The Great Resignation?

Millions of employees left their jobs over the past two years, a movement labeled as the ‘Great Resignation’. But many experts question the appropriateness of this label and instead are using terms such as the ‘Great Revelation’ or the ‘Great Aspiration’. The employees in this movement left jobs to follow their dreams and passions. Most employees quit jobs, but not the workforce. The pandemic opened – or spurred – an unprecedented opportunity to question, pause, and craft how to best fulfill work aspirations. Employees at all levels continue to evaluate priorities, needs, and expectations; and question their purpose for life and work. Predictions are that this Great Aspiration movement is not over.

The unsatisfactory work issues are not new but have been amplified during the pandemic.  Many, from CEOs to frontline employees realized that, well, work isn’t working. Organizations are now left to grapple with this phenomenon. Maintaining and attracting talent is no longer about the pay scale or the availability of ping pong tables in breakrooms. It’s about the culture, how employees are treated, and whether employees feel valued. No amount of pay or ping pong tables are a replacement for these.

Organization leaders have an incredible opportunity to create a healthy work culture, a more equitable workplace, a more flexible and inclusive workplace, and a more empathetic workforce. This is often referred to as a human centric or People-Centered organization. Those who do not transform to a People Centered organization will continue to lose talent.

The Great Aspiration: What Do Employees Want?

The following list summarizes information gleaned from our consultation and involvement with wellness advocates and leadership development, as well as results from a 2021 Gallop poll.  

Yes, adequate compensation for the work performed as well as the benefits, are important. However, no matter how well compensated, neither is enough. Therefore, it is a ‘both, AND’ scenario.  We have come to realize that the foundation for ‘both, AND’ is safety and health initiatives done well. These are the essential levers to jump start ‘both, AND’. The “And?” –

  • 66% of females and 56% of males seeking new jobs want greater life-work integration and jobs that enhance their well-being.
  • Employees want positions that allow them to do what they do best.
  • Flexibility. Flexibility that honors life-work integration. This means life-work integration is ingrained in the organization’s culture and not merely in a policy.
  • Human centric or People-Centered workplaces is what we hear repeatedly.  Many organization leaders are finally embracing this. The meaning, importance, and benefits for all stakeholders have been emphasized for years, but this reality is quite apparent now and can no longer be ignored.

How do you know if your organization is People-Centered?  

Ask. Surveys, interviews and focus groups can uncover how you are doing so that it is clear. Allow someone to hold the mirror up for what is found. It might not be easy but take a hard look. First realize that employees cannot unsee how they were treated before and especially during the pandemic. There is no undo button, but there is hope and optimism for change. This requires trust and vulnerability for leadership to acknowledge and correct mistakes. Organizations must prove that they are building a People-Centered culture

Employees are not going to sacrifice the ‘AND’ now that they’ve realized the Great Revelation and Great Aspiration. ‘Both, AND’ are needed since compensation and benefits alone are not enough. The pandemic clarified priorities and the sacrifices that have been made. It is a wake-up call not just for how employees want to live their lives and be treated at work, but also for leaders regarding how organizations want to be with this new realization. This is a tremendous growth opportunity.

A few thoughts to becoming a People-Centered organization, one that prioritizes people over productivity and processes.

  • Again, the foundation and the levers are safety and health. The Total Worker Health framework is the model to foster a People-Centered organization:
    • Create a Total Worker Health initiative that encompasses the benefits and work environment to ensure life-work integration, safety, and well-being for all stakeholders. This includes exemplary attention within your organization and within safety and wellness programs to encompass all aspects of safety and health: physical, emotional, psychological, social, financial, development.
    • Develop managers as leaders who advocate for employees.
    • Ensure that stakeholders know they are valued, appreciated, and respected.
    • Listen to all voices and make sure employees know that they are heard.
    • Cultivate empathic leaders and empathic stakeholders throughout the organization.
    • Foster connection and a sense of belonging.
    • Embed life-work integration within the culture and within leader skills.
    • Honor each stakeholder’s contributions to the organization.
    • Communicate how each stakeholder’s contribution matters and makes a difference in the organization.
    • Uncover and address unconscious biases.  Build a diverse, inclusive, and equitable organization, but also create much, much more. Appreciate, honor, value, and showcase the talent and advantage DEI brings to the organization.

Successful outcomes have been well documented for People-Centered organizations. Employees report high levels of well-being and satisfaction. Profits and productivity are higher. 

It is a challenging time, but a time for great potential. Organizations get to decide if it’s a Great Resignation or a Great Revelation for change. The Total Worker Health framework can be the guide and safety and wellness programs the levers. 

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