The Great Reshuffling is Teaching us to be Better Empathizers, Employers, and Employees
These are not easy times for HR professionals. Employees are resigning in droves, and there’s no single reason why. Some are chasing higher paychecks in an unprecedented hot job market, others are jumping ship for promises of quick advancement, and some are radically making 180-degree career changes to pursue their dreams after surviving the pandemic. But is there something larger at work asmillions continue to resign each month ?
Although there are no tidy answers, since its inception, my company has built our employee programs using empathy as the guiding principle: How do you best support your people as they navigate life’s complexities? We believe that the best strategy is to focus on putting people first.
As a matter of policy, all employees are allowed to influence their schedules to strike a work/life balance that works for them. Although we consistently honor client commitments, the workday doesn’t have to follow a rigid 9-to-5 cadence. In our business, we also understand that some days can be longer than others, and when that happens, we encourage those team members to take time off they need to recharge or spend a little extra time with their families and friends.
Ultimately, our goal at Bounteous is to value the whole person. When we’re successful at this, we enable our team members to be engaged, be heard, feel valued, and know that they are contributing and part of our success and empowered to make decisions that impact their careers and lives.
But even with our people-centered programming, we’re still experiencing the highest turnover in our company’s history. And although our retention numbers continue to outpace our competition, it begs the question, what is truly going on?
Lessons Learned from the Pandemic
When the pandemic mandated companies to send their employees home, it immediately leveled the playing field. Two of our critical competitive advantages, offering a hybrid work model and rejecting a road-warrior culture, evaporated. Today, many more companies offer flexibility and are currently not demanding that their knowledge workers jump on a plane each week.
And those companies that don’t allow work-from-home face an even greater risk of losing valued talent. While we celebrate this flexibility (we have always believed that people should have the freedom to manage their schedules), the conversation has fundamentally shifted. What made our company special in the past is, for now, standard practice.
In addition, there is not only a global skills shortage across diverse industries, digital talent, the bedrock of our particular business, is in demand more than ever before. As we organized our meals, supplies, entertainment, and social lives online month after month, the pandemic helped us realize that the future is here and is, in fact, digital. The marketplace is simply responding accordingly.
Gartner points out that “65% of employees say the pandemic has made them rethink the place that work should have in their lives.” On the flip side, I would bet that 100% of employers would say the pandemic has made them deeply rethink the importance of employees and their impact on the success of their businesses. When flexible work hours, liberal leave programs, abundant career opportunities, and competitive salaries aren’t enough, what is? It may boil down to redefining what “putting people first” means. Here are some lessons learned along our journey.
Better Wellness and Support for Emotional Pain
Many of our team members live alone, and the isolation they felt was a problem–not just for them but also for us. Humans are social creatures, even those of us who are introverts and appreciate those moments of reverie and solitude. Other employees struggled with the strain of caring for children, homeschooling, nursing elderly parents, and working full-time, often in crowded spaces.
We knew our employees needed empathy. We provided:
- Wellness and pulse checks
- Collaborative processes to tag-team work
- New mental health resources
- Creative ways to provide social outlets for some and support services for others
Hire Talent From Anywhere
The mandatory work-from-home model taught us something significant: We can hire people from all over the globe. This is game-changing, especially as we try to recruit candidates who possess the most in-demand skills in the market.
Related to this, we are expanding our teams globally, starting in Mexico and India and expanding our presence in several other countries. By offering employees the opportunity to work in other parts of the world or providing creative time-off programs such as sabbatical leaves, we can incentivize those with wanderlust to stay put at Bounteous. Global expansion may turn out to not only be a powerful recruiting tool for us but a long-term retention tool, as well.
Fewer Face-To-Face Meetings
Every company worldwide discovered that they could carry on without face-to-face meetings. While no company wants to eliminate them, decreasing the number can significantly reduce our team members’ stress levels, alleviate complicated scheduling, and, as knowledge workers, provide more downtime to produce, think, and strategize. After all, no one likes rising in the pre-dawn hours to catch a flight, train, or bus, or miss their child’s school play or soccer game (not to mention the adverse effects that commuting takes on our environment or the long in-office days on our health).
Suppose there’s one lesson we should take away from the pandemic. In that case, it’s to think twice before scheduling an in-person meeting–will the outcomes be significantly improved by in-person time, or would a video chat, phone call, or email provide the desired results?
Videoconferencing Brought Clients and Co-workers Into People’s Homes
Over the past two years, I’ve met with candidates, teammates, and clients alike who had dogs barking in the next room, babies on laps, or plumbers fixing the kitchen sink. Meanwhile, I invited those same people to witness the mountains of boxes piled up around me as my family prepared for a significant cross-country move. It was–and still is–impossible to keep our private lives completely private.
Coming into people’s homes gave us a fuller picture of colleagues and business partners–it humanized the worker. We are not just employees but are children, parents, neighbors, and friends.
Although it’s impossible to tell people to leave their home lives at home under such conditions, I wonder if we should have ever asked them to do so in the first place. Acknowledging that our team members lead complex lives breeds tolerance, understanding, compassion, and empathy and widens a network of support that extends well into the workplace.
What Happens Outside the Office Affects What Happens Inside the Office
The past two years have been tumultuous. Social and political issues affect employees in meaningful ways, and they bring that stress into the office. Don’t ignore it; instead, address it head-on. We’ve learned that we need to regularly take the pulse of employee sentiment, mainly because we have a diverse workforce. We’ve often hired outside facilitators to help with conversations and brought in speakers who can address sensitive topics candidly. Addressing stress points directly can fuel long-term trust, provide meaningful connections, and build high-functioning teams.
Over the next twelve months, my company promises to examine these disparate inputs and address how to incorporate new ideas into a corporate culture that is once again a competitive differentiator for us.
As a company, we need to be supportive, clear about growth paths, abundant with rewards and praise and listen as much as we talk. Although I don’t have all the answers, I’m optimistic. These challenges can also serve as opportunities to build something better for our people, reinvigorate support and development programming, and ultimately rewrite the playbook to buck the great resignation.
Leah Weyandt is the Chief People Officer of Bounteous.
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