There’s a lot of talk about the Great Resignation. Partly, a result of the changes in work resulting from pandemic, partly things that have been building in people’s attitudes toward work since years before the pandemic.
We’ve seen the precursors to the Great Resignation for some time. Sharply declining employee engagement and satisfaction, systemic reductions in performance, higher levels of voluntary attrition and sharply lowering tenures.
As leaders, we’ve created much of the problem ourselves. There has been the great Commoditization Of Talent–treating people as widgets that can be easily replaced by another widget. Doing everything we can to mechanize work, removing creativity, thoughtfulness, judgement and trust. We have gone overboard in being totally prescriptive about how work should be done. We are removing the need for “knowledge” from knowledge workers.
At the same time, new generations have different goals than, previous generations (Though I’m not completely sure I buy this.) In our parents’ generations the concept of work/life balance was life is what you squeezed into whatever time you had outside of work. Then work/life balance became more central, where the things we did outside of work are as important as our work lives. And Gen Zs bring a different set of expectations–really about life, and work is just an element of life.
As a result, our old models of work and engagement are entirely outdated and increasingly ineffective.
The Pandemic has amplified much of what we had already seen in the shifting attitudes around work. Add, on top of that, the burnout many feel in working harder, but being more disconnected.
All of this gets us to the great Resignation, and experts are wringing their hands trying to figure out what comes next in the future of work. And too many are painting a fairly negative picture.
On the other hand, I’m tremendously optimistic. I think we are not facing he great Resignation, but rather the great Reinvention! And I couldn’t imagine a more interesting time to contribute to this!
What’s driving my optimism? Simply put, we’ve been through similar cycles before and each time we emerge better. I liken what we are going through to a slowly moving pendulum. At some point a pendulum reaches it’s most extreme point, and gravity forces a change–a correction. The pendulum starts going the other direction.
Likewise, we go through the cycles. We reach the extreme of a cycle, the “systems” that are supposed to support things break down, and we start moving into a different direction, correcting the things that drove the imbalance/dissonance.
I think we’ve reached the pivot point for business. We have so focused on the mechanization/automation of business. We’ve misapplied AI/ML, and technology, we’ve removed a lot of the “humanity” from our interactions with each other, our customers, partners, suppliers and communities. And it’s breaking down because those we wanted to dehumanize were humans. The models are collapsing in favor of different models that recognize people.
We are now realizing the purpose of the organization is not just maximizing shareholder profit. Instead, we are recognizing it is through these human interactions, that we create and drive growth–creating shareholder profit. We are seeing more focus on purpose, value, culture and creating meaning at work. We are moving to recognize that our growth and effectiveness is all about aligned identities—individual, functional, organizational. We recognize the concept of identity extends beyond our organizations to our customers–we identify around similar things and choose to trust and to business with those people/organizations with whom we share elements of our identities. The same is true for our partners, suppliers, and the communities in which we work.
The great Resignation forces us to Reevaluate/Reassess everything we do. We will be forced to create workplaces where people want to work, grow, and contribute. People are looking for meaning and purpose and will be drawn to organizations that have similar identities.
For some organizations, this is not a big change. They have created work and workplaces that create meaning and are places people want to work, where they are valued, listened to, can grow and learn. We’ve seen plenty of models these-and they are typically the “Great” organizations.
We have such a wonderful opportunity to Reinvent the very nature of work and how organizations and people work to achieve shared goals/purpose.
What we face is not the great Resignation, it is, in fact a great Reinvention!