Years ago, employers hired and employees worked. The relationship was transactional: You give me this, and I’ll give you that. But since then, the lines have blurred.
Employees no longer are content to punch clocks for the first company that offers them a decent salary. They want more—and they’re willing to trade the comfort of a steady paycheck for the promise of a transformational worker-company experience. Hence, the Great Resignation.
Employers aren’t oblivious to what’s happening or why it’s happening. PwC’s latest U.S. Pulse Survey showed clearly that executives have a good grasp of employee expectations and are trying to make changes accordingly. As such, they’re improving their inclusivity, testing hybrid and telework models, and following a general path of reinvention.
So what’s the problem? If you’re a business leader, you know that you have to focus on your company, too—especially if you’re in the early years of the business. This means you have to balance the realities of running an organization with the needs of the people doing the work. That’s challenging, especially in today’s tight labor market. Yet it’s both doable and necessary. After all, if you don’t meet your corporate goals, you won’t have a company at all.
Below are some strategies to help you satisfy both the needs of your business and the needs of your talent. Each one is designed to build deeper, more trusting bonds between you and the people you hire without undermining the health of the company you’ve been tasked to grow.
1. Know why you’re experiencing turnover.
Every business is different. Before assuming that your people are leaving because of something like compensation or benefits, conduct a check-in. As McKinsey research discovered, there’s a disconnect between what employers think their workers value and what employees are actually saying. For instance, 54% of workers who had quit their jobs said it was because they felt undervalued. However, when employers were asked why people were quitting, they rarely mentioned how valued employees did or didn’t feel.
The lesson from McKinsey’s findings is clear: You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know what it is. Take time, therefore, to diagnose the true cause of your turnover. Conduct “temperature checks” with your current workers and honest exit interviews with those who decide to leave. That way, you can be confident that you have a true picture of any gaps in your employee experience.
2. Lay out transparent, actionable goals.
Once you’ve figured out the holes in your company’s armor, you can begin to mend them. One method that works well and doesn’t hurt your business momentum is to share your goals openly and frequently with your team members. Taking this action keeps employees in the know. It also gives them the ability to see how they’re contributing to the corporate objectives. In other words, they’ll feel less like cogs in a wheel and more like appreciated contributors.
Kelly Knight, president and integrator of EOS Worldwide, says you need to be deliberate about sharing your vision with your teams. EOS works to implement help entrepreneurs by teaching and assisting in the implementation of better business operations. Knight says, “It’s critical to get every single person aligned with the vision and truly inspired about the direction of the company.” Inviting employees into this circle of trust builds feelings of transparency and ownership, which helps employee buy-in.
3. Play to your employees’ strengths.
Busy work harms morale, that’s for sure. An Asana survey indicates that employees spend about 58% of their time focused on completing tasks that are just “work about work.” To make matters worse, they’re spending about 36% less time strategizing than they used to. It’s not difficult to see why this type of environment could lead to boredom and the desire to fly the coop, particularly for high performers with growth aspirations—the kind of employees you definitely want to keep around.
Technology can help. Investing in automation software and system upgrades may free your employees from repetitive manual duties and give them more time back in their day to focus on higher-value work. In addition to reevaluating your tech stack, consider spending time figuring out where each worker excels. Then, maneuver responsibilities to play to each person’s current and potential abilities. You may get a nice bump-up in productivity, which is a win for your company. At the same time, your employees will be more motivated to bring their full attention to work.
4. Hand out some autonomy raises.
Employees repeatedly mention that they want more freedom. They want to be treated like adult professionals. In one article for Harvard Business Review, authors Lauren C. Howe and Jochen I. Menges from the University of Zurich and Jon M. Jachimowicz from Harvard Business School put forth a call for organizations to expect—not just allow—employees to plan their schedules. As they point out, this causes a major shift in attitude because workers begin to see that they’re supposed to follow their passions and balance their lives.
“Employees need to know they shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving work or have to wonder whether doing so will jeopardize performance reviews,” the trio writes. The article goes on to talk about an employee who dreamed of being his daughter’s soccer team coach. He asked his supervisor for support. The supervisor not only encouraged him to revamp his schedule but used the event to tell other team members to follow their non-work interests as well. Work still got done for the company but not at the expense of people’s personal pursuits. Employees were happier, and company growth didn’t suffer.
You’re always going to have to find balance when you’re running a company. Just be sure one of this year’s “balancing acts” includes paying greater attention to finding ways to give employees what they need without sacrificing your company’s bigger mission in the process.