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BirdsEye View

the great resignation

 Inc. magazine has just published an excellent article about a seismic change in workforce behavior. The change has started last year, and reached a crescendo this summer.  It has been touched upon in many of our groups, and is presenting a huge challenge to our most important resource – talent.

Philip Kane and Grace Ocean from :The Philip Kane company authored the article and did a fantastic job describing the trend.  A summary of their well-documented thoughts are below. -- Anat Bird

 

The Great Resignation, is a term first coined in 2019 by Texas A&M's Anthony Klotz to depict a mass, voluntary exodus from the workforce.  Thanks to COVID as well as workforce trends such as millennials and Gen Z workers overtake other generations, the trend has accelerated markedly this year.

As Kane and Ocean report, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, during the months of April, May, and June 2021, a total of 11.5 million workers quit their jobs. Other recent studies indicate that it's likely not over. A survey of over 30,000 workers conducted by Microsoft found that 41 percent are considering quitting; that number jumps to 54 percent when Gen-Z is considered alone. Gallup found that 48 percent of employees are actively searching for new opportunities. And Persio reported that 38 percent of those they surveyed planned to make a change in the next six months.

These are significant figures. The cost of any turnover is expensive. For any organization to lose even a third of its workforce would be downright devastating. The impact on small and medium enterprises, where bench depth is anemic at best, will be especially severe. 

The root causes driving the Great Resignation, according to a survey conducted by LinkedIn, are largely COVID-driven.  

74 percent of those surveyed indicated that the time spent at home -- either during shut-downs or working remotely -- during the pandemic had caused them to rethink their current work situation. For the first time for many workers, they experienced the pleasures and challenges of working from home, and many like it.  A great many -- over half in several surveys -- cite stress and burnout in their current position as a reason for looking elsewhere. 

Others mention cost-cutting actions by their current employer in response to Covid-19-related business slowdowns as a reason for bolting, with many finding fundamental unfairness in holds on promotions, frozen merit increases, and indiscriminate layoffs.  This has been particularly disheartening as employees watched executive leadership refuse to participate in the pain.

Still others reevaluated, both with heart and head, the true economics of a two-income household, concluding that the benefits no longer outweighed the costs. 

Some finally took the leap and started a dream business. 

Many have simply had it with being undervalued and unheard by inept managers. 

A full third stated concerns with their personal safety in having to return to an on-site position while the pandemic still rages. 

Work-life balance is a consideration that has taken priority among younger workers.  Working from home accentuated how that balance can be struck more effectively with employer understanding and tolerance.

What can a business do to combat this mega-trend?  Keane and Ocean say, “In a word, care”. “The Great Resignation caught so many employers flat-footed because it ran contrary to everything traditional management thought they knew about labor markets. See, since forever, the conventional wisdom held that in downturns, the employer could get away with almost anything; employees needed work and so would be grateful merely to have a job -- frills and niceties were 100 percent unnecessary. But the common thread that runs through virtually every motivation for the Great Resignation departures we are seeing is a decision to no longer accept the unacceptable.”

While I respect their perspective, my experience with employers in our industry has been quite different.  Perhaps it is because community banks have typically led with hearts, not just financials.  In our HR calls, participants spend much time and energy thinking through how to further engage their workers, both remote and on-site.  Many banks in our community measure employee engagement regularly, and strive to improve that key dimension.  

Banks also focus on their communities and how they contribute to the financial and emotional well-being of the communities they serve.  They give their employees a reason to be proud of their organization.  This is particularly true after PPP, where so many banks could tell their teams how many jobs were saved by their gargantuan efforts.

I do agree with many of the other statements Keane and Ocean say:  “due to a fear for personal safety, a lack of fair treatment, having to deal with a horrible boss, or an inequitable work-life balance, those fleeing what might be viewed as perfectly good jobs are simply choosing to put themselves first for a change. Employers who beat them to the punch by taking steps to create environments where associates feel safe, valued, and more empowered to make their own scheduling choices stand a great chance of keeping these employees.”

A July 2021 Fast Company piece declared "The Era of Wacky Office Perks is Dead." Associates are smart enough to recognize that toys and mini-fridges full of energy drinks are not a substitute for leaders who truly care about them and who work to make their lives better. Workers want transparency. They want to be trusted. They want employers who recognize that managing in a Zoom economy is different, and that their leaders need different skills and training. They want bosses who stop being skeptical whether they are actually working when they are at home. They want to be respected by leaders who get that remote work is not an invitation for micromanagement.

More importantly, workers simply want to be recognized; in fact, according to bonusly.com, 63 percent of those in a recent survey who said they are regularly recognized also said they are very unlikely to look for a new job. Recognition, as I’ve written many times, is a highly valued and motivational currency which we use too sparingly.

The survey validates that employees want to work for companies they can be proud of, that are involved in their communities and that take a stand for things that they believe matter.  I believe community banks are especially well-positioned to become employers of choice along this dimension.

As Keane and Ocean write, “Best-in-class leaders are not just asking for, but are taking action on, associate feedback. These employers are finding pain points for associates and getting them out of their way. Most associates are reasonable. Few expected that their leaders would have all the answers as this pandemic struck then dragged on. What they simply want, at a minimum though, is that their leaders take the time to honestly communicate about what is happening and to ask them for their input. Companies that take these simple steps and those listed above stand a far greater chance of keeping valued associates as the Great Resignation drags on.”

What a great opportunity for proactive, savvy and enlightened employers to attract an excellent new cadre of employees by leaning into their needs and giving them what they want beyond money – heart, values, care and compassion.