The Great Resignation Is Over: Here’s What’s Next
Early in my career as a management consultant, I was a firm believer that people quit leaders — not companies. Now, with more than 20 years of experience leading change management and people strategy at some of the world’s largest companies, my perspective has changed.
What causes people to quit is organizational culture.
The pandemic opened our eyes to the pitfalls of many workplace cultures. As a result, businesses are looking to redefine theirs. We're in the “Great Reconciliation” when it comes to workplace cultures being redefined, and employees have a say. Here’s what employers need to know.
Welcome to Culture 2.0
From cryptocurrency to the metaverse, the world is changing and so is the way we work. People are leaving their jobs at alarming rates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 47 million people in the US quit their jobs in 2021. A new world is emerging out from under the Great Resignation and employers find themselves needing to transform alongside it. The Great Resignation has allowed — or rather, demanded — a rebirth of company culture. Before the pandemic, businesses and organizations were linear, if you will. But now, thanks to the Great Reconciliation, they are shaping up to be multi-dimensional as demanded by the workforce.
As companies navigate the return to work, it’s time for a culture shift and a redefinition of what culture means in this new paradigm with a transformed workforce. A recent Pew Research Center survey cited low pay and little room for advancement as the main reasons U.S. employees left jobs in 2021. But also ranking on the list were childcare issues, lack of flexibility in hours, questions related to benefits and relocation desires. Employees understand the power they have to effect change, and demand these new ways of working from employers. Some elements of remote work are likely to remain at a majority of companies, and Culture 2.0 means defining workplace culture for all employees — not only those in the office — to stay competitive in a tight hiring market.
Not only do we now need a hybrid workplace, we also need flexibility on how and when we work. People are no longer staying in the same jobs for decades. Instead, they are coming and going, taking on gig work and working in countries separate from their employer. There is a collective shift happening which is creating demand for company Culture 2.0.
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Involve Employees and Key Stakeholders in Culture Building
To get Culture 2.0 right, it’s important to involve employees and key stakeholders — clients, vendors and partners — in the process. Leaders are no longer the ones making the decisions or making decisions on behalf of the shareholders. Why is this important? Because a culture created alongside your employees supports their needs, leading to job satisfaction and engagement — and those factors typically increase employee performance and productivity. A transparent process that incorporates employee perspective is paramount.
It's no longer acceptable for leadership or executives to meet quietly and come out with answers and solutions from behind closed doors — nor will tactics like that result in the culture you need to keep your best employees. Co-creating solutions with employees keeps them invested in your company longer. Further, if they understand the process behind cultural decisions, employees feel informed and engaged with the conversations and choices that directly impact their day-to-day lives.
At the top of your creating Culture 2.0 list should be a new, clear path of where the organization is going, how and why. Then, focus on how each team member individually can fit into that vision (if you can't do this yourself, delegate it). The pandemic made everyone take a hard look at their lives, personally and professionally. Does your vision align with your employee’s personal goals and dreams? Can it? If an employee is persuaded to do something they don’t want to do or that goes against their beliefs, they will look elsewhere. Do you know what their non-negotiables are?
From the stakeholder perspective, consider how your actions impact the environment. How are you bringing about purposeful change in the world? These are the questions that are being asked today that weren’t a few years ago. Businesses today must consider not just what they’re doing internally, but how they’re showing up in the world at large — because at the end of the day, that’s what attracts employees.
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A Quick Look Back
At the start of the pandemic, many companies crash landed into remote work, resulting in unspoken confusion for their employees instead of stability and rules and regulation. Nearly every business faced unavoidable uncertainty. For some, that fear translated to employee performance and the uncertainty led to mistrust and dread, especially of meetings that “could have been an email.”
Employees — already overwhelmed by world events, family circumstances and physical and mental health issues — became attuned to the fact that their organizations were not prepared for a shift to remote work, and that they were equipped properly to support them when they needed it. Many in the C-suite never considered what their culture could look like in a remote or hybrid work environment, and simply took whatever culture they had and tried to translate it into Zoom or Teams, which did not work.
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Building for Inclusion, Building for Resilience
Which brings us to Culture 2.0. Of course, making cultural changes from a strategic point of view isn’t the end of the journey. It’s essential to retrain managers on how to lead teams in the new environment. For most managers, hybrid work wasn’t part of business design when they were trained — and leadership can be a challenge. But Culture 2.0 gives the organization the opportunity to redefine what a manager and inclusive leader looks like in today’s world.
Onboarding rituals are important for both the manager and the new employee. Once an organization is poised to create a culture that works for everyone, there’s an additional opportunity to deepen talent by rethinking hiring. Having a diverse pool of employees and multi-generational staff — and laser-focused employees who fit the new culture — challenges leaders to think differently. When leaders account for and invest in different styles of work, they create innovation and engagement. As employees come and go, dynamics will shift, but if your core values are set and your new culture defined, disruptions can be curtailed.
Creating this new culture won’t happen overnight, but it will happen with intention. We live in an era where flexibility is standard — the pandemic taught us that if nothing else. Your organization should have structure around this. If it doesn’t, and you’re not sure where to start, ask your employees.
About the Author
Christie Lindor is the CEO of Tessi Consulting, a Certified B Corporation focused on helping leaders that want to create diverse, high performing and inclusive cultures, but do not know where to start. Prior to Tessi, Christie was a seasoned management consultant advising Fortune 500 clients at some of the world’s top firms such as IBM, Deloitte and EY.