A few weeks ago, I did a post on Linked In, sharing an article about The Great Resignation. The post was prompted by the fact that I had just returned from a workout where I was told that yet another of my favorite coaches had resigned their position. I’ve been a part of this particular gym community for almost five years, and pre-Pandemic, knew all of the coaches well. Now I know only one.
There may be a number of factors driving the turnover in this one organization. I don’t know. I only see what I see as a customer. But it doesn’t take an insider to see the dynamics hitting workplace after workplace, this one included.
What I’ve observed from clients as well as being a customer is this:
Women, more than men, continue to shoulder a greater burden between work, family, household responsibilities, caretaking, and the like. The demands and cost of childcare alone are significant stressors, particularly in rigid, inflexible work environments.
These observations are backed up by news story after news story. A search of Google News on the word “strike” helped uncover at least seven significant employers where their workers have authorized a strike, if not fully enacted one, including:
The issue in each of these instances is not over COVID mandates. It’s about the same things the Great Resignation is about. It's about how companies treat, respect, and compensate their colleagues. It’s about how we work with each other.
Note the word choice there. Work with – not hire, not employ. Working with your colleagues, regardless of title, is a completely different mindset than the usual employment model of “me boss, you not.”
What changes when you work with someone:
Take, for example, the difference in life situations of a white-collar professional manager and an individual that reports to them. The manager likely has more flexibility in navigating their workday to deal with kids and non-work obligations. When school calls to say their child’s class has been put in quarantine, they can adjust. The direct report, with a child in the same classroom, may have no flexibility. Similar situation at school but vastly different circumstance in which to navigate them.
The direct report may need to work multiple jobs to make a reasonable living. Even though some employers have been forced to raise wages, inflation is eating that up. This juggle compounds the stress.
Workers are deciding to leave because the stress, pay, and/or environment simply aren’t cutting it relative to the other demands. Between the cost and availability of childcare, inflation and pandemic stress, the scale readily tips. It becomes a “lose-lose” rather than opening up to find the “win-win.”
You can see why colleagues may take exception to the CEO getting significantly bonuses and compensation while the workforce is expected to take pay cuts or go without increases. (The most recent public example of this hypocrisy is clear was Amazon man thanking his workers for making his trip to outer space a reality!)
This may inspire you to compensate colleagues at superior rates compared to market in order to employ a high-retention strategy and recognize their contributions and need for better working conditions, compensation, and benefits.
Yes. It will compress margins. But if you can maintain reasonable profitability and cash flow even after these increased costs, it may pay off in the long run with greater efficiencies, less turnover and churn, and better service to customers. (This, of course, may not be possible for low margin companies that are already hanging on by a thread.)
In fact, it may be a saving grace, because you have a team that is working alongside you rather than coworkers bugging out on you, crippling your very ability to operate.
Many businesses are facing closure due to the lack of workers, not lack of demand for their products or services. A colleague recently shared with me a trip to McDonalds where the drive through line was so long, they decided to go inside. The place looked like a bomb had gone off and there was nobody working the counter. Eventually, the fried and apologetic manager came up to serve them. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I only have five employees left.” He meant in total – not just on his shift.
The labor force is speaking with their feet. Workplaces would do well to listen - with open minds, heats and willingness. Is it hard? Yes, it can be, because it's not how we have been conditioned to think about the employment relationship and the economics of our companies.
Something has to change. We have to work with each other, not merely employ.