We’ve all seen the job marketing headlines. Every month record number of people quit their jobs along with high rates of open positions-the Great Resignation continues with little signs of slowing down. The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey shows nearly two job openings for every unemployed person, and job openings are 50% higher than they have been in the past.
Employers have responded by raising pay as we see retail and fast food businesses [those greatly affected by this movement] hang banners and post signs advertising pay twice the minimum wage. Corporations offer gym memberships, preferred parking spots, or free food Fridays, but none of these perks or higher paychecks seem to keep and attract employees.
These “perks” may have been enticing BC [before COVID], but they no longer hold the same attraction and value. So, what do employees really want from their employers? Work that connects to their individual purpose, a better work/life integration, and autonomy at work.
Great Place to Work® has found that millennials and Gen Z want purpose and flexibility in their work more than any other generation. Why does this matter? Millennials make up 50% of the workforce, and Gen Zers will be 36% of the workforce by the end of 2022. That is the bulk of the global workforce, so what matters to them must matter to you as an employer if you want to retain and attract people from this vast pool.
Before we were all 2020’ed, there was a great divide between individual purpose [ME] and organizational purpose [WE]. Orgs’ purpose was generally in business jargon written on faded plagues on the wall, while the focus of individual purpose was carried out in volunteer efforts or supporting causes. But once the pandemic took over, social unrest could no longer be ignored, and the economic gap widened; people began to ask themselves, why am I doing what I do? Is what I’m doing creating an impact, not only for myself but for the world? This is where the demand for alignment of the ME and WE began. We spend most of our waking hours at work, so your team wants to know that their precious time [their most valued and limited commodity] is spent doing something in which they can find meaning and purpose.
In addition to purpose, work-life balance is likewise a top priority for employees, with 63% of job seekers saying this factor has the greatest impact on their job search over money and benefits. While work-life balance is a buzzword, it is not truly attainable because there are days you have to devote more of yourself to work and others when life requires more time. At DH, we prefer the more realistic work/life integration which is when your personal life and work life combines to create your whole life.
Unfortunately, most orgs consciously or inadvertently tell their employees you “got to keep’em separated.” If you grew up in the 90s, you probably remember this verse from Offspring’s hit, Come Out and Play [a commentary on the gang violence in LA at the time.] But this has long been the unspoken motto of workplace culture when it comes to bringing your whole self to work-you got to keep’em separated. Offices don’t invite people to show up as their authentic selves. They are a “professional” environment in which people are encouraged only to show their work side and hide their life side. The reality is that we are not two separate people. We are two halves of a whole person. We are not one person at work and a different person at home. Our personal lives, the highs, and lows, can not always be easily separated.
80% of those surveyed want flexibility on where and when they conduct work. Flexibility has become a huge factor in retention. People experienced what flex time truly felt like in the early days of the pandemic. And now, they are refusing to give it up to return to a more rigid structure and schedule. We see this as many corporations pushing for a complete return to the office, resulting in workers quitting rather than returning to BC [before Covid] work schedules. This speaks to the happiness lever of a sense of control. We lost the feeling of control during the pandemic, so people want to regain it as much as possible. The future of work is hybrid and human, and teams can thrive amidst rapidly changing times by embracing this new normal.
Flexibility is autonomy at work. This is commonly referred to as Freedom at Work- the freedom for employees to choose how and when their work gets done. Employees crave this because it gives them a sense of control, mentioned above, which is a powerful desire after enduring the chaos of the last two years. The problem is many employers have always worked with the idea that the employer should be in control- not the employees. The fear is that if employees have the freedom to work, the control of how and when there is no guarantee that the work will actually get done.
The greatest experiment in the benefits of autonomy was played out as the pandemic hit, forcing millions to work remotely. Without the confines of the office cubicle, the strict 9-5 work schedule and micromanaging work still got done. Forty percent of workers reported they were more productive at home during the pandemic than they had been when in the office. This is the proof that the fear is unjustified, and for those orgs that don’t want to adjust-it may be more about giving up control rather than what is best for the people and the org. The positive news is when employees and employers align on purpose, create a meaningful connection and build transparency, giving your team autonomy will come easily.
The Great Resignation has shifted the job market, giving employees and job seekers control. They have voiced their demands and expectations-purpose, work/life integration, and autonomy. And they have no problem leaving a job that is not meeting their needs. So, how can employers give the people what they want? The first step is to invest in people strategies. This might be a change of course for many orgs because, for so many years, the focus has been on business strategies, planning, actions, and goals that can be linked to profitable outcomes. But people strategies are an inguinal component of success because they focus on the people carrying out the plans, actions, and goals. An investment in your people is an investment in your success.