The ’Jerry Maguire’ Moment: Why Workers Are Quitting in Droves and What Companies Can Do About It

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Remember Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire? That intense moment when he’s standing in front of his teammates with a goldfish in his hand, shouting, “Who’s coming with me besides Flipper here?!”

Well, that scene is playing out across the country right now as Americans leave employers at their highest level in more than two decades, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The pandemic forced us all to take a hard look at our careers and values — and for so many of us, our priorities drastically changed. If you got the Jerry bug, it might be that you’re craving something more than money from your job now. You may be searching for purposeful work, a meaningful vision, and leadership that genuinely empowers and supports you.

Lockdown gave us plenty of time for introspection that we didn’t have in the get-up-and-go pre-pandemic culture. As a result, many of us have been able to identify the things that will truly make us happy at work: schedule flexibility, alignment with company values, training opportunities, creative compensation, improved health and wellness, and a better work-from-home experience, to name a few. Millennials in particular have a reputation for valuing meaning, career growth, and recognition above income and free Kombucha.

All this introspection has been a good thing. Honesty and integrity are common mottos at work, but how many of us really put these values into action? Yet, if we do not take action to address our own dissatisfaction, we’ll only end up sabotaging ourselves. It’s vital to acknowledge our feelings, reflect, and envision the right opportunities for our individual success.

Employers and Employees Want the Same Things

Employees are not the only ones who spent the pandemic thinking. Employers had time to rethink what they need from talent today. Qualities such as collaboration, empathy, and digital adoption rocketed to the top of employers’ wish lists.

Employers need workers who are on the same page when it comes to the organization’s direction. This is why teamwork has become imperative in the post-pandemic world. Engaged teams who rally around shared goals work more effectively to reach those goals.

The good news is that the wants of employees and the wants of employers seem to overlap. Employees and employers both want strong teams united in a shared purpose.

How do you use this information to attract and retain top talent today?

Start by inviting your team members to offer their voices in the hiring process. This signals that you value them, respect their feedback, and believe hiring should be a collaborative process.

Second, understand that the organization’s leaders and managers ultimately shape the company’s culture. Today’s organizations need progressive leadership with the interpersonal skills, empathy, transparency, and honesty necessary to build cultures that appeal to today’s candidates.

Many companies are investing heavily in supporting and recognizing employees through improved access to resources. For example, some companies are expanding mental health benefits, and others are creating space for more regular dialogues between employees and managers, rather than relegating those conversations to yearly reviews. Employees welcome this frequent engagement around their personal and professional development, and it drives both recruitment and retention.

In addition, employees appreciate organizations that have strong promote-from-within philosophies. Employees like having options to shadow and participate in other areas of the company, join coaching programs, and partake in other methods of building new skills and expanding their horizons. If your company offers these things, your employees won’t have to seek them elsewhere.

The Search for Meaningful Work

Understand, too, that this prioritization of company mission, vision, and values is here to stay. Well into the future, we will continue these conversations around the subject of meaning at work.

Finding meaning at work is a collaborative effort and a mutual responsibility. Employees must understand how their own values play into meaning by identifying their why. And when employees have a sense of purpose and ownership, they are better able to serve the needs of the organization. This balance can revive our workforces, renewing employees’ and employers’ commitments to satisfaction and growth.

Are we convinced of the possibilities here? It’s a time to maneuver beyond the way things have always been. We have an opportunity to build thriving, positive corporate cultures that lead to fulfillment for all. That is the new normal. After all, happy and efficient employees make for more productive and powerful organizations.

And as we move forward, remember the wise words of Jerry Maguire himself: “We will do it together!”

Anita Kanti, MA, is the author ofBehaving Bravely: How to Mindshift Life’s Challenges , a certified life coach, and founder of Anita K Solutions

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By Anita Kanti