Another month of record on the job quitting and job openings at sky high levels, irregardless of whether we compare it to before, the middle or after the pandemic. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, their departures have left a huge hole in the labor market. The number of current job openings (10.9 million) exceeds the number of new hires (6.3 million). The situation is very real and very felt by many of our operational heroes, leaders, managers and team who make it happen day in, day out. Massive #kudos.
McKinsey have looked at what makes this attrition different from others and this most recent wav has an entirely different shape to losses in the past. Most employees are leaving to take on very different roles—or just leaving the workforce entirely. They have been operating under extreme circumstances for extended periods of time and have been unable to find an adequate balance between work and life—so they are choosing “life” until they absolutely need to go back.
In this article we look at the interplay of the wider forces, their personal experiences and the leader experience on the employee and candiate experience as a whole. This article continues to expand and highlight from its original format, Linkedin The Recruit & Retain Quality Team session delivered live in April 2022. As part of the fresh thinking 'Leading in Turbulent Times' series it looked at HOW, in the most bewildering labor market seen in generations, how do we navigate the landscape answering these three questions:
1. How can we afford to recruit and retain quality team when the supply chain of talent will cost more in 2022 than in prior years?
2. Do we really deliver to the employee, the cultural experience and opportunities that we promote?
3. In what ways can we be faster and more engaging to compete and engage the best talent?
Admittedly, this article has a wide title that promises to answer the dilemmas and challenges of right now. But let me explain my position- as a change specialist, supporting both organizational and behavioral changes - I see consistently that less actually changes than we think it does. Even though it feels that we are in a state of continuous change, most organizational elements stay mostly the same. This means we already have all we need to start transforming and adapting.
So, when managing change, taking stock of what we do HAVE and what we CAN do, is a useful reframe because becoming more empowered gives access what we DO have available to us. There is actually much overlap when looking for strategies to recruit and retain quality team. Like two sides of the same coin.
The common denominator of the two actions of recruiting and retaining is the change leader. With the external push from the labor market and the proactivity of change leaders within their organizations, it has brought a positive swing to the candidate and employee experience.
How did this repositioning occur? Firstly, a lifting of importance of talent acquisition/management and HR roles over the past two years due to the gravity of their work. And secondly, there has been an increase in organizational teamwork, again driven by the necessity to cooperate. This has put the change leader (whether HR or an operational leader) in the middle to influence and actively change outcomes, all hands on deck. With more organizational players present and participating, the employee and candidate experience we have strived for, can finally take shape.
All hands are needed on deck to transform, but hearts and minds? Even before the pandemic and the great resignation/aspiration, leader and manager commitment was seen as a strong factor in the strength of their presence and authenticity- two elements candidates and team seek and have prioritized as being important to them. So when commitment wanes, it limits the impact of both recruiting and retaining efforts. The same root cause, let's call it.
What do we mean by exactly by tentative commitment?
People have often questioned their career paths when they are disappointed by imperfections in their current situation. They may expect, by this point in their lives, to be in a better job, or wish they were doing something else. These dissatisfactions result in tentative commitment, reducing the ability to be truly authentic, present and lead. But the challenge is that being tentative in one’s commitment, to invest our time and to act in abundance, limits our organizational output and individual contribution.
Mature, independent people who are neither overinvested in their past nor overcommitted to a specific future are in the best position to approach their current organization with power and grace.
While some employees grow sour and others leapfrog over their responsibilities to embrace the next milestone in their career, those who are fully present are in the best position to be themselves, slowly, playfully, and purposefully invading organizational space, acutely aware of the game-playing nature of organizations. These perceptions do not bog them down.
For example, consider those employees who say they are dissatisfied yet refuse to do anything about it. They are hanging onto a worn-out word that no longer describes their reality. After a certain point, the withdrawn and disengaged individual who stays, even though originally dissatisfied, will become more satisfied as their beliefs and actions align over time. Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957) which means that people can only tolerate discrepancies between their intentions and their actions for so long before changing one of the two in an effort to rectify the internal conflict.
