At the start of the pandemic, businesses laid off employees en masse, justified as a business decision to keep operations lean during an uncertain crisis. Two years later, continued mass resignations forced leaders to scramble during the Great Resignation – a labor crisis accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to impact businesses across most industries.
As think pieces, analysis, and commentary from workplace experts surface, employees are left to wonder: Why were mass layoffs treated so matter of fact, while mass resignations are seen as a large-scale crisis?
Despite the flashy headlines and panic over labor shortages, The Great Resignation isn't all bad. It has ushered in a new era – the Great Reflection – where employees are reflecting more deeply on what they genuinely want from their job and career, being mindful about where and how they work. Just as employees are thinking about their long-term needs, employers need to look in the mirror and face their work culture. Employees want, more than ever, a true connection to their workplace.
In addition to seeking a connection, they are reflecting on the relationship between businesses and employees – how can leaders justify the impact layoffs have on people's livelihoods while asking employees to think about the impact their resignation will have on their businesses?
To address this question, it all comes down to how businesses and leaders are prioritizing the employee experience, or the way an organization engages with its employees.
Reflecting on the Great Reflection
Employee/Employer relationships have changed due to the disruption caused by COVID. The pandemic upended the way we think about the traditional corporate workplace – people lost and continue to lose their lives – as we all try to stay focused on work for the sake of the economy. The priorities that people had pre-pandemic are different than before – work is important, but not THE most important, workers are valuable and more than just numbers in a spreadsheet.
That's what the Great Reflection is really about, people aren't just resigning for the sake of resigning, there are deeper reasons behind these decisions than ever before. As the way we work continues to change, employees are routinely emphasizing a need for autonomy. Employers are debating between WFH, hybrid and in-office work, but autonomy is not just about where employees work, but how they work.
The conversation extends to long-term flexibility: is there enough trust and stability in the organization for employees to make their own schedules? Can people take time off without feeling guilty for taking the time off?
The employee experience is not a band aid
Just as you focus on the customer experience to ensure the success of your business, employee experience needs to be a core component of your operations. This shouldn't become a buzzword synonymous with an easy retention fix – employers need to focus on ways to engage employees long-term. The employee experience starts by focusing on the employee journey, which starts in the recruiting process and ends when the employee leaves the organization.
Most employees want to work where their values align, seeking organizations that emphasize corporate responsibility and diversity, equity, and inclusion. These shouldn't just be utilized as marketing copy on the website – they need to be demonstrated through actions throughout their time at work.
One place where the employee journey and value alignment can be emphasized is with salary and benefits, which are major factors for happiness at work. These should reflect values by ensuring that there is pay transparency and benefit evolution as the organization sees that employee experience is changing.
Technology is the biggest asset
Technology has made work easier in a lot of respects – from streamlining processes to allowing us to communicate across countries and time zones; There has never been a better time to rely on workplace advances. However, technology can also be a hindrance, something we saw during the pandemic where the lines between work and life blurred.
Technology should be seen as a tool utilized to benefit the employee experience, but in many organizations the urge to facilitate the experience for employers has hindered employee adoption. So much so, that one in three employees is unhappy with their job-related technology. Decision-makers need to choose technology platforms that both help employees understand how to effectively do their jobs, while helping employers learn how to support them.
Organizations need to reflect on how technology is being implemented across the workplace. Is it facilitating the work experience especially in a hybrid setting? Putting an emphasis on updating technology can make work more engaging for employees and improve their journey.
The Great Resignation is a great time for employers to focus on the Great Reflection employees and their organization are facing. Through internal reflection, communication, and streamlining technology leaders can improve the employee experience.