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Rejuvenate your workforce: Why leaders must adapt to the new workplace reality

January 19, 2022

Rejuvenate your workforce: Why leaders must adapt to the new workplace reality

Synopsis
4 Minute Read

Turn the Big Quit around in corporate workplaces by understanding what’s driving people to leave - and reframe your organization.

Senior Manager, Consulting Services

The Big Quit, the Great Resignation, the Great Reshuffle – there’s no shortage of trendy phrases to describe what’s happening in the corporate workplace these days. But the phrases gloss over a very real transition in the way companies and employees are, or should be, thinking about work.

Some people are leaving their existing employers to take lesser jobs; others are even stepping away from the ‘rat race’ entirely. They’re shunning traditional perks such as increased pay and fancy titles for greater flexibility and self-determination.

This trend is not a fad like office putting greens and popcorn Fridays, but rather a radical rethinking of our collective work / life integration – so much so that human resources is becoming a C-suite responsibility.

The Big Quit is a big eye-opener

A large factor driving this trend is that people are feeling burnt out in their current jobs. Some of that can be blamed on nearly two years of living in a pandemic. A Harvard Business Review survey of nearly 1,500 people from 46 countries found that the “vast majority” of us are struggling with general and workplace well-being. Some key predictors of burnout include an unsustainable workload, the absence of a supportive community, and the feeling that workers don’t have control over their lives, either at work or at home.

A record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September, according to the United States Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), and a quarter of U.S. workers are considering a job change in the next 12 to 18 months, according to a survey by Principal Financial Group Inc. (It would not be surprising to find Canadians feel the same way.) Yet the latest U.S. jobs report showed the participation rate barely budged in October. One reason could be almost a third of workers who had quit started a business, according to a survey released in May by Digital.com.

One thing is clear: the Big Quit is real, and it is an eye-opener for many leaders and managers. Not only are employees choosing to leave, but they are leaving to find work they value because myriad opportunities are available to them. For employers, that makes strategies to recruit, up-skill and ultimately retain employees absolutely essential.

The role of technology

Perhaps oddly, given many people are feeling disconnected in virtual and hybrid workplaces, technology can help. Change management once forced people to adapt to the technology they had to use, but technology can now adapt to human behaviour. Technologies that incorporate behavioural science such as emotional intelligence and adaptive learning can now continuously improve, based on how they are being used by the individual rather than treating every user the same way.

This collaboration between employees and their technologies is interactive, interdependent and grows mutually. In short, human-technology integration is the future of work.

Rethinking job roles

New technologies and processes can also allow accountabilities to be assigned in a less rigid way. For years, jobs have been assigned to people with the right degrees or certifications, ignoring those who have real-life micro-credentials that might increase the chances of success. Likewise, job descriptions have been built around activities and tasks instead of results. The latter is clearly more important, but emphasizing results means organizational leaders must implement more fluid job descriptions, be flexible and replace their desire for control with a sense of collaboration.

Flex is for employers, too

Organizations now should be continuous entities, not monoliths, with applications and processes constantly being tweaked and structures shifting on a yearly, quarterly and, in some cases, even monthly basis. Having the ability to think through and experiment with organizational design changes is a way to get one step closer to the future workplace and embracing continuous change – something traditional workplaces often need help with.

Those who ignore these trends are probably not as close to their workers as they should be, particularly younger generations who are looking for increased flexibility and autonomy and are making the push for change — change being the operative word. People can now more easily choose employment opportunities that fit with their values and lifestyle choices.

The value of higher purpose

As well, there’s an emerging realization the world of work is also moving into the world of social enterprise. Those organizations that pull off the transition to a greater purpose will likely be amazed by the level of creativity, work capacity and innovation their people bring to the table they would otherwise not. The fact is companies today are not in a war for talent; they are really in a war for work. Employees have more flexibility and more options to choose who they work for and where they work, as well as what to work on.

The main focus of the Great Resignation — that is, resignations — may be the least consequential thing about it. The real takeaway is discovering the reasons why people are leaving their jobs in the first place. With the right tools and strategies, that is something organizations can understand, change – and capitalize on.

To get a better understanding of business purpose and why it's so important, check out this article on purpose-driven leadership.

Contact us

To learn more about change management, contact Len Nanjad, Partner, Consulting Services, at 587.441.5480 or [email protected].

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