The Statistics Are Alarming
A record-setting 10.1 million jobs opened in the U.S. About 11.5 million workers quit just in the second quarter of 2021. Forty-one percent of the global workforce would consider leaving their current employer within the next year. Fifty-four percent of Gen Z are considering quitting.
The “Great Resignation” is a mass, voluntary exodus from the workforce. It is here, and it is quite real. Turnover is nothing new and neither are corporate retention strategies. But the Great Resignation and extreme turnover happening today across industries is a different phenomenon that requires a different approach. The Great Resignation caught so many business leaders flat-footed.
What Is Fueling The Great Resignation?
There are numerous reasons, most originating from the pandemic that started in early 2020. According to a LinkedIn survey, 74% of respondents said the time spent at home caused them to rethink their current work situation. More than 50% cited stress and burnout in their job as a reason for looking elsewhere. Others did not like how their employer had treated them over the last 18 months, from a lack of genuine concern to employees being forced to take concessions while senior executives didn’t. The work-from-home (WFH) dilemma opened Pandora’s box for many employees and has become a contentious issue for many organizations. And finally, yes, the increase in unemployment benefits has caused a lack of urgency for many to return to the workforce. We saw a booming economy during the last decade, which always results in two things: Most businesses start losing focus on the customer and employee experience. Businesses need to stop thinking Ping Pong tables and Friday happy hours create a strong company culture.
A Professional Awakening
For so many, the pandemic has had the same effect on people who survive near-death experiences. It has caused employees to reevaluate their professional careers, not only what they want but also what they aren’t willing to tolerate anymore. This professional awakening has caught a lot of leaders and companies flat-footed. However, too many leaders are using the Great Resignation as a crutch. A significant percentage of people who have quit over the last 15 months is a result of poor company culture, where leaders are solely focused on productivity and bottom-line profits.
I have seen firsthand that the companies with the strongest company culture, long before the pandemic, are significantly less affected by the so-called labor shortage. And the organizations that churned and burned their team members or only had lip service to support a “great” workplace culture are the ones hit the hardest by the employee turnover.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
You have probably heard that quote hundreds of times. I know I have repeated it at least that many times to my three boys, at new employee orientation, and to any young person who asks me for advice. The point of this quote is that each of us are the ones responsible for whom we allow in our circle of friends. We must audit the people around us to make sure we are spending time with people who make us better, inspire us, and encourage us in all areas of our lives.
Has it hit you yet, the “aha!” moment? My leadership epiphany is that the employees who work in our organizations do not get to choose with whom they work or with whom they spend more time in their lives than their family and friends. As leaders, we choose for them. Then we complain that we have good employees but their morale has gone down, and they are not performing like they once were; we have good employees quitting our company. Then we blame it on the Great Resignation or the younger generation’s lack of work ethic, or we claim all they care about is money.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Great employees hate working with lousy employees. When leaders compromise on whom they hire and whom they allow to stay, they pollute their workplace culture. Every leader is responsible for the average of the five coworkers their employees spend the most time with. Audit that!
I disagree with the way this old adage is worded: “Employees don’t quit companies, they quit leaders.” While that is true, it is incomplete. The correct way to say it is: “Employees don’t quit companies, they quit people.” Employees quit because of the people they work with (coworkers and leaders).
“You can’t hire your way out of a bad culture.”
The 2 Biggest Mistakes Companies Are Making Right Now
- Hiring To Fill Vacant Positions With Just Anyone
- Keeping Poor Performers
Too many companies are trying to solve this staff shortage issue by hiring people as fast as they can to just fill positions and keeping employees with bad attitudes. Both are huge mistakes. “A” players hate working with “B” and “C” players. Unengaged employees are like squatters taking up space and sucking the energy out of your organization. The No. 1 priority for businesses today needs to be focusing on keeping their top talent and improving their internal culture. Stop trying to find great employees; instead, focus on becoming the type of business great employees find.
The businesses with the highest engaged employees enjoy:
- 81% less absenteeism
- 33% less turnover
- 10% increase in customer loyalty/engagement
- 23% more profitability
“Stop trying to find great employees. Focus on becoming the business great employees find.”
Businesses need to stop treating their employees like children. Leadership needs to be about helping people reach their potential in performance, not just managing them if they break policy or screw up. High performers need innovation; innovators need autonomy. Don’t let one poor employee ruin your organization’s freedom and flexibility. Employee freedom means they can take a lot of risks and fail. Risk-taking breeds innovation.
“Days of lighting fires under people are over. Days of lighting fires inside people are here.”
10 Ways To Build The Culture Employees Will Love
- Love your employees and show it.
- Do not compromise whom you hire or keep.
- Prioritize employees’ mental health.
- Measure employee engagement (surveys) quarterly.
- Improve the quality of your employees’ lives.
- Stop policing them from screwing up and start inspiring them to reach their fullest potential.
- If your team is virtual, increase your one-on-one meetings.
- Constantly share vision, direction, and what is in it for them.
- Demonstrate you genuinely care for your employees.
- Systematize leaders catching employees doing something right.
John DiJulius, bestselling author of five customer service books, is the chief revolution officer of The DiJulius Group and works with the top brands in the world on customer and employee experience.