“We have an opportunity to convert the Great Resignation mindset into the Great Destination mindset.” – Diane Adams, Sprinkler

Tete-beach, this is the name for a book with two different stories. You’ve probably seen this type of book. You can find them in every genre from children’s books to mysteries to technical manuals. The books are read on one side. Then the reader flips the book over and reads the other side. While the stories are related, they are different. Same book, different cover, different content.

Similarly, there are multiple stories within the Great Resignation from both the employer and employee. Countless articles and studies have been written on the Great Resignation. In this article: Who is Driving the Great Resignation? by HBR, the need for the right kind of data and research is cited to help understand the Great Resignation. In their findings, you can’t fix the problem if you don’t know what caused it.

Addressing the root causes of these staggering statistics starts with better understanding them. To explore exactly who has been driving this recent shift, my team and I conducted an in-depth analysis of more than 9 million employee records from more than 4,000 companies. This global dataset included employees from a wide variety of industries, functions, and levels of experience.”

The Great Resignation rages as 4.5 Million American Quit

This article speaks to the number of resignations with the focus mostly on the service industry. According to recent statistics, no industry is spared from the mass exodus.

People from all industries are leaving jobs in search of something different. These stories are not anecdotal or suppositions. They represent real time activity taking place around the world. The outlook is bleak, and the challenge or problem is enormous.

“The latest numbers reveal that the so-called Great Resignation shows no signs of slowing down, although it isn’t affecting all job sectors equally. About 6.9% of those working in the accommodation and food service sectors quit in November, while only 1.7% of those working in finance left their jobs. 

The number of private sector quits, which doesn’t include government or farm employees, hit a new all-time high of 3.4%, or 4.3 million workers.”

Why the Mass Exodus?

A few weeks ago, a woman told me that people are leaving because they don’t want to work. She said, “it’s a shame that so many people just want to do nothing, so they are quitting their jobs leaving employers in a bind.” Curious, I asked her what she thought they were looking for? She paused for a moment as if to search her internal database and said, “Um, well, I don’t know.” Without getting into a longer conversation I simply said… “maybe they are looking for something better.”

It should be no surprise that the labor market would have a gigantic shift as the world has struggled with how to create and maintain a remote workforce who are now juggling family and work-life often from the same room! That is to say, no private office, no cubicle, and in many cases not much disconnection from the people they love the most while they work.

Freedom of Time and Values Matter

This has given millions of workers at all levels, time to think. Many are pondering what’s most important to them. Or asking themselves what they can and can’t do without in life. Previously, missing time with the family was a given for a fast-track executive. Now, with family connections reignited and the reality of one’s mortality ever before us, workers are making decisions based on more than money.  They are considering more human factors like values, long-term goals, the desire for impact, and the need to work with and for companies who are making a difference in the world.

Recently, a manager at a major fast-food chain was suddenly fired. She was given no notice and didn’t know about any offense. Surprisingly, she simply found her final check had been sent to her direct deposit account and was told she was terminated. As a result, the staff of the store heard what happened so they all quit. To them, what happened to their manager was unfair and not the way to treat people. They didn’t want to work for a company that treated people this way. What inspired them? A desire to work in a place where people were treated with respect and seen as valuable rather than disposable.

This is one story of people choosing to leave based on values, not money.

In the CNET article The Great Resignation is Changing the Way American’s Work and It’s Here to Stay Executive Josh Feldman left a well-paying position to start his own non-profit. He went remote during the pandemic, like so many others. He found himself working from early morning to late night after his children went to bed.

“I had been working in an unsustainable way for a long time,” he said. “This stuff is not easy to change.”

“Whatever the reason, this great resignation, as some have called it, is quickly remaking what it means to work in America. For some, that means rethinking their careers. For others, it’s a spiritual awakening, with a renewed commitment to a healthier balance between work and home. Some people moved away from big cities while working remotely during the pandemic, and now they don’t want to move back. Others are finding plentiful opportunities for jobs they can perform anywhere, whereas before the only jobs they could find were near where they lived”.

“People are reassessing their lives,” said Andy Challenger, senior vice president at outplacement firm Challenger Gray and Christmas. And it’s showing up in all kinds of ways. 

That’s the story on one side of the book. It’s the most read and commented on side.

Destination after Resignation

The other side of the story, or the more hopeful side is on the destination after the resignation.

Data shows a global exodus of workers. Many are longing and to have a better, more meaningful work experience. They want work to matter. Companies will put themselves in a winning and sustainable position by recognizing this shift. For the observant and transformational company, this can be a time of jubilee. No, not the exuberant, wild, throw caution to the wind jubilee. Rather the invitation to build a workforce of the best people who value you and who are willing to be a part of creating a unique company culture. Your company can join an elite group of companies who are becoming the Great Destination. They are not losing talent, but rather they are attracting and retaining the best talent in the field.

While the Great Resignation is upon us, the Great Designation is in front of us.

