an empty office

Poor culture is fueling the Great Resignation

By: Anastasia Crane

In one month alone, 4.3 million people quit their jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. “We’re hiring” signs pepper the windows of restaurants and retail stores everywhere, with companies complaining of labor shortages. Meanwhile, unemployment rates are the lowest they have been since the pandemic first hit the U.S. in March 2020. In short, we’re living in a job seekers’ market, with 7.7 million available workers and over 10 million available jobs

The takeaway from these numbers should be that people actually want to work; they just prefer to work jobs where they’re appreciated, paid fairly, and engaged with their daily tasks.  When digging deeper into the reasons behind this wave of resignations, economists have many theories. While there aren’t many hard statistics that point to the concrete reasons behind this phenomenon, anecdotal evidence suggests that, plainly, people aren’t happy at work. But why?

It could be due to poor working conditions, wage stagnation, little to no flexibility, or familial obligations. However, most theories point to, or at least include, the concept of culture

How culture can retain your workforce

Experience shapes our economic choices, according to one economist. So if workers have a poor experience in their jobs, they may choose to leave. Evidence is suggesting that people are seeking flexibility in the workplace, especially when it comes to health and safety. Many jobs can now be done from the comfort of our own homes, thanks to digital transformation. 

For jobs that cannot be done remotely, such as those within the healthcare, retail, or service industries, people are looking for positive experiences in order to remain in their roles. This includes appropriate pay and benefits, but it also includes how they’re treated while they’re at work, how valued and engaged they feel, and how deeply they’re made to care about the goals and results of your organization.  

Creating a positive work experience

Experiences not only shape our choices, but they also rewire our brains. While especially true for children, this can also happen well into adulthood. People in the 30-45 age group are among the top participants in the Great Resignation. These are the same people who were trying to start careers, or gain upward mobility, during the Great Recession, creating greater economic hardship for this group. So logic would lead us to believe that this group values employment above happiness. However, the numbers suggest otherwise. 

Workers who are treated poorly are more motivated than anyone to find a new role. When faced with the possibility of having to return to an in-person work environment during an ongoing pandemic, many people decided to look for new jobs with greater flexibility. The reality is that many jobs can be done from home, especially in the corporate world. 

However, for many people, working from home just isn’t a possibility for their chosen field. And when it’s not possible, how do you create a positive environment of accountability and engagement? Culture is the only answer. Additionally, even if your business is able to attract top talent, do you have the culture that will make them want to stay? Lower rates of attrition and culture are directly linked.

Conversely, those who are able to work from home may be experiencing some form of disconnect, especially if they are used to working in an office. It can be difficult to engage an entire organization virtually, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. 

Invest in people

According to psychologists, there are several areas where employers should focus their energies when it comes to keeping workers happy, regardless of industry or company:

  • Career – are they satisfied with their jobs?
  • Social – are their work relationships meaningful and collaborative?
  • Financial – are they being paid fairly and are they able to make ends meet?
  • Physical – are they healthy and do they have the energy to do their jobs?
  • Community – are they able to give back to their communities?

You may be thinking that some of these areas are not within your control as an employer. However, we spend about a third of our lives at work. And for some Americans, it’s even more. 

With many averaging 50-60 hour work weeks, it’s important to consider the investment of time and mental capacity your employees are making in your and your business, then return the favor. Investing in your employees now allows you to reap the benefits of a result-driven culture for many years to come. 

Results-Driven Culture 

If the prospect of changing your culture seems daunting, that’s because it can be. In many cases, executives believe they can shift their culture through various incentive-based initiatives, such as free beer on Fridays, small performance bonuses, or even company outings. And while these efforts do not go unnoticed, they aren’t enough. And changing your culture by simply modeling your desired behaviors only works 6% of the time. There’s a lot more to it. 
Culture management should be the cornerstone of your business strategy. And if it currently isn’t, we would love to guide you to building a results-driven culture. 

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