A sudden exodus of skilled talent is the last thing an organization needs these days. Businesses must have all hands on deck if they are to accelerate the changes and innovations that will help them compete and move forward. Yet in many companies right now, turnover is exactly what’s happening. Are CFOs and other business leaders doing something wrong?
Not necessarily. Turnover today is largely driven by factors unimagined pre-pandemic. Even if your business has gone the extra mile to support your employees and keep them motivated, the weight of the Covid-19 crisis has brought constant stress to the personal and professional lives of many workers, along with changes to the way they view their jobs and career goals.
A fall 2020 poll conducted by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in collaboration with the software company SAP found that one-quarter of U.S. workers have considered quitting their jobs because of pandemic-related stresses.
Even more significant in the long run is workers’ deeper reflection on their overall goals, professional and personal, brought on by the pandemic’s worldview-altering effects. This has caused them to rethink their work-related priorities, which in many cases has become the catalyst for a new job search. Of course, some workers were already waiting for the right moment to make a change. And as the economy strengthens, more people get vaccinated, and millions of jobs sit open and waiting to be staffed, they’re seeing that moment emerge.
Are You Flexible, Empathetic And Communicative?
Even in the face of these trends, you can still make headway against the departure of your most valued team members if you act quickly. Here are some factors that should be part of your management playbook for the new normal:
How are you communicating with team members now that many of them are working remotely? Do you know if your messages are making an impact? Open communication and transparency from leadership are essential during any period of change for an organization. And the amount of change we’ve all experienced lately is high by any standard. That makes it even more important for you to communicate about matters that may cause your employees stress or unease, such as what changes or reprioritizations may be coming. Also listen to their feedback and seriously consider what you can do to address it.
Leadership language expert Krister Ungerböck asserted in an article during the height of the pandemic, that “[Employees] guided by empathetic leaders will likely have an easier time working through their stresses, while others operating under a ‘business as usual’ manager may become disengaged and resentful.”
Show that you’re aware of people’s circumstances and that you understand and relate to what they’re going through. You can help relieve some of the stress piling up on them by spreading out workloads, hiring project professionals for additional support or offering flexibility with their schedules. Also encourage creative thinking from your workers, especially the “rebel talent” employees who are already inclined to think unconventionally and continually challenge the status quo.
Do whatever you can to give your team the latitude they need to meet new challenges that have arisen. One solution could be windowed work — allowing your employees to break down their workday into smaller units of time separated by blocks of time for them to tend to family needs or other personal responsibilities during the day while working from home.
Many managers are already taking action in these three areas: 81% of respondents to the AP-NORC and SAP survey rated their employers’ response to the pandemic as being either on point or above and beyond.
And according to a Gallup study, U.S. employee engagement increased to 39% in January, up from 36% late last year. If that increase seems small, at least the trend line is up after what Gallup calls a “rollercoaster 2020” for employee engagement.
How does this affect turnover? Career expert and workplace futurist Dan Schawbel explains in a recent LinkedIn article that, “Retention and engagement are directly correlated. The more engaged workers are, the longer they will want to stay at their organization, everything else being constant.”
Inclusion: Hallmark Of A Positive Corporate Culture
Corporate culture and inclusion are closely connected and already influence retention in many organizations and industries — and they will only become more important in the future. A positive company culture today must include a work environment that’s inclusive, a place where every professional is encouraged to bring their whole self to work and know they’re welcome. People want to work for a company that shows them how much they’re valued and where teams, diverse in composition and perspective, can collaborate effectively no matter where they’re working.
This aligns with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) explanation of inclusion, and SHRM further explains that, in an inclusive workplace, “Every employee tends to feel more engaged and is more likely to contribute to the organization’s business results.” In short, inclusion drives engagement, which helps increase retention and, ultimately, leads to better business outcomes.
Building a positive corporate culture and an inclusive workplace isn’t easy. Even leading companies that have made measurable strides on both fronts struggle to sustain their progress, let alone advance it. As mentioned earlier, opening channels of communication is a great start, and that includes seeking input from more team members about projects and strategies. Part of inclusion is making sure employees have the opportunity and empowerment to speak up — and making sure their voices are heard.
You also want a wide range of voices, which is another big part of an inclusive company culture. Having employees of diverse ethnicities, genders, ages, experience levels, specializations and more sets you up to receive more robust feedback and wider-ranging strategic points that can benefit your bottom line.
With flexibility, you offer options that help ease frustrations and help employees stay engaged in their work. With empathy, you better understand who they are and what motivates them. With effective communication, you share the company’s vision, listen to your employees’ thoughts and concerns, build camaraderie throughout your organization, and support an inclusive corporate culture. And with all the above, you have the foundation for a workplace that can help keep your top performers right where you want them.