A record 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in the United States last March, and 44% of the U.S. workforce is actively job seeking. Canada has not experienced the “Great Resignation” wave of its southern neighbours, but the underlying factors are still at play. A January 2022 Bank of Canada survey found that 19.3% of workers are expecting to quit their jobs in the next 12 months. Canadian employers need to work now to stave off the potential uptick, and compensation increases have proved to be an inadequate motivator.
Our pandemic experiences provide useful insights. Many employers and employees – even those that resisted the option for years – were forced into a work from home (WFH) environment. That workplace experience was largely successful (in the sense that the work got done, sometimes even more efficiently than before), but there were difficulties. Remote onboarding proved challenging, and culture and comradery were harder to maintain. Leaders now implementing variations of WFH, hybrid, or a full return-to-office (RTO) aren’t seeing those difficulties diminish. Leaders must work to facilitate empowerment, motivation, and maximum performance by keeping “connectedness” front of mind.
This makes sense, as today’s employees expect their jobs to be holistically engaging. People seek out exceptional cultures, and work at their best when provided with the psychological safety of trust, belonging, and inclusion. Employees also want to have purpose, and to feel heard. Effective leaders feed these aspects of employee well-being, regardless of their work arrangements.
We advise those leaders to consider the following ideas for their “Connectedness Toolkit.”
Sameness: Regardless of whether employees work from home, office, or a mix, it is important for everyone to feel counted as “present.” Any natural bias towards in-person interactions needs to be guarded against, especially in meetings. People given the choice to work from home can’t feel disadvantaged as a result. Conversely, one of the great benefits of WFH has been work-life balance — the ability to engage a little of your “life” in the workday. Policies that actively encourage flexibility (i.e. allowing a parent to shift hours to catch a child’s event) are positive regardless of an employee’s work arrangement. Leaders who practice empathy – recognizing and balancing workplace priorities and listening to employees – have an advantage.
Influence: Leaders often have to make and promote hard choices, and influence employee buy-in. Five influence styles: Inspiring, Consulting, Acquainting/Socializing, Coalition, and Coaching, naturally create feelings of inclusiveness. All five explicitly require leaders to connect to others, understand their viewpoints, and work together. Leaders that utilize these approaches, while also balancing their listening and asserting, can help create a greater connection with their employees.
Friends & Greater Good: Gallup’s research has found a concrete link between having a best friend at work and engagement. When employees feel that connection, they tend to take positive actions that benefit one another (and the business). Social opportunities outside of the workplace are one way to encourage this. Company picnics, Friday pizza and beer, and sports outings are tried and true, yet they can also feel pseudo-compulsory. We encourage you to consider engaging your employee’s existing commitments. Several new firms, including Benevity, Percent Pledge, and BonDeed, focus on helping organisations discover and support social causes that ignite their employees’ passions. Employees can form deep friendships engaging the charities they value with colleagues, and your organisation can deepen its Corporate Social Responsibility bona fides. Cone Research found that 79% of people prefer working for a socially responsible company.
Claim Wins: We’d be remiss if we didn’t note the role employees have in connectedness; they need to keep their team and supervisor connected to their work efforts and accomplishments. Teams are strengthened by a spirit of accomplishment and belonging. When each individual’s contributions to success are visible to all, they can be celebrated and raise the team’s connectedness.
Part of our jobs as leaders is to avoid “regrettable loss”, and employees tell researchers time and time again that resignations are avoidable. Given direct turnover cost estimates of 50-200% of salary, not to mention onboarding/training and the impact upon remaining employees, investing in connectedness is a clearly value-priced alternative.
This content piece was contributed by Executive Core, an organization that specializes in Executive Coaching, Executive Assessment, Executive Education, Team Assessment, Team Alignment, and Onboarding and Succession Strategy