Create an environment people want to work in
I recently listened to an episode of WorkLife, a podcast by Adam Grant, with the title: The Not-So-Great Resignation. During this episode, organisational psychologist Grant states that in 2021, about 47 million Americans quit their jobs, 10 million more than in 2020. According to Grant, this is an existing trend accelerated by the pandemic. People are looking for more freedom and more meaningful work.
It made me think about the situation here in the Netherlands and how we here at Solid Professionals, treat the people who want to leave. But it also got me rethinking my role in the process, as an employee but also as a manager. In this blog, I’ll share my experiences and vision and explain what you can do as a manager to retain your employees.
What is the ‘Great Resignation’?
The phrase ‘Great Resignation’ was first used by Anthony Klotz, professor of organisational behaviour at the University of Texas. During an interview with Bloomberg in May of 2021, he said: ‘The great resignation is coming.’ Not that much later, his prediction became fact. The number of people resigning skyrocketed. But that wasn’t the whole story. They weren’t just leaving; they were sharing it online too: TikTok and Instagram were flooded with resignation videos, which may have helped push the trend even further.
The correlation between the pandemic and resigning
The previous mentioned podcast states that 41% of the global workforce is considering leaving their current job (incidentally, most people simply don’t have the luxury of quitting their jobs at the drop of a hat). Some have a very clear indication of what improvements they want, such as better pay. But that’s not the only reason they want to leave. Grant and Klotz name three reasons to leave a well-paying job, all of which were brought on by the pandemic.
The pandemic led to an unprecedented amount of burnouts. And one of the main remedies for burnout is removing yourself from the situation that caused it; your work.
- The fear of becoming ill or dying
Along with the pandemic came a focus on illness and death, leading to many existential thoughts. “Am I living the life I want to lead?” But also: “Is my work meaningful enough?” And if you can answer that question with a resolute NO, you might just be unhappy with your job.
- The taste of freedom
Office life isn’t going anywhere, but during the pandemic, people got to experience the freedom and autonomy that working from home can provide. Having to give that up can feel like a big loss.
The Great Resignation took place in the United States. However, this disruption in the workforce seems to beless prominent in Western Europe. This is partially due to the fact that we have a better social safety net over here. Still, there are signals in the Netherlands that significantly underline this trend. The increased amount of post-Covid freelancers and the fact that we haven’t given up on hybrid working are just two of many examples.
When is it time to move on?
I’ve been working at Solid Professionals for about ten years now. I started as the 8th employee as an account manager. Nowadays, I hold the title of Commercial Director, and the organisation has grown from 8 to 125 employees. But even I have sometimes wondered whether it isn’t time for me to move on. The thought even crossed my mind recently during my 10th anniversary at the company. I can still hear myself say it to my friends and family: “Maybe it’s time to switch things up after these ten years.” However, these thoughts disappear quickly once I ask myself some valid questions, the answers to which made me believe that I would, in fact, regret leaving.
However, not everyone is happy with their resignation. In this research done by Business Insider, seven of the ten people questioned stated that they regretted their resignation. How do you know when it’s the perfect moment to switch jobs? To discover this, you must ask yourself the following three questions:
Do you currently have the possibility to start a dialogue with your employer about the things you do not enjoy about your current job?
How much do you care about your organisation’s (and colleagues) mission? Pose yourself the question; is this work meaningful to me?
Are there interesting alternatives within the organisation? Is a new position on the table, or is taking a sabbatical a valid possibility? And what type of alternatives are there outside of your organisation? What is seen as meaningful work differs per person. My job at Solid Professionals is meaningful to me. I still run into people I was able to help during the start of their career years ago and who still thank me for what I gave them.
Not everyone needs to stay
To be clear, it’s not my main goal to keep every single employee on board. People coming and going is part of the natural progression of companies. Which is a good thing, as it changes the group dynamic and creates space for new ideas. However, you don’t want huge flocks of people leaving the company (a sign that something is wrong) or that good people leave who might have stayed had they been proposed an alternative option.
But how do you know if someone is in need of a switch-up? To prevent someone’s departure (or at least not being blindsided by it), you must talk to each other and communicate continuously. In addition to being an employee, I am also a manager, and in this role, I want to inspire, empower, and retain colleagues. I do this by starting a conversation and challenging employees based on the aforementioned three pillars.
The ‘good conversation’ and the 3 pillars
Many people don’t realise that the name you give that conversation impacts how it’s perceived. Many companies still call it an “appraisal interview’ which might sound like it covers the load, but they are actually making an unconscious mistake. Nobody likes to be appraised or judged. People have a negative connotation with the name and experience more pressure. That’s why we call it an end-of-year interview here at Solid Professionals.
But that’s not the only conversation we’re having. Alongside our end-of-year interviews, our employees also have a yearly in-depth talk with a partner or board member. These talks are always held outside of the office, and the main goal is to get to know each other better. Nothing is off the table; private and business matters can be discussed. It’s not about how you do it but about who you are, what challenges you face, and what you need to do so.
In recent years, we’ve experienced employees who have outgrown their function but still chose to stay because they liked their colleagues so much. As a manager, it is your job to discuss this based on the three pillars; involvement, loyalty, and alternatives. And even if you get answers, you might not want to hear – because you would rather not see the employee go – you have to act accordingly. You should encourage someone who solely stays out of loyalty to look for a new challenge elsewhere. In the long term, everyone will benefit from this: both the employee and the organisation.