Written by: John Marshall, ACC, NBC-HWC, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Before the thought of resignation, your best people are starting to ask, why? What makes this so important and urgent? What’s my purpose here, on my team, and in life? What is the overall vision I’m connected to? Am I working to live or living to work?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, November resignations broke the all-time single-month record (4.5M) for the fifth time in 2021. This trend has been linked to past global traumas, yet nothing competes with a worldwide pandemic coupled with nearly universal access to technology. The pandemic provided enough space for high-burn employees and supervisors to peek outside the hamster wheel, and many of them are stepping off.
There is a new level of competition entering the professional workforce with fewer entry-level jobs available per level of higher education and training. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects occupations that require post-baccalaureate education for entry to grow faster than the average from 2020 to 2030, 16.4% vs. 7.7% of total occupations. This does not account for the number of post-baccalaureate students accepting roles with lower educational requirements. The bottom line: the bar for entry is high for professionals and rising.
Today, a bachelor’s degree alone does very little to differentiate you from other hungry candidates. There’s a very competitive entry-level landscape at major U.S. companies. Multiple years of high-level internship experience, who you know (a network of mutual trust), and graduate degrees, are becoming baseline requirements to enter the professional workforce.
The pandemic allowed employees to take a breath from the on-to-the-next-challenge mentality, pick their heads up, realize their worth and what they value. There was a pause, more time to look around for more purposeful, flexible, and lucrative work. There’s no more extended tolerance for employers who do not invest in the employee experience. An investment of thought, energy, and intention is competing with dollars.
What can employers do to join the anti-resignation movement? Create a culture that supports universal human needs and self-actualization.
1. Create a connected culture. The days of showing up for 8 hours with your head down are over. Connection is a universal human need that must be fostered as a baseline. Invest time getting to know who your people are, what excites them, what they fear. Connection’s health and wellness benefits are enough to justify making time for it, and the organizational productivity benefits are clear. It’s especially crucial when the going gets rough. RingCentral UK research revealed that employees working for companies that actively foster a connected culture are twice as productive when working from anywhere (34% vs. 15%). Make authentic team building a priority. Take your leaders and other influencers through empathy training and different developmental experiences as a non-negotiable cultural investment.
2. Create an environment that fosters flow. A 10-year McKinsey study noted that top executives are five times more productive in flow states. Spend one full day in flow, and you can take the rest of the week off. Flow is a specific cognitive state where nearly all brain areas are powered up apart from the areas that control your sense of self and other and the executive center of the brain in control of calculated thought. Essentially, it’s the sweet spot where the optimum difficulty level meets the embodied skills necessary to step up to the task. Cultivate a challenging environment that meets your employees in their development track. Define the skills required to meet the challenges of a growing career and provide the training, autonomy, and support to get there.
3. Promote a work-to-live mentality and the flexibility to realize it. What are your employees investing their time, energy, and money outside of work? If they cannot articulate that to you or themselves in private, provide them coaching or another life resource. Work-life balance is a buzz phrase. Whole-life balance is reality. Flexible time is the new standard offer to compete for the folks that will take your organization to the next level. It’s easy to put it in company policy, yet where it counts is how it shows up in the culture. We’re human, and perception matters. Leaders and role models must be the change they wish to see in their culture. It must be learned embodied behavior. Your people have a sense for actions on the surface level, and disingenuous behavior is more detrimental to a foundation of trust than anything.
4. Build a foundation of trust. This is the integrity of your organization, in the sense of both structure and character. Individuals and organizations alike believe integrity exists as a virtue rather than a necessary condition for performance. When viewed as a virtue rather than an integral part of your license to operate, it can be easily sacrificed to get ahead and succeed as both an individual and organization in the competitive marketplace. Promote being whole and complete with your word when it’s not the easy thing to do, and even when you change your mind. Acknowledge your impact on others, and mean what you say as an individual and organization.
5. Allow for job roles and teams to be redesigned. An inflexible or rigid headcount allocation approval process takes the people closest to the business out of the equation to optimize their production and team dynamic. While it requires some oversight to promote inclusivity and test the validity of the claims, there must be a way for employees to make a case for personnel changes. Through this dialogue, managers and supervisors with the proper coaching skills will find golden information in coaching their teams. Even if the conversation does not lead to personnel changes (more than likely), the trust and safe space to discuss will provide invaluable insights to management for setting their teams and the organization up for success.
6. Support and celebrate intrapreneurial activity. There’s no better way to foster an innovative culture than tapping into the creative energy of your people. Offhand comments, new ideas, and suggested improvements left unsaid are missed opportunities. A balance of focused energy toward a clear vision and allowing explorers to explore will offer the best results and keep the explorers from exploring other opportunities. Have a pitch day, proposal mailbox, or another forum. Invest in their ideas with curiosity, coaching, and the resources necessary to make it happen with the right opportunity.
A business is as good as its people, the collective. The quality of the people you most rely on dramatically affects the quality of the whole, infusing your culture with energy to drive results. While businesses should not rely on specific individuals’ contributions and knowledge to remain relevant, it’s in their best interest to create an environment for their best to thrive.
These qualities of company culture are becoming a new baseline to compete in the marketplace, a non-negotiable for top talent, and an integral part of thriving through The Great Resignation. Businesses attempting to resist will be carried downstream, fighting the current rather than riding the wave toward solidifying their place in future economies.
John Marshall, ACC, NBC-HWC, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
John Marshall is an entrepreneur, professionally certified coach, yoga & meditation teacher, speaker, and co-host of The Present Professional Podcast. He helps current, and future leaders master their minds to master their careers, relationships, and health through his coaching and people-skills-development firm, Humessence. With over five years of teaching yoga and meditation and a prior career in high-level corporate business development, John understands the stresses and demands of modern business and their impact on the mind and body. His coaching clients develop their awareness and new perspectives, have difficult and impactful conversations, and manage their emotions en route to creating the life they want. Participants at his workshops and engagements leave with new tools and perspectives that impact how they show up at the meeting and dinner tables. When it comes to people skills, John is transforming the relationship between life and work. Visit his company website to schedule a consultation and learn more about how he can help you and your organization. When he’s not working on his business or with clients, you can catch him teaching yoga at BIG Power Yoga in Houston, TX, and meditation as a teacher and publisher on the global meditation platform Insight Timer. His mission: Bring the human essence to modern business and help leaders live their fullest lives aligned with their values along the way.