Leaders – The Great Resignation may be infiltrating your team right now. But you can detect and address it before it drains engagement, productivity, and team morale.
What is The Great Resignation?
The world is in the midst of a huge surge in employment status changes.
Many job and career experts are calling the spike in resignations amongst U.S. workers The Great Resignation.
And early indications suggest that these employment changes are the result of personal and professional experiences during COVID-19.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported that over 4 million workers voluntarily left their employer in April 2021. With reasons ranging from a desire to change careers, have more flexibility, get better pay, etc.
Since that time, the number of resignations continues to climb month over month.
But this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
After all, COVID has been a life altering experience for most people with financial, emotional, social, and psychological implications.
When I worked in healthcare during the height of the pandemic, we saw firsthand the devastation caused by the virus. And even though doctors, nurses, and other frontline clinical workers were providing much needed care, it left it’s toll psychologically.
Every day, our team members would acknowledge how much of an impact they were making but in the very next breath express doubts about staying in their chosen career long term.
We heard this from recent graduates, mid career professionals and seasoned employees as well.
What Is Causing The Great Resignation?
I believe what we started to see amongst the healthcare workforce 9+ months ago was representative of what was happening across all industries.
And as we now transition back to more traditional life and work patterns, we are beginning to feel the ramifications.
Career and work experts attribute The Great Resignation to the need for different work environment characteristics, such as the desire to continue to work from home, have more greater flexibility, and higher salaries.
While there is no doubt that more employees are seeking these job characteristics from current and new employers, something much deeper is also afoot.
I believe that COVID has prompted more employed professionals to experience existential crises and contemplate some very difficult questions. Who am I? What are my values? What do I need in life and work to be fulfilled? Given that life is so tenuous (which was highlighted with COVID), what about my life today is no longer acceptable?
And as a result, what employees need and want for themselves and their families is shifting.
Leaders will have to be cognizant of this as they continue to build teams for the future.
What Leaders Can Do to Support and Protect Their Team
Leaders would be well advised to muster up some managerial courage and address this head on with their teams, individually and collectively.
Whether you are seeing signs of disengagement or not, we know that COVID has touched the lives of employees directly and indirectly.
And team members need help readjusting to their work environments.
We also know that an unplanned team member departure can wreak havoc on team morale and business deliverables.
So don’t ignore it. That will only make it worse.
With some proactiveness on your part, you may be able to prevent voluntary turnover on your team resulting from The Great Resignation. Or at the very least, receive as much advanced notice as possible before a team member departs so you can plan accordingly.
1.Individually ask your team members if COVID has caused them to think differently about their career, current position and/or the organization.
Asking shows that you recognize something could have changed given how life altering COVID has been.
And it also demonstrates that you care enough to inquire.
If COVID has caused you to shift some of your own priorities, and you are comfortable sharing, be transparent with your team members.
Important: Verbally contract with each team member to notify you if or as soon as something changes on their end. For example, if they start looking for another position, you want them to tell you immediately rather than wait until they accept another employment offer. While not ideal, if a team member chooses to leave, having more advanced notice (even while they are searching) will allow you and the remaining team members to prepare for their departure. You can begin to cross train, conduct an informal search for their replacement, or maybe even think about how you assign work across the group.
2.Explicitly tell your team members that you want to support them.
Ask what else they need from you to contribute their best to the team.
When you ask this, be sure to relay the caveat that you will do everything in your control to offer more support.
However, if what they need or want is outside of your control, everyone will still be required to adhere to the larger company rules and protocols.
If you receive a reasonable request that is beyond your decision making authority, you should definitely advocate on their behalf.
But if an employee makes the request that they get a 25% pay increase or work from home 100% of the time, while everyone else is only working from home 50%, then you should either relay why their request can’t be filled at this time or let them know that you have to consult others in the organization to see if their request can be accommodated.
If the answer is “no” or “not now”, then it is imperative that you also communicate the why. This way your employee can understand the rationale behind the decision, which is equally important.
3.Amplify team accomplishments.
Bring team accomplishments and contributions to the forefront every chance you get.
When team members see the impact they are making regularly, they tend to remain engaged and excited.
These are the moments when great leaders shine.
Where you have the opportunity to model transparency, proactive problem solving, and prioritizing the well being of your team members.
Just remember, that if you ask or open the dialogue, you need to be prepared for what is shared and to act on it as well.
And if you have been contemplating potential career changes or quitting yourself, then be sure to take advantage of The Change Doc resources to consider all your options and make the best decision you can.