We are in the throes of a “great resignation” that’s bigger than anyone expected. According to the Department of Labor, a record four million workers quit in April alone, and Gallup research finds that 48 percent of our working population is currently searching actively for a job or watching for new opportunities. Pandemic fatigue, burnout, unwanted return-to-workplace requirements, and rethinking what truly matters in life are major reasons contributing to this title wave of leaving. There’s a powerful solution to help both retain your top people and recruit new talent: Create a workplace built on faith and trust.
The challenges and uncertainties we face on so many levels make it easy to go back to the way it was. Our old work practices are associated with “normal,” and it’s much easier to go back to the status quo than pioneer change. Sadly, that is what I am seeing happen in workplaces everywhere. “Let’s bring everyone back to the office and be ‘normal’ again” isn’t possible—or desirable.
The fact is that workplaces have been changing for many years, driven early on by Millennials and Gen Z who demanded more inclusive and motivating work environments. Then all six working generations joined them in wanting more purpose, work/life balance, flexibility, and inclusion from employers. People now expect empathy and transparency from their leaders; they want leaders who dare to care about them as human beings. Unfortunately, too many leaders haven’t listened—so employees are deciding to quit.
It’s best to begin listening with a foundation of workplace data and analytics in order to understand trends about who is leaving your company and why. This will help you develop and implement a strategic approach to retaining your people, which will surely require some major shifts in both your thinking and culture.
Whether people work in the office, remotely, or a hybrid of the two, leaders must realize that employees are shifting from a “work to live” to a “live to work” mentality. In order to keep your people, you must make the necessary shifts to meet employees where they are. As employers, we must remember that we are not just hiring someone with a certain skill set; we are hiring a whole person who has a life outside of work. To succeed in addressing the range of traits, experiences, and needs each person brings with them to the workplace, we need to lead with faith in our people, and copious amounts of empathy and kindness.
Having faith in your employees involves creating a community of respect, trust, transparency, and a touch of fun. Sounds idealistic, but this is exactly what they are looking for. When you dare to care about your people, they will choose to stay. There are several ways to incorporate faith into your workplace culture:
Lead with respect. Keep in mind that differences of opinion are not necessarily bad; they can shed light on pain points such as unfairness, or policies that may need updating, and lead to innovation. Circle back to the need to lead together: Leadership based on mutual respect makes a better workplace and happier people within it.
Communicate effectively. Always listen first, it’s the key to effective communication. Give people your undivided attention and the space they need to talk. Then listen patiently to understand what the true issues are, and don’t judge!
Build trust. Trust is built when your words and actions consistently match, and people are empowered to make decisions and feel safe taking action. Trust should not have to wait to be earned; create an environment where you are comfortable offering it freely.
Break the mold. Employees at all levels must deeply understand that we are stronger and need to lead together to meaningfully change the status quo. We’re all pioneers in creating the special and unique workplace cultures we need today and tomorrow.
Make it fun. Treat employees as the human beings they are, not just a name on your payroll. Encourage everyone to fully participate and contribute to the team effort, getting creative in organizing new and inclusive experiences for both in-person and remote settings.
The reason people leave is not about the money or the perks. It’s about whether you put your people first, clearing a path for them to succeed and staying out of their way. Change is hard, but it creates unimagined opportunity that begins with building faith and trust between you and your employees. This is how you win and keep top talent as they search for a better place.