Holding onto your team

There seems to be a new global phenomena. The Americans have called it the “Great Resignation”. It seems that the pandemic has pushed employees to rethink their careers, work conditions and long-term goals. Those workplaces that are now attempting to bring their employees to the office, all the time, are being faced by the employees’ desire to have the freedom to keep working from home with many looking for a new job when this flexibility is not offered. Additionally, many workers, particularly in younger cohorts, are seeking to gain a better work–life balance. Restaurants and hotels, industries that require in-person interactions, have been hit the hardest by waves of resignations. Studies show that the the exodus is being driven by Millennials and Generation Z, who are more likely to be dissatisfied with their work-life balance.

Many businesses are presently likely to be juggling between two pressing needs: recruiting new staff to replace the people who have left and recruiting new people to support business growth. In some economic sectors and various job roles the scarcity is real — too few people for too many jobs.

The best way to stabilise any business is to stem the tsunami of attrition and increase the retention of its employees. Therefore, besides the frantic need to recruit more people, any business needs to make sure that they do not forget about its present employees – those showing up day-in and day-out shouldering the work that needs to get done. Businesses need to make sure that they know what these people — the ones who are here, working for and with you — need now. The short answer is they need to be seen for who they are and what they are contributing. It’s the job of every business leader to make sure they’re getting the recognition they deserve.

It is true that business leaders, managers and I dare say HR managers have been dealing with a lot of uncertainty and change – your plate is over flowing. Not having the right people in the right quantities in the right seats to get the work done creates a hamster-wheel effect — you keep running, faster and faster, exhausted with forces outside your control. However let us focus on controlling what business leaders can control. If you want to stem the rate of employee turnover in your organisation or team, you – as a business leader – must look inside yourself and decide what is possible. Below are some pointers to help business leaders pause and see what is possible, what can be done to make a difference.

Be aware of your impact: As business leaders, people are watching you all the time whether you realise it or not. So, pause and consider how you are showing up in both your words and your actions. Are you aware of how your own concerns and frustrations are experienced by others? Are you unintentionally adding to their fear and uncertainty? When you become aware of your impact, you can control it and steer it in the right direction.

Focus on potential and possibility: This is a time to be grounded in pragmatism blended with possibility, gratitude and recognition of what your people, old and new, are going through. When dealing with difficult situations instead of communicating fear and uncertainty, turn your focus on the following:

What do you envision as the best possible outcome for this situation?
What excites you about that?
What can you and your team learn from the present challenge?

When you communicate to your people in this way, the impact is one of potential and possibility instead of fear and uncertainty.

Give your employees the respect and attention they deserve: The marketplace for talent has shifted. You need to think of your employees like customers and put thoughtful attention into retaining them. This is the first step to slow attrition and regain your growth curve. This cannot happen when your employees feel ignored or underappreciated for the effort they make to keep business moving forward. You cannot take your people for granted and expect them to stay — healthy relationships do not work that way. So any business leaders needs to make sure that they help employees see and claim the positive impact they are making in the organisation, acknowledge not just what they are doing, but why it matters. People want to know they are making a difference.These are not one-time conversations. You can’t just wade in, have a talk and think all is good. This should be the primary focus of each manager and leader in your company. This may ignite the need for a systemic look at how and what is recognised and rewarded in your organisation. Now may be the time to challenge the status quo if what you are seeing from your people and hearing from the talent marketplace is misaligned to your company’s current reality. This is not just about paying people more — research tells us the motivational effect of pay raises is short-lived. Just as important is how you recognise and value the contributions and impact of your people. Think about the DNA of your organisation. If the old ways of doing things no longer serve the organisation and its people, figure out what does. Be willing to let go of the past … it’s gone. Play the long game here. Be sure your company’s compensation philosophy is clear and understood by all. Make sure accountability is in place so that those current employees are not shorted when new people are hired.

Engage them: Businesses are hurting and at the root of that pain for many today is a shortage of people to do the work. Your existing people feel that pain as they extend themselves to pick-up extra shifts to provide coverage, listen to customer complaints when they are helpless to fix the real issue or witness one more colleague call it “quits” when their tipping point is reached. So, be bold and engage your people in helping you solve problems. So,ask for their help – this requires courage because admitting that you do not know all the answers is vulnerable work. It takes strength and confidence to appreciate that outcomes are better when more ideas are included, when fuller representation is present and diverse perspectives are heard. Give them leeway to help mitigate the day-to-day concerns they are faced with. Create space for them to step up, participate and inform the way forward. This sends the crucial message that they are trusted and valued.

All this may seem a lot of work. However, please believe me when I say that recruiting and re-training is much harder work.

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