In the talent-centered workplace dynamics of today, employees have more leverage than they ever have. This is a good thing. But leaders who are willing to value and commit to employees can still ask the same in return.
Recently, a lot of headlines have suggested that the Great Reshuffle is less a distinct moment than the new normal. Nearly 40 percent of people who took jobs during COVID-19 are already thinking about leaving those jobs, and our nation’s “quit rate” reached a 20-year high last November. Some are even suggesting that the norm of working a year somewhere before leaving has become outdated. We’ve long advocated for many of the people-focused adjustments that big businesses have made only in recent years, and for giving employees more voice and power. However, in our view, a truly healthy and sustainable employee-employer relationship needs to be a two-way street. A one-sided dynamic —in which companies that value and commit to employees can’t expect the same in return — is not viable. Employees should expect their employers to actively invest in and care about them, and employers should expect that investment and care to come back around.
Most of us know that it often takes six months — if not longer — to get employees onboarded, comfortable and fully up and running. How are businesses supposed to thrive in an environment where it’s normalized to leave before you’ve even managed to settle in or add real value? Some will think we just need to adjust as leaders — that if employees are less patient with us, we can be less patient with them, moving on more quickly from those who don’t seem a fit. They will think that if people are looking to leave three to six months into working somewhere, that means we can recruit others in the same spot at other organizations.
But is this really how we want it all to work?
In our view, a company that sincerely commits to caring for its people can ask for care and commitment in return. We constantly preach the importance of building leaders’ empathy for employees; it seems perhaps we have slept on the importance of building employees’ empathy for leaders.
Because it doesn’t even seem that employees are better off in these new dynamics. A recent study found that 72 percent of employees have experienced what they’re calling “shift shock” — the feeling of starting a new job and realizing the position or company is very different from what you were led to believe. This is an unfortunate situation: one in which both employers are employees are worse off than they could have been. We’ve preached the value of “stay” interviews before, and it seems such efforts are more valuable now than ever. The more actively we keep up with employees and stay truly connected to them, the more we’ll be able to prevent a good thing from going to waste.
Ultimately, duty and accountability are core to people’s senses of dignity and purpose at work.
A business world where we are all selfish actors, not obligated to anything, is not one where we at Gagen MacDonald want to operate or where employees thrive. We’d much rather see a world where we all do a better job caring for each other. Love in business, after all, is good business; and love is a two-way street.