Every aspect of culture has a breaking point and every now and then, there are explosions. The Great Resignation is one of those great, inevitable explosions. I’m sure you must have come across this term on LinkedIn quite a lot in the past few months but what exactly is the Great Resignation?
The term was coined by Anthony Klotz, an organizational psychologist at Texas A&M University in May last year, to describe the wave of people quitting their jobs due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In the US, 75.5 million people left their jobs in 2021 and 23% of the workforce is predicted to seek new jobs in 2022. As for the Great Resignation in India, the situation is not this dire, but data shows that the IT and tech industry is hiring at unprecedented rates.
Not only are people in the workforce changing jobs, but 51% of job seekers are looking for opportunities in industries where they have little to no experience.
So what can an Indian HR learn from all this?
1. Employees aren’t simply walking away
According to a deep analysis of the Great Resignation by Ian Cook at Harvard Business Review, the increase in resignations has been largely driven by mid-level employees. And there are two reasons why:
- Employees reached a breaking point after months of high workloads, hiring freezes, and other pressures.
- Employers reached the realization that it’s riskier than usual to hire people with little experience, onboard and train them remotely. This created greater demand for mid-career employees.
So, people aren’t simply getting sick of their work/employers and walking away. Rather, they are moving around to industries and job functions that better align with their life, ambitions, and goals. This is ultimately good for us HR folks.
We want people who want to work with us and build our business than people who feel trapped. So, the next time you are interviewing someone, those stereotypical questions of ‘why do you want to work with us?’ or ‘why do you want to do this job?’ carry more weight than ever. Let’s listen to their answers more closely.
Read this highly-recommended guide to know how to recruit, hire & onboard like a pro
2. Be more remote-friendly or go home
It was Stewart Butterfield, the CEO of Slack, who asked: “If we say that everyone must return to the office, or we expect people to, and one of our competitors says you can work remotely, who wouldn’t take the second option there?” He has a point. Even surveys from before the pandemic indicated that a majority of knowledge workers would like to work from home and were willing to quit a job to do so.
This is a harder pill to swallow, I know. And not all of us have the luxury to have a fully-remote workforce or even a hybrid one for that matter. For some of us, our businesses are in a very early stage and in-person meetings are extremely important. But let’s face it, that’s not all of us. So, let’s really think about this.
Talk to our leadership about this. More importantly, talk to our employees about this.
Because the pandemic showed us how things could be. A lot of things we considered impossible were proven to be possible. Now, there’s no going back to how things used to be, including how we work together.
3. You’re not a family
If you’ve ever thought of your organization as a family, it’s a great time to rethink that. Yes, we spend a lot of our waking hours with our colleagues but as HRs, it’s important for us to see the boundaries clearer than anyone else in the organization.
Our employees have families of their own, they don’t want us to be an extension of it. Rather, they want a platform to learn, practice, grow and thrive. Like a pro sports team! That’s what we tell everyone who joins Loop; we’re not family, we are a pro-sports team with strengths and weaknesses of our own.
A team of people who will have each other’s back and can perform like a star on their own and win as a team. So the spirit of independence needs to be nurtured along with the collective team spirit. Let’s give our people the space they need to do their work.
Author and entrepreneur Jason Fried said in his famous Ted Talk that the reason a lot of work doesn’t happen at work is because of the M&Ms “the managers and meetings”.
Whether it’s a remote team or otherwise, employees perform better with more clarity on roles & responsibilities, a defined structure, and clear policies. But for remote teams especially, a lack of these would mean that we are setting them up for failure.
So, investing in a culture that enables trust and ownership is extremely important going forward.
It’s also important to encourage asynchronous (async) work, which means that people do their work at times that are most suitable for them rather than following a traditional “login/log off” time, but with scheduled check-ins and reporting. This reduces the intervention of the M&Ms, and more work gets done at the end of the day.
But, all of this is assuming that you have a team of superstars who are trustworthy, highly committed, and performance-oriented, which brings me to my final point.
Learn these best practices to build a strong culture in your organization.
4. Don’t panic hire
When employees are leaving at an unprecedented rate and you have immense pressure to fill the open positions within unrealistic timelines, a lot of recruiters and HR folks get desperate and panic hire. The focus becomes completely on skills and not personality or culture fit.
This may help fill the positions temporarily, but in the long run, a bad hire is going to cost you and the organization a lot - financially and culturally.
The solution to this could be a blog on its own and I want to dive deeper into this. But for now, every time you send out an offer letter, ask yourself these 3 questions:
- Can they enrich the culture you’re trying to build?
- Have you asked them what they are expecting out of the organization (beyond job role and compensation)?
- Have you spoken to them clearly about leave policies, benefits, and perks - what you can and cannot offer?
To be honest, the Great Resignation is not a bad thing. As I said, it was an explosion waiting to happen at some point. But how we put the pieces back together and rebuild is important.
We need to build a model that enables both employees and organizations to be open about their needs, and a system that can accommodate both. We don’t have to cling to the working models designed a million years ago. Let’s rebuild with a deeper understanding of employee needs and business needs.