I am having many conversations with clients across the board as to how many employees they are losing, and how many openings they have. I see it in the headlines and I also see it in real life. We are still figuring out how and why this is happening, but the reasons in this article resonate with many of the conversations I am having with both sides of the equation: employers and employees.
So rather than post my best resources for the month, I'm sticking with one very good article, and deconstructing it based on the many, many conversations I am having in the past few months. The article is titled, "I spoke to 5,000 people and these are the real reasons they’re quitting," from Fast Company magazine.
Before I begin with my own conclusions: to give you an idea of my sample size, I average 4-6 client calls and presentations each day, Monday through Friday, and speak with about 60 individuals regularly (at least once a month). In September I met with people located in Pasadena, Boise, San Jose, Bangkok, Sarajevo, Chicago, DC suburbs, Santa Barbara, Austin, Glasgow, Wichita, Boston, Detroit, Portland, San Antonio, plus group calls with people distributed throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. SO fascinating!
The Fast Company article starts with this:
There have been reams of information written about employee motivation and performance over the last 100 years. But we’ve found there are nine key factors that impact these metrics—and they are much more important than pay and benefits. I call these nine factors the Currencies of Choice.
Below I quote each of the nine currencies ("FC"), followed by my reflections ("KSLD"):
☮️ FC: 1. People want to work for a company whose values align with their own. This means a company that has a compelling purpose and values that resonate with the employee’s closely held beliefs.
KSLD: This is, in part, a generational thing. Younger generations have been asking for the ESG rating of the companies they work for, and look for employers who have it. Do you have an ESG task force in place? Do you even know what "ESG" is? (Here is a great definition). How are you communicating the processes, projects, metrics and values around those standards? Good quote: Today’s workforce not only wants but often demands a role in shaping the organization’s purpose... Social capital has become just as important as human, financial, and physical capital. (Steve Graves).
My advice: To hang on to newer college graduates, and to engage employees on a deeper level, I strongly suggest you pay attention to ESG.
🤛🏾 FC: 2. People want to work for someone they trust and respect. That person is you, their direct manager. No pressure! The Gallup organization’s research shows that managers can impact employee engagement by up to 70%.
KSLD: In other words, the majority of people do not quit their job per se; they quit their manager (ouch!). Much of my work in the past year have revolved around management training, because in fact, most companies do not have dedicated, comprehensive management training! Ask the managers you know what sort of training they received to be managers. I can bet that most of them will shrug and say they were basically thrown into the deep end of the pool and had to learn through trial and error. I counsel ALL executives to get serious NOW about developing up-to-the-minute, relevant, competency-based management training. Let me know if I can help!
👯♀️ FC: 3. People want to work with people they like. That’s hardly surprising since humans are tribal beings at heart. Even the most introverted among us want to belong to a group of people we like working with—especially since we spend such a significant amount of time interacting with our coworkers.
KSLD: I frequently rely on the "Q12" questions employed by Gallup that are designed to optimize employee engagement. They are asked to rate these on a Likert scale. Everyone cringes at statement #10: "I have a best friend at work." I suppose it feels sort of lame and junior high to ask that question, but Gallup says it well: "Human beings are social animals, and work is a social institution. Long-term relationships are often formed at work -- networking relationships, friendships, even marriages." I am finding that younger employees truly count on making friends at work. How does your workplace facilitate that?
🏆 FC: 4. People want to be appreciated in a way that’s appropriate to them. Some studies show that praise and appreciation are the top engagement factors among employees. Appreciation doesn’t have to include a grand gesture. A simple “job well done” or “thank you” can be enough. But it must be authentic, and it must be meaningful to them.
KSLD: "shout-outs" on Slack or Teams threads are all well and good, as well as "Employee of the Month" awards. But my strongest advice to managers is to ask people individually how they prefer to be appreciated. There are many options: gift cards, awards in front of peers, PTO hours, points toward pay increases, etc. Some people like attention and praise, many do not. It's important to pay attention to how people are best motivated.
📣 FC: 5. People want to have a voice. They want to be listened to and heard. They want to know that if they tell you something that’s not working, that it will be fixed—or that you’ll give them a good reason why it can’t be. They also want to be able to share ideas about how to make things better.
KSLD: Not to over-generalize, but this currency may be somewhat generational (like #1). Younger generations are more used to immediate feedback and dialogue. Remember, they are digital natives who have known nothing else other than the immediacy of the internet, social media comments, and text messaging. They do not want to work within the constraints of annual reviews or generic town hall meetings. They prefer minimally hierarchical systems and input into decision-making.
📊 FC: 6. They want to know what they need to do to succeed and how that success will be measured. Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism makes a strong case that having clarity around roles and goals helps teams perform better; it encourages better behavior.
📊 FC: 7. People want to learn, grow, and develop in their careers. Not everyone wants to climb the corporate ladder, but they do want to develop and grow in some way through training, additional responsibilities, special projects, or simply having variety in their role.
KSLD: I'm combining these two because I feel like they revolve around the same theme. What is crucial is that each organization needs to have a robust "talent lifecycle." Significantly, recent college graduates have lived through not one, but two cataclysmic economic crises. In light of the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and the current pandemic, employees' highest priorities are advancement opportunities and economic stability. These six stages need to be addressed in most companies.
📶 FC: 8. People want to be inspired to go the extra mile. People come to work to add value—we need to let them. Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us makes a compelling case that people will go the extra mile if they have autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose in their role (refer to the first Currency of Choice).
KSLD: This is BIG. As FC mentions, this is tied in to the first currency related to alignment of values. In this time of so many unknowns, it really helps if we are given a sense of purpose and the big picture for WHY we are doing what we are doing.
❤️ FC: 9. People want to spend most of their day doing work they love. They want to spend time doing things they’re not only good at but also enjoy doing.
KSLD: this captures the bulk of what I work on with clients... helping to build a strengths-based culture, where people are set up to succeed and freed up to be self-motivated to do quality work.
the Great Resignation of the COVID-19 Pandemic:
2. Commit to solid management training
3. Pay attention to trust-building and culture creation
4. Provide genuine affirmation and appreciation
5. Cultivate consistent dialogue and feedback loops
6. Deepen your talent lifecycle
8. Cast a compelling vision
9. Establish a strengths-based performance approach