The Great Resignation saw 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in Aug 2021 and there were 10.4 million open jobs by the end of Aug 2021. Did most of them quit because of their managers?
Not really! There are many other significant factors and we must invest efforts to address those as much as we do to develop the leadership capability of the managers.
What’re the factors at play?
Team dynamics and the vibes of an organisation play a very significant role in establishing a connection with the heart of an employee. Right from the time a job opportunity is presented to the candidate, impressions about the company get accumulated in one’s mind and heart. Assuming that there are no exceptional situations, these impressions keep building the imagery of the company culture in the candidate’s mind. Each of us has our preferences and hence, may or may not like what we see, hear and feel during the process of associating with the company. If the connection happens to be endearing, the going is good. Else, the employer and the employee have a bumpy ride.
Secondly, it is the intra-organisational factors which influence the work-life of an employee. Right from the work environment, peer relations, operating norms and practices shape one’s experience deeply. Sometimes, an organisation’s overall culture could draw an employee; the vision and abilities of the top-level leadership team might be inspirational, yet due to specific situations in specific functions, regions or teams, we see an exodus of talent. Thus, paying attention to the overall goodness of the organisation is not enough; we need to make sure that all the nooks and corners are permeated with the same level of goodness.
Last but not the least, market forces play an important role in creating ripples in the labour pool. After all, the forces of supply and demand motivate employees to explore new opportunities and possibilities. Companies with weak bonds with their talent end up losing the most in the war of talent.
So, we do not think that people leave just because of their managers. This is an oversimplified thought. Rather, our talent retention strategy has to be like a plum cake where dry fruits and nuts are interspersed throughout the cake.
What forms the body of the cake?
Human beings have some needs in common and every organisation cannot fulfil all those needs with the same intensity. They make choices about the extent to which they can fulfil those. For example, salaries, benefits and recognition have to be maximised. However, it is not pragmatic for a company to offer the highest or the best in all categories among the peer group companies. An organisation has to behave consistently as it administers salaries and benefits, runs its performance management and talent development processes, structures its organisation, and responds to violations, grievances and demands and the environmental factors.
We have to make sure that all the leaders in the company are on the same page. They need to understand the operating norms and demonstrate those in action every day through their behaviours. They set goals, delegate tasks, hire new people, assess performance, offer feedback, implement new programmes, engage with stakeholders and resolve conflicts. As they act on each of these, the goodness or the lack of it in the company’s culture becomes apparent.
What about the fruits and nuts which make the cake unique?
An organisation exists for many years and is expected to outlast its founders and leaders. So, what keeps it going is the futuristic thinking of its leaders and the HR team. They have to think of the quarter and the year, for sure. And at the same time, need to think about the future years. They have to nurture the talent, set their eyes on a time in the future and define inspirational long-term goals. They have to challenge the status quo and keep making course corrections so that the future roadmap is within the reach.
In this crucial aspect of growing up, they need to pool the energies of the workforce, channel them into thinking about the future and make conscious efforts to stir up their minds. It is not easy for people to state the uncomfortable truths and present ideas which may not be along the lines of popular beliefs and conventional wisdom. They have to gather these and act on them.
While thinking of the future, organisations have to create environments and safe places where an innovative spirit can flourish and people co-create the future and destiny. They feel connected in their hearts and heads.