What has been revealed from the scores of articles, papers and studies are what people need and want. If the past two years have taught us anything, we know that people want to live lives that matter. They want to live lives that matter to their families their communities and their workplace. And they want to work sustainably. Notice I didn’t say that they don’t want to work; they just want to work differently.  The days of telling people to be thankful they have a job have faded into the background. Dedicated talent is looking elsewhere to give those talents in an environment where they can thrive not just in what they do or how much money they make, but in who they are. This is good news for you and presents important questions:

  • Do you know what workers are looking for?
  • How connected are you people to the business story and purpose that would provide meaning in their work?
  • What needs to change about the way you are doing business now to become the next level business?

Fresh Starts

The landmarks have changed for employees and employers. Embedded within the structure of all change is opportunity. Daniel Pink, in his book WHEN-The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing calls these “fresh start” opportunities. After an event, people are motivated to seek fresh starts, set aspirational goals, and begin again. While the pandemic and other events of the last two years have been distressing, they have also caused many to reevaluate their lives and seek out the things they may have been putting off for years. They may want to go back to school, start a business, scale down their lifestyle, scale up their life-style or just stop waking up every day going to work they can barely tolerate, even if that work is lucrative.

“Daniel Kahneman distinguishes thinking fast (making decisions anchored in instinct and distorted by cognitive biases) and thinking slow (making decisions rooted in reason and guided by careful deliberation). People can, as the Wharton researchers write “strategically create a turning point in their histories.” By using the think fast approach companies may become reactive and tighten their grip on existing employees seeking to command them to comply with company mandates. However, workers, using the think slow framework are giving work careful thought and making decisions based on meaningful, deep thinking.

What Are They Thinking? Listen to their stories:

  • A financial firm is having the hardest time hiring people. Part of the reason is millennials and Gen Zs are turning into anti-capitalist. They want to make a lot of money, but they are anti-capitalists. The banking industry is not that attractive because it’s often not attached to a greater cause or seeking to make a sustainable impact.
  • I also spoke to an agricultural company that is being impacted by the Great Resignation, however, they have a mission to solve world hunger. They are attracting talent because they are offering more than money by providing dual-work that means something to the world.
  • Another company has a culture based on truthfulness. People ask themselves “what would it be like to work at a company where truthfulness matters?” Instead of workers leaning out, they are leaning in to find out more and to see if they might be a better fit for a company like that.
  • I spoke with a woman today who is making plans to leave her very secure well-paying position as a corporate executive to start over in a completely new career in a new industry. She’s in her 40s so she has been in the workforce for a while. Even with her success, she always wanted to be a flight attendant. With her youngest child leaving for college in a few months, she feels it’s the right time to make a change. Therefore, she decided not to defer her dreams, because life is unpredictable and precious.

Your Company’s Fresh Start: How to Connect with the Best Talent

Think about the stories you just read, what are they telling you about the needs of the workforce today?

  • Employees want more than money. They don’t want less money, but rather good money and a good purpose. A place they want to belong.
  • Workers want to be a part of something meaningful such as truth, world hunger, or a community initiative. People want to feel like they are contributing to something great at your company.
  • As a dedicated team member, they want to be seen and appreciated, more than once a year at the Christmas party. Also, they want to know that you value them as a person and value the talent they bring to your company. Most are not interested in wearing your company logo or getting a gift with your name on it. Something as simple as caring about their families, what they are reading, or their favorite drink speaks volumes. For example, what about designing a company gift that they may sincerely enjoy because you took the time to think about the gifts you give.
  • One important thing workers want is the opportunity for training and development. They want to have the chance to sharpen their skills and to be put on a path to professional development. The value proposition has been traditionally reserved for the most senior leaders. Now, employee and stellar employers alike are seeing this benefit as a necessity to retain good talent.

Becoming a Leagacy Maker

In the popular book Giftology, giving gifts to your customers is a way to build relationships and to communicate that you see and value them. That’s an out-facing loyalty approach.

What about building internal relationships and loyalty? What is your Employee Value Proposition? How do you win the war for talent and retain the best talent that you already have?

Companies with a well-thought-out EVP who are willing to take note and listen to what people are looking for in the Great Destination will put themselves ahead of the pack securing their present and their future. No matter what the job market or economy is like, embracing a fresh start matters. Furthermore, even temporal challenges can be reframed. For example, taking a constructive look at the EVP who will succeed where others are left behind.

You have what it takes to be a legacy maker. The path to building a battle-proof legacy company is by fine-tuning your ability to listen. Most importantly, craft a culture where your people will go over and above to do outstanding work. In the same vein, this can increase retention for staying long-term. Many workers have poured out their lives at their place of employment. Therefore, employees will most likely remain dedicated to their companies when their contribution is recognized and matters. A workplace that offers them dignity and legacy, not just money.

While everyone else is reading one side of the book, you can turn it over and write a better story that moves the statistics in a better direction. I believe you will find amazing and talented people who are willing to write that story with you. One book, two stories. The Great Resignation or the Great Destination? You decide.

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