “social” interaction have on our mental health and overall societal fabric. While we will continue to leverage technology, automation and new innovations to make our organizations more productive, we need to leverage humans to find ways to ensure all of these innovative solutions don’t cause irreparable damage to our people. We need people to do the work machines can’t do.

Manage Your Teams During the Great Resignation
If you’re looking to build a better, healthier organization and mitigate turnover, we’ve learned a thing or two through our work with clients at People Element. Might I suggest a few things we’ve seen that will help significantly during this season of mass resignations:

Give your employees a voice.
I was in a meeting yesterday with our leadership team to discuss our 2022 people strategy. We had good and even great ideas for some of the agenda items like professional development and well-being. Every time I attempted to push our team to make a decision and move forward, they pushed back and suggested we ask our employees for input. Seems like something that should be natural for me but I can get caught up in wanting to make a quick decision and move forward without collecting the most important information for these particular decisions. Don’t make the same mistake – ask your employees what they need. Ask them what they want. Ask them often. Most importantly, legitimize their voice by sharing the changes you’ll make based on their input and explain the changes you can’t make and why.

Challenge your old assumptions.
We’re in a new reality and the rules are changing so we can’t stick to old strategies and tactics that worked with the old rules. How can you take steps to improve your employees’ work AND homelife well-being? Should you encourage more flexible scheduling? Can you get more aggressive with rewards and recognition? How should pay structures be reconsidered? Should you consider significantly increasing pay for a hard to retain role? I’m not suggesting you make any of these changes – simply that you challenge your organizational beliefs and have the conversation to see what shakes out.

Value the employees you have.
It is a fact that the cost of hiring is going up. It will be more expensive to recruit and hire a new employee than it was last year or the year before. What can you do to mitigate those costs? Keep the employees you have by valuing them while they are still with you. Make them feel heard, listen to their ideas, increase their pay if what they are worth on the open market exceeds their current compensation.

Find incentives that are meaningful to your people.
The old adage is “It is less expensive to keep a customer than it is to acquire a new one.” We should think about our people in a similar way. How can we encourage them to stay? What is something that they would like that doesn’t have to break the bank? We will all find that if we took the time to value the people we have, we can have more engaged and inspired employees, reduce our churn and more than likely save money.

Focus on your culture.
Don’t give this area lip service. Many organizations talk about their great culture, but if you ask their employees they might find some cracks. That is okay. Let’s ask our employees where we can improve our culture. Let’s ask them what inspires them. Then go and create a cultural revolution and make your employees part of that effort. We all appreciate being able to attach ourselves to a worthy effort. It can give us a fulfilling place to focus our energy and hope for a better future. Make this investment in a “people first” culture.  By doing so, you will create a better, more engaged, more inspired, more productive workforce.  This investment will deliver a hefty return for your organization and your customers.

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