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How Companies Can Navigate “The Great Resignation”

The associate professor at Mays Business School, Texas A&M University, first coined the term in the second quarter of 2021, when the US tallied some 3.9 million people quit their jobs. By September, that number had jumped to 4.4 million, about 3% of the country’s total workforce. It was by far the highest number since the government started keeping track back in 2001.  

Klotz coined the term when interviewed by Bloomberg about the rising number of resignations at that time. The business administration professor said pandemic-induced “epiphanies”, from better work-life balance, rethinking the long commute, to more livable pay, made many ask themselves what truly matters.  

“During the pandemic, because there was a lot of death and illness and lockdowns, we really had the time and the motivation to sit back and say, do I like the trajectory of my life? Am I pursuing a life that brings me well-being?” Klotz said in another NPR interview 

The phenomenon has challenged companies everywhere to establish, and maintain, a work culture that retains and attracts the best talents. It has forced founders and human resource heads to create better employee experience 

According to LiveTiles Digital Workplace Trends 2021, the “hybrid workplace”, or the combination of remote and on-site work is now one of the pandemic-induced setups employees want to keep for good. The report emphasized: “a good salary is simply not enough… Employees want to feel they are making a difference beyond driving shareholder value.”   

Often this means allowing employees to build lives outside of work. The influx of millennials and Gen Z employees in offices has also pushed this narrative further. Companies would now have to carve a part of their resources that will allow employees to form and nurture personal projects; to let them make their lives “more than just about their jobs”. This also means nourishing a workplace culture that allows employees to thrive in their careers while doing so.  

So what can companies do?  

With the job crunch, employees know they have leverage. Competitive pay is no longer the sole deal breaker. Companies would now have to understand the crucial importance of flexibility, and be more creative with the benefits they can offer to talents.  

WillisTowersWatson survey showed that in Asia Pacific, 72 percent of employers plan to customize their workplace benefits in the next two years with employee well-being as the top priority in the strategy.  

This would only be successful if employers learn how to actively listen (and have systems in place to make this happen), and implement changes based on their employees’ responses. It is time for employers to include employees in the decision-making process. Ask questions to employees and listen to their answers intently. The basic model is to “listen, act, resolve”. All the listening would be in vain if employees see no results.  

Lastly, when the risks of the pandemic have passed, do not be afraid to create organic bonding moments among employees, in person. Whether that may mean office dinners or free concerts, it is worth remembering that some of the best memories of people at work happen when they are with colleagues they’ve enjoyed working with.  

It’s apparent that for companies to survive in the post-pandemic era, they must start creating jobs that add value to the lives of their employees. As said by the World Economic Forum, companies must now establish a culture of “individualized working conditions”. The best companies know that the best talents deliver. It’s about cultivating a culture of trust and empowerment, rather than one where  bosses feel they need to be hovering over the shoulders of their employees.  

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