It is impossible to go into any restaurant, retail store, hospital, or other Corporate and even Non-Profit entity and not experience a shortage of staff. It is palpable.
Recently, I was in Hot Springs, Arkansas for the Arkansas Derby where we had a fabulous time (and yes, we WON!!). Yet, the shortage of staff was unbelievable. Long lines. Lack of service. Despite the exemplary efforts of the folks working so hard, you still FEEL it. It is next to impossible to try to ‘back-fill’ when folks have decided to leave. And the customer experience, in a word: sours.
So, my thought in this blog is to address the ‘root cause’. And no….it is not always COVID-related – as to why folks are leaving the workplace. In fact, there was a compelling study completed by MIT, which discusses the TOP 5 reasons people are leaving companies….and ‘response to COVID’ was 5th…NOT first.
The others – in order of ranking – are #1: Corporate Culture, #2: Job insecurity and reorganization, #3: Levels of innovation, #4: Failure to recognize employee performance. (For the complete article, you can go here.) You will be astounded by the industries that are the hardest hit…..and surprisingly it is NOT just the medical field, as so many think.
Regardless, the #1 reason for the ‘mass exodus’ is indeed CORPORATE CULTURE….and the word often used is TOXIC. As I have written about many times in the past, CULTURE is the DIFFERENTIATOR.
And to think otherwise is folly.
So the question is: what are a few things we can do RIGHT NOW to start to improve the employee experience and….our company’s culture?
- Learn what reality is in your company. I can almost promise you – it is NOT what you think it is. You need to TALK TO PEOPLE…and actually, interview people – from every level within the organization. Face the truth. Look the tiger in the eye. Listen – really listen – to what is being said and also pay attention to the unspoken words, as well. Once you understand what ‘reality’ is then you can understand what is missing, what the gaps are, and determine how to fill those gaps.
A key mistake many companies make at this step is they begin to define values as the magic elixir to cure all ills without aligning these values to the behaviors they need and want to see. Values become nothing more than words on a plaque or in the annual report. For example, if your teams don’t know what teamwork looks like, how can they become a good team player?
Many employees NEED AND WANT other job opportunities….and no, this does not mean ‘promotions’ in all cases. They simply may want to ‘zig zag’ within the organization to learn a new skill or experience a new aspect within the company. The MIT study states that LATERAL OPPORTUNITIES are 12 TIMES more predictive of employee retention than promotions!
And, though we know that Covid forced the reality of ‘remote, ‘work from home’, options – that has become a ‘pseudo norm’. People want the flexibility to work from anywhere – so exploring that option for all positions is relevant. And, for those positions that MUST be ‘onsite’ (think: nurses, retail, blue-collar trades, etc.), allowing them to choose and pre-schedule their shifts is critical. The study says that that factor alone is 6 TIMES more effective than simply offering them a ‘flexible schedule’. These workers want the ability to PREDICT when/where they will be working. That makes total sense to me…..it allows them to take the reins for the rest of their lives (child care, carpool, etc.).
2 Align the values and associated behaviors to the overall corporate vision, direction, goals, and metrics for success. Too often these values stand alone and are not aligned with where you are taking the organization. They need to be fully integrated, incented, and visible to the overall strategies and goals of the organization.
When values and behaviors are embraced, they need to be publicly celebrated. Leaders have the opportunity to highlight business successes directly aligned with the new values and associated behaviors.
AND the organization can embrace more opportunities to ‘socialize’ with other employees. We are CRAVING connection – as we have been sequestered in the Zoom cocoon for almost 3 years. We want to ‘press the flesh’. So, consider team lunches, happy hours, and town halls WITH a cookout to follow. The ROI on events like this cannot be underestimated. Simple….yet so seldom done these days. We have gotten used to the ‘remote’ Zoom or Teamzy way of leading….time to reboot and reengage.
3. Finally, continue to evaluate, modify, and tweak to reflect what leadership is trying to create within the company. Like life, culture is a growing, evolving organism. Covid shifted many priorities. It takes commitment and ongoing leadership to integrate the values and behaviors throughout the organization. It starts at the top and the senior leaders need to walk the walk. In addition, they need to hold members of their team accountable for these values and behaviors. If there is any deviation within the ranks, the culture is only as strong as their weakest link.
What I have observed with most of my senior level clients, when just a small tweak in showing appreciation, public recognition for contributions, tying individual contributors’ work to the ‘greater picture’ so that their WORTH is recognized and AFFIRMED, etc. – the result in employee satisfaction has been monumental. This incredible shift in the workers is not only noticeable, it is exponential.
We are far from emerging from this difficult time (and undeniable transition) in the workplace. We must be agile AND assertive in how we meet this head-on. The companies and organizations who ‘get it’ will be the ones to retain the best and the brightest – and be positioned to not only weather this current situation, yet thrive as the world ‘turns back on’.