“We asked a lot from our people during the pandemic. In return, we implemented a profit-sharing program and introduced a hybrid model – a model that we still have today. But, I’m not sure we’ve done enough.”
The company had taken steps to measure, codify and ultimately, improve the firm’s approach to attracting, developing and retaining their employees, but the efforts were not proving successful; they had experienced increasingly high attrition rates over the past three years.
The leader, and her peers, felt powerless in stemming the flow of resignations.
This is far from an isolated experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of quitting is the highest it has been since 2000. And, nearly 75% of US employees are thinking of leaving their current positions.
Employees are leaving their jobs, or thinking about doing so, in unprecedented numbers. While there are a number of practical reasons for the “Great Resignation,” such as compensation or childcare challenges, a huge number of employees surveyed are transitioning out of their companies due to how their managers treated them before, and throughout the pandemic: with a fundamental lack of support and caring, a lack of developmental opportunities, and tepid commitment to equity and inclusion on the job.
“Being a leader is a privilege you have. Your job is about being able to help people realize their best potential. That’s what, in fact, is expected of you.” -Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft
In the aftermath of the pandemic, employees have higher expectations of where they will spend their time, and their working lives. While engagement numbers swelled with the advent of more flexible workplaces and fears of losing one’s job, overall well-being dropped, leading to sustained burnout and, well, resignations.
The significant drivers of well-being; connectedness, finding purpose and meaning in work, learning and growing and feeling supported and cared about; these drivers can usually be found embodied in the practices and behaviors of leaders who effectively coach their people. They spend more time listening (Inquiry) than talking (Advocacy). They aren’t afraid to acknowledge their own humanity and vulnerability over these past challenging months and years, appropriately, and with humility. They have shifted from employing extrinsic carrot-and-stick rewards and ‘motivators’ to understanding that great leaders trust their people to use their judgment in managing themselves as adults.
Perhaps the hottest topic in the workplace is the conflicted set of opinions on remote work schedules. Microsoft has even coined a term for the mistrust that 85% of leaders feel about managing remote workers: Productivity Paranoia. Despite the fact that studies show significant upticks in productivity for people who can manage their own time (29% increase), greater abilities to focus (53%) and higher rates of retention (35%), the perception persists that one can only evaluate what can be seen -face time in the office.
Research, common sense, and our own life experiences tell us that having a manager who coaches, trusts, and cares about our success and happiness can make or break a job. Pause a minute and think of a manager from your own work history who genuinely cared about you as a person. Someone who might have even seen greatness in you that you couldn’t yet see yourself. Someone who is the antithesis of the lesser side of Henry Ford, who once famously asked; “Why is it that I always get a whole person when all I want is a pair of hands?” Ouch.
With the old adage that ‘people don’t leave companies, they leave managers,’ as a steady drumbeat, it is time to truly shift from the Frederick Taylor principle of developing everyone to his or her greatest efficiency to developing everyone to his or her greatest potential. We might even find that these are linked, irrevocably.