Bruce Berlin, Founder & Chief Experience Officer, Prioriteams
The post-Covid19 workforce mass exodus, creating what is now known as The Great Resignation, has left senior living and long-term care communities struggling to recruit and retain enough staff to provide quality care and services to their residents. Some have speculated what caused The Great Resignation, including employee burnout, enhanced unemployment benefits offered during the pandemic, health and safety concerns, and inadequate rates of pay. While these may have been contributing factors, I believe this phenomenon that has created our current staffing crisis has been driven by employee disengagement, due to people resetting expectations of their desired working experience.
The Great Resignation due to employee disengagement should not be surprising. Since Gallup began measuring employee engagement in 2000, the average percent of workers not engaged in the United States has ranged between 64-74%. On top of that, workers had to navigate through significant changes at work and home during the Covid19 pandemic, which drove many of them to the brink of physical and emotional exhaustion. The pandemic also created space and time for people to reevaluate their priorities and what is important to them. And for many, having a working experience that allows them to have work-life harmony has become very important.
Employees’ working experience is driven by their level of engagement, which is the emotional connection they have with their job, supervisor, and organization. Historically, we have looked at employee engagement survey scores as the best predictors of employee engagement and performance, to determine if leaders are meeting their employees’ needs. The Gallup organization measures employee engagement through 12 elements of engagement referred to as the Q12. The Q12 provides a framework for how leaders can create engagement because these elements measure areas a leader can directly impact. Based upon the Q12, I believe there are five critical needs people need to have met in their working experience:
- The need to be equipped
- The need to feel a sense of belonging
- The need to be valued
- The need to engage in meaningful work
- The need to have opportunities to grow
While increasing wages to competitive levels is very important, merely increasing wages is not enough to attract and retain top talent. Today, leaders must work towards meeting the expectations of their peoples’ desired working experience. This starts with meeting these critical needs.
Over the years many organizations have implemented programs and initiatives to improve employee engagement, but the impact of many of them are often short-lived because many employees perceive them as being rooted in getting more productivity out of them, rather than improving their working experience and their well-being. While it is important to maximize employee productivity, leaders must be careful not to fall into the “Goose and the Golden Egg” syndrome by prioritizing employees’ output over their well-being, or by viewing them as “human doings” rather than “human beings.” Instead, leaders need to focus on what they can do for their employees rather on what their employees can do for them.
This will require leaders being very intentional in giving their employees attention, in order to support them, engage them in their strengths, and help them grow. Leaders also need to be intentional in creating a sense of belonging for their employees. Recent research by McKinsey showed that the top two reasons employees cited for leaving their job or considering leaving their job was not due to pay or lack of work-life balance, it was because they did not feel their work was valued and because they lacked a sense of belonging.
If leaders can shift their focus from prioritizing business outcomes to prioritizing the well-being of their employees, they will be well on their way to overcoming The Great Resignation.