Leadership challenges right now are becoming more and more difficult.
It feels like this pandemic will never end. Just when we think it is ending, a new wave hits with a vengeance. People are getting tired of it. Workers are burnt out. And because of the work shortages, we have moved from the “great resignation” to the “great reshuffle”.
This morning there was a great article on LinkedIn “What is the Great Reshuffle and How Can You Make the Most of it? (These Free Courses Can Help” by Dan Brodnitz, and another article about the great reshuffle on the BBC in their Worklife section, “How the Great Resignation is turning into the Great Reshuffle” by Alex Christian.
The Great Reshuffle is about how so many workers are “leveraging the current hiring crisis to get into better positions. Others have decided to work for themselves – with the number of self-employed workers in the US rising by 500,000 since the pandemic. Many more, however, are simply shifting into new industries and careers that offer higher wages or align more with their values.”
Workers are looking at more than just higher wages. And the reason why the pandemic has changed from “the great resignation” to the “great reshuffle”? People want lifestyle, flexibility, and value alignment. “Rather than merely being a ‘Great Resignation’ in which people simply quit and walk away, the current disruption is seeing a large swath of employees move around the job market. Workers have agency: they’re fine-tuning a better work-life balance and making deliberate choices as to where their careers are heading next. And they have choices.”
So what can you do to help retain your best workers, and possibly even attract new ones? I have identified six strategies that will be crucial for employers to retain their workers. These six include:
1. Ensure your salaries and wages are competitive in the first place.
First, as an owner, ensuring your wages and salaries are competitive is key. Things have gone up. Salaries have gone up. If you are not competitive, you may lose your best talent. People are not leaving for money alone, but if the comparison is equal, dollars do talk. I recommend that employers review their salary bands, or salary scales, at least annually, and make adjustments accordingly. Does this impact your bottom line? Yes, if you don’t change your pricing structure to align with increases. And if you lose some of your best people, what does it cost to replace them? I can assure you that most of the clients I work with worry about losing their best employees because they can’t be replaced, or at least, not easily.
2. Offer flexibility in the work place.
Second, offer flexibility and choices on work times and where they work from. The days of working 9 to 5, Monday to Friday in the office are no longer the norm. Flexible work days, work places, and work times are in demand. Here are some popular ideas: Allow your team to work remotely if they choose to, give a hybrid option of working in the office or remotely when they chose. Allow flexible work times, so they can start earlier and end earlier, or vice versa. Or allow them time to do something important in the middle of the day, and they can work around it. Allow for overtime during the week to enable them to get Fridays off if they chose. Or if they work so many overtime hours, they can earn an extra vacation day. I’ve even seen companies that offer unlimited vacation time as long as they complete their core duties. Bottom line, employees are looking for flexibility, and will seek it if they are not getting it.
3. Offer benefits that go to work-life balance and go beyond medical and dental.
Third, people are looking for benefits that go beyond medical and dental, and that match their values. Offering benefits such as gym memberships or a fitness allowance, house cleaners, recycling programs, work time to volunteer for a good cause, and the list goes on. These kind of benefits often align with worker’s values and help them with work/life balance as well. Patagonia offers on-site child care for their employees. Google offers rides to work, dry cleaning services, and a Lego room for creative thinking. What can your company offer that employees will appreciate and add value to their work life?
4. State your company’s core values and live them so your employees can align and embrace them as well.
Speaking of matching their values, another piece that goes directly to retention is when a company states their core values and lives by them, and employees align with them. Companies such as Patagonia preach their vision by stating “We’re in business to save our home planet. We aim to use the resources we have—our voice, our business and our community—to do something about our climate crisis. “ Patagonia is well known for quality products that are produced ethically, and as a result, employees and customers alike feel aligned and loyal. Another example is Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. And TED: Spreading Ideas. Bottom line is, if you have Vision, Mission, and Values (VMV) statement that means a lot to your company, do your employees know about it? If not, it is probably time to revisit and rework your VMV so your entire team is on the same page. It is amazing how powerful a VMV can be for a company when it is written properly and lived by!
5. Embrace technology wherever you can.
The fifth strategy for an owner to help with retention is to look for creative ways to use and embrace technology. This is not to replace a person, but to give capacity back to the important people working in your organization. It’s amazing what technology can do for a company these days. It’s also amazing how resistant some owners are to embrace technology, for whatever reason. Some believe technology is too expensive, while others simply do not understand how technology can help. And still others want to embrace it but don’t understand if nor how it can help. Yet technology can allow the mundane, administrative tasks to be digitized so your team can do the more creative and thoughtful tasks. It can be that simple, or complex, but technology cannot be overlooked. I’ve seen companies go from touching a piece of paper seven times to going paperless seemingly overnight. Did it cost money – yes, it was a huge investment of time and money. Has it saved them money? Yes, a staggering amount in time, wages, and savings in a shorter amount of time than they originally estimated. I have seen many companies go from having someone have to call clients and/or patients every day to remind them of upcoming appointments, and now have an automated text go out. All of this technology freed up capacity for the team to do higher level work. So embrace any technology that helps save your team time, and also helps your company streamline.
6. Positive company culture is critical and ensuring employees are happy, engaged, and love working there is key.
Finally, and probably the most important, is how critical it is to engage your employees and instil a positive company culture. Happy workers, great company culture, and happiness in the work place, is essential to employee retention. If employees are not engaged or not happy at work, chances are they already have “one foot out the door”. The hardest shift for most companies is an adjustment in company culture, which often involves a shift in their leadership style. It used to be that if you needed more capacity, you could hire someone. Now, most companies need more capacity, but because they can’t find the right person to hire, they are burning out the employees they have, sometimes without realizing it. They also are so worried about making sales and deadlines, they don’t take the time to appreciate their team along the way. And finally, they tend to lack empathy and understanding when things are busy. Yet these are the things that help their existing and normally loyal employees begin to search for opportunities elsewhere. Well-meaning owners are stressed and not taking the time their team needs to just breathe. In short, it costs nothing to say thank you, but it goes a long way. Appreciating the time and effort your team is giving is huge. Will that alone retain them? No. Showing empathy, compassion, appreciation and even vulnerability goes further. And allowing the team time to slow down and catch their breath, giving them a chance to regroup and re-energize is even better. Listening to them is key. Allowing them time for self-care is huge. Compassion. Kindness. Creating a new way of working together and unlearning what you’ve always done is hard, but a critical new way forward to help create the loyalty needed to appreciate and ultimately retain their key employees. The old way of “Show up and work, I pay your wage” is gone. The way forward is learning to lead with compassion first.
The best way to sum up what leaders need to do going forward in order to help retain their existing workers is being mindful of improving company culture. Giving their team autonomy, a sense of belonging, appreciation, and purpose and meaning go a long way towards improving employee engagement and company culture. This helps employees feel loyal, and thus helps to retain them. Congratulations for making these adjustments. They are critical to keeping your team!