In the first blog of this series, we explored the key facts and drivers behind the Great Resignation trend that is sweeping across the American job market. We’ve established that COVID-19 is not the only influence on the millions of American employees who are quitting their jobs. We’ve also established that the Great Resignation is showing no signs of slowing down yet. It’s become a big enough problem that businesses just can’t afford to ignore it any longer.
So, what should employers do to respond, so that they can keep hold of their best and brightest employees, and attract new employees coming onto the market?
In circumstances like these, it’s easy to fall into the trap of looking within the organization and exploring an employer-led solution. But this approach would be back to front. In the post-pandemic world of work, it’s employees that are the most important consideration. Therefore, any response has to be clearly employee-centric. Let’s explore to achieve it.
The response to the Great Resignation starts with listening
Every business and workforce is different, so it’s impossible to understand exactly what employees want without listening to them. And that means really listening – not just sending out a survey which generates the answers the C-suite wants to hear. Employees will see right through these tactics immediately — especially those feeling disengaged with their employer who are considering quitting.
One of the areas where honest employee feedback is so important right now is in creating a positive office environment. At a time when the employee experience is being valued so highly, and when many are showing a preference towards working from home, companies must create an office workplace that its employees want to use. They should therefore be given the opportunity to answer these four key questions:
- Does the work environment allow for them to work how and when they want?
- Is the desk and meeting rooms layout optimized for a safe yet flexible employee experience?
- Is the right workspace management technology (with built-in social distancing and employee attestations to their health) in place for any day they come into the office?
- Does the workspace management solution provide analytics to understand how space is being used (or not used), so better, more accurate decisions can be made?
Employees’ views are just as valid – and perhaps even more so – than those of management or of data analysis in answering all of these questions. In the case of the first three, employees’ experiences ‘on the ground’ using these workspaces every day are vital in gaining a true understanding. In the case of the last one, analytics can explain the ‘what’ of workspace usage, and then be complemented by employees explaining the ‘why’.
The human side of work
Not only does listening help a company understand how to formulate their response, but it also helps employees feel more valued. And in the current climate, how they feel is just as important as how they work. If an employee does not feel heard or valued — or that their experience isn’t improving or flexible enough — there are other companies ready and willing to offer what their current employer is not.
There is lots of evidence emerging that a change of employer is helping improve the mental well-being of employees. Respondents to Limeade research reported a 22% boost in feeling cared for as an individual by their new employer, and a 22% improvement in comfort regarding disclosing a mental health condition compared with how they felt at their previous employer.
Solving this isn’t necessarily easy, but it needs to be done in a way that includes the whole workforce, rather than through targeting individual employees who are struggling. In a recent Forbes article, national mental health non-profit Mind Share Partners summarized why the overall culture of an organization is so crucial to employee well-being: “Employers must […] address the foundational elements of work that have long been left unresolved — from work-life balance and flexibility, to a sense of feeling valued and connected, to how an organization’s culture helps — or hurts — the individual employee. And the solution has to work for all of us.”
Develop strong employee experiences, led by flexibility
When positive employee experiences are delivered, everybody wins. Employees feel happier, more valued by their employers and more engaged with their jobs, and as a result, their productivity increases – which is good news for the business from a financial perspective. Flexibility has now become one of the most important elements of those employee experiences, as is giving employees control over where and when they work, and how that flexibility is applied.
This is why accurate, up-to-date information on how employees are working, and how different spaces are being used when employees are in the office, is crucial. Organizations with this information stand a much better chance of making correct, informed decisions on their workspaces and whether any changes to the overall working model need to be made. This can help maintain high levels of employee satisfaction.
When companies get this employee-centric approach right, the whole business benefits. Shalene Gupta, the author, journalist and former U.S. Department of Treasury financial specialist, recently shared an example from pre-COVID times in one of our Condeco podcasts. She explained that during the global financial crisis of 2008, Honeywell furloughed some of their employees instead of firing them, with then-CEO David Cote recognizing that employees were vital to delivering on customer expectations.
“He said: ‘I’m going to put customers first, because if we don’t have customers, we don’t have a company,’” Gupta recalled. “And then he said, ‘Now, well, I’ve got to balance the pain between the investor and the employees. And while investors are expecting returns, employees are fundamental to our ability to deliver a promise to customers.’”
The result? When Honeywell came out of the recession, it beat its top competitor in the markets by 20 points in the markets. At the end of the day, employee experience is central to meeting the needs of customers and investors.
In the final blog of this series, we’ll take a closer look at how employers and employees can benefit from a flexible response to the Great Resignation. We’ll explore why employees don’t share C-suite confidence in how flexibility is being applied, what a flexible future should ideally look like, and why it truly can be a win-win situation for both parties.
This Condeco blog series has been created to help businesses maximize the opportunity that the Great Resignation presents, and create better future outcomes for employees through control and flexibility over how and when they work.
To explore how flexibility can help in more detail, download our free eBook guide: The Great Reward.