With the recent push to become more self aware and reexamine how we work, live, play- merely tolerating a working environment was no longer possible. It had to be justified to yourself somehow. Many team left on the back of a deeper reexamination, but many stayed and continue working with vacancies that have made many roles operationally harder, impacting our commitment and presence. Cognitive dissonance in the past stopped people changing their situation and drove them to being more accepting, reducing their actions to leave or change employment. Cognitive dissonance is the mind’s way of rationalizing the difference between our thoughts and behaviors and moves us to a point of accepting our actions to correct the discrepancy between thought and action.
Top Reasons Why People Left a Job Without Another in Hand (Mckinsey,2022)
The Cost of Commitment
Commitment represents both the willingness of employees to make effort for the benefit of the organization and the desire to remain in the organization. Commitment is also seen to have a strong impact on many outcomes in the working environment, such as absenteeism, turnover, and employee performance.
If we feel emotionally invested in an organization and believe we have a trust to uphold, then we are still loosely committed. That loose commitment can be mostly transactional, such as fulfilling the terms of a contract, but however shallow, it activates a deeper emotional or affective sentiment of commitment and some level of identification with the organization. Employees who are bound on these three dimensions of emotional, physical and intellectual planes are considered to be fully committed.
In the current environment of economic uncertainty, how do we drive to this level of commitment? As organizations can also be seen to be tentative about their commitments, is it realistic to expect something different from employees? The truth is, that we are already halfway committed but may not know it, or may not want to be either. Part of our problem is living in a society that glorifies achievement, comparison, and tentative commitments. It seems we default to thinking that the grass is always greener, somewhere else. This can form a barrier to binding oneself, emotionally and intellectually, to a course of action.
Becoming More Authentic Balances Current Commitment Levels
Authentic leadership isn't something just invented, but it is something that makes a deeper impact than other leadership methods.
Authentic leadership is a style of leadership that focuses on transparent and ethical leader behavior and encourages open sharing of information needed to make decisions while accepting followers' inputs
The great thing about authentic behavior is that it has the advantage of being incredibly simple. Putting into words what we are experiencing and call what is being felt right there and now- moves our impression being more authentic instead of a nonauthentic choice. This is one of the most powerful things you can do to build trust and commitment. For example:
Manager says to a supervisor: "I want your opinion whether the project team are making mistakes and what they should do to correct them. If you decide they are incompetent, I want you to tell me directly at once. With names and specifics."
Manager thinks and experiences: Feeling like a judge, like I have to police the project team.
Nonauthentic manager response: "I will look at how the project is being managed and why there have been breakdowns. It will be up to you to take corrective actions."
Authentic manager response: "I feel I am being seen as a judge or police officer on this project. This is not the role I feel is most effective. I would like you to view me more as a mirror of what is happening now. You and your team can then evaluate what needs to be done and whether training is required. I am not a conscience.”
The authentic response works through the relationship to be more impactful. Showing up as yourself, current commitment and all, matters.
Use What You Have
Being more purposeful and strategic from the onset, using the lens of attracting and retaining to guide ever action and response will align and unleash resources- whether they be that as a culture we become sticker (cohesive, including the elements that build cohesion) and more of a safe place to work and grow or that overhaul the onboarding process and engage our strongest employees to support the organization to connect quicker and earlier with our new hires, or evaluate what belonging means and create a safe working space and place for traditional and non traditional employees and candidates to thrive. A final and often overlooked factor behind EX and resignations is the objective examination of the work (we often look to the people, culture and structure first)- the volume, its imperativeness and the value that task brings to how we transform products and services into outputs. With so much data pointing to the work and its role in EX, it can't continue to be ignored if we expect team to stay, as people have choices. Let's be one of them.
Watch the replay below of the live session Retaining & Recruiting Quality Team
By following the principles offered companies can start to build a uniform strategy to attract and retain, transforming themselves into destination workplaces, and meet the ever-changing needs of this and next-generation workforces.
I am also, as you, already know very comfortable talking about the unspoken and inspiring the team to use what we have, to connect positively in behaviors and words, shifting mindsets and remove the barriers to purpose and performance.