Have you heard the term “The Great Resignation” yet?
Texas A&M Professor Anthony Klotz used the phrase in an interview, and it has caught on quickly as a convenient term for what statistics, surveys, and gut instincts have been telling us for a while about the workplace. Specifically, it refers to the idea that a significant number of workers are ready to quit their jobs—some surveys show numbers over 50%. People’s attitudes and expectations have shifted—often dramatically—and people are rethinking what they want from their careers as COVID restrictions ease.
One of the biggest flash points for workers is the desire to continue remote work arrangements, especially for women. Companies that do not meet these expectations should expect higher turnover. It isn’t just losing a lot of your employees that affects your business though; it only takes losing a top performer or people in a few critical, hard-to-replace roles to make a big difference.
We all need to be paying attention and taking action. So, what’s going to help us all get through this? Communication. Flexibility. Honesty. You know, the usual things.
Talk to your employees. Find out what they are thinking and what they want. You may be surprised. Communicate your plans clearly and frequently. If you don’t know yet, explain that. Outline your process and current thinking. Don’t leave people in the dark or reliant on rumors. Most companies are opting for a hybrid model, which leaves lots of room for flexibility, and in turn, lots of room for confusion. Confusion is terrible for morale and, ultimately, retention.
What are your employees asking for? There are some who will want to come back just as strongly as those that want to stay out. Can you accommodate both? A hybrid model certainly creates challenges that don’t exist if everyone just shows up, but it just may be worth figuring out how to do it rather than lose a significant or important part of your workforce. If your employees come to you with solutions that work for them, listen carefully. As long as the work is getting done, be flexible about what your future workplace might look like.
Be honest about the rationale for your decisions. There are pros and cons on each side and the naysayers have valid arguments. For example, many companies have found that more senior and experienced employees were equally or more productive in remote environments but that training and mentoring for newer professionals suffered, affecting both morale and performance. I am not advocating one model or the other—there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. I am saying that you need to be transparent with your employees. Simply saying “WFH” won’t cut it. We’ve seen that it doesn’t (for the most part) and you may need to justify the move back to the office. Pat answers will get you resignations. Honest ones will help you keep people.
Taking my own advice
I’ve always said I have an open-door policy, and I am trying to live that commitment now more than ever. I’m also working to start the conversation and not just wait until someone comes to me with a question, problem, or suggestion. I’ve already approved a couple of people moving to states where we don’t have a physical office. I expect that there will be other requests for particular arrangements and that’s ok. There are also those who absolutely want to come into the office, at least parttime. ATR’s business lends itself to remote work arrangements, but I know that we all benefit from in-person interaction, too.
We’re working on the answers. At this point, there isn’t really right or wrong—just inflexible. During the last year I have tried to be as honest as I can about what was going on and what was driving any decisions that were made, even when it might have been scary to share and scary to hear. I don’t plan on changing.
We’re still navigating what things will look like. Everyone is. It’s exciting and unsettling. That’s what I think The Great Resignation really represents. When asked if they are willing to make a change, people are answering yes. But that change can take many forms, and that’s why my advice is to pay extra attention. Communicate honestly and be flexible. That’s how you can counter The Great Resignation.