How is the Great Resignation affecting you? Is your organization losing its workforce because of burn-out, stress, a lack of purpose or a toxic culture? Do you know why people are leaving? Have you asked your staff if they are happy or looking for something more? Have you asked them why they stay; what matters to them; what they are seeking in a good workplace?
It’s never been more important to have these conversations. Gallup found that 52% of exiting employees say their managers could have done something to prevent them from leaving. They refer to this as a trillion dollar preventable problem and suggest that you can ‘plug the million dollar leak’ by having frequent and meaningful conversations with employees about what matters to them.
But what if you are a manager or a leader that has not been engaging in this kind of dialogue? Perhaps these conversations make you uncomfortable? Maybe you prefer that these issues be dealt with by your HR team?
That approach may have worked in the past – but no longer. If it’s true that people join organizations, but leave their boss, it’s time for all leaders to start engaging in meaningful dialogue and building relationships. If not, your high performers will leave, causing more work and stress on the team left behind and ultimately on you.
Instead of dreading these conversations, you could think of them as an investment in your quality of life as well as your employees’. But where to begin?
Here is a simple framework to get started: LAUGH
L – LISTEN and LEARN – engage in active listening. Ask your team how they are doing, take time to listen without judgement, to be present, and to witness what is going on. Have a dialogue with the full team and with individuals – go on a ‘listening tour’ – to promote trust and demonstrate openness, humility and authenticity. Use a curiosity mindset to learn more about the situations people are experiencing and to start conversations about how we can make it better, together. Saying that you have an open leadership style is no longer enough, it needs to be supported by action.
A – ACKNOWLEDGE feelings – don’t dismiss or diminish them; they are real to the person experiencing them. You care about these people – make it more obvious to them. Offer empathy – which doesn’t mean you are responsible for fixing everything. Most people don’t expect you to solve their problems, they just want to be seen and heard, and to feel supported by the people around them, including you, their leader. People will stay in challenging situations and do hard work if they feel they are valued and cared for by the people closest to them.
U – UNDERSTAND – take time to truly understand the issues at the individual level. Don’t assume you know – go a little deeper. Ask people to help you understand – and take the time to get there. We all have a certain amount of bias, or privilege, or circumstances which have led us to the place we are. You could spend a day job-shadowing your front-line, witnessing the conditions they are working in, the constraints they face every day – in getting to work, and in doing the work. You will be amazed at the resilience of your team, your eyes will be opened, you will gain greater empathy and gratitude, and create a better understanding of the customer and employee experience. This is a valuable education and an important investment in you, your team and your organization.
G – be GENUINE – if this is the first time you are engaging with your team like this, say so. People will appreciate your honesty and vulnerability – especially if you are doing it with an authentic intent to learn, to understand and make things better. Being vulnerable takes courage and creating a great culture takes time, strong collaboration, and persistence. Sharing that you are working toward a long-term solution, and you are willing to learn and grow in the process (and might make a few mistakes along the way!) is the key to great leadership. You may want to seek out additional training on how to be a coach and mentor – so you can have frequent, intentional and on-going / informal conversations with your team. Don’t wait for the annual performance review, encourage two-way feedback and dialogue on contributions being made and potential improvements, throughout the year.
H – HOPE – hope for the future is a key part of being resilient – it can get us through a lot. Seeing that your manager is striving to make improvements, and that you can be part of the solution, can offer hope, which is a powerful feeling. If someone is thinking of leaving because they want more meaning or fulfillment at work – but suddenly they feel they could find greater purpose in their current organization, they will likely stay! Learn what matters to each individual – is it clear progression to a more senior role? Is it learning a new skill? Is it recognition? Or greater flexibility for work-life balance? Is it working in a supportive culture that allows them to bring their whole self to work and showcase their strengths? Don’t assume you know – you must ask each member of your team. Then start creating that environment for your valuable employees now – and continue to co-design and innovate within your team and across the organization. Once you start the conversation about a better future, people will be energized and great ideas will come to the surface!
LAUGH – Finishing with the full word – yes – have some laughter at work! Try to find something to lighten the mood, to make people smile, to help your team feel good about life for a moment or two. Humour comes in many forms – you don’t have to be a stand-up comedian, but share something nice or positive, encourage friendships, build a community, encourage kindness – do whatever you can to bring a smile to someone’s face. A little goes a long way.
A Call to Action
What can you do – today – to retain your valuable employees and create a better work environment before it’s too late? Start having these important conversations – it will lead to a better employee experience for your team and, by helping others, you will feel better yourself. Great cultures are not only dictated from above – they can start anywhere. Do what you can to have a positive impact on those around you. The benefits are huge (financially) but even better for humanity.