The Great Resignation continues along a historic path, resulting in the highest employee quit rates on record. Many factors have been credited with causing the rise in historic turnover — the ongoing pandemic, vaccine mandates, increased retirements, and a strong candidate’s market are often credited as the core causes of the crisis.
What many organizations fail to realize is that the Great Resignation is the culmination of decades of employee disengagement, turnover, and workforce decline.
Take healthcare, for instance.
In 2016, The Atlantic reported that an estimated 700,000 nurses would retire or leave the workforce within the next seven years.
In 2017, hospitals in the United States were losing an average of $5-$8 million annually in employee turnover costs, and this turnover was most rampant among young people. As a result, employee retention became the strategic imperative for 90% of U.S. hospitals.
At the time, one state, in particular, predicted a dire future for itself if the healthcare workforce crisis remained unresolved. Reporting a shortage of 2,000 nurses, with a projected loss of 6,800 nurses within the next ten years, a University of South Carolina healthcare report candidly stated: “there will be deaths and unintentional injuries” directly resulting from the state’s nursing shortage.
As an industry, healthcare didn’t just wake up one day and suddenly have a talent shortage and increased turnover. Over time, the problem compounded into an emergency situation.
Similar stats were evident in other industries. Apparent in every industry worldwide, workforce turnover was cited as a chief global concern by the United Nations.
That was in 2017.
Here we are five years later, and employers are still struggling to understand why employees are leaving and what to do about it.
It sounds simplistic, but all the workforce data points to the same source of the problem: Change.
The pace of turnover increases when organizations fail to keep pace with change.
There’s been a tremendous amount of social, economic, demographic, and technological change in recent years. When they come face-to-face with change, leaders tend to have one of the following responses.
- The Ostriches: Just as ostriches have a reputation for sticking their heads in the sand, these leaders are complacent because they never see change coming. They take comfort in their legacy brands and history of success, insisting ‘everything is just fine’ and ‘we can ride this out’. They tend to be blindsided by change.
- The Explosives: These leaders have an explosive reaction to change, making decisions which aren’t well thought out or strategic. Rules thrive in this leader’s environment. There isn’t much time dedicated to thinking about the future or implementing a change. As a result, change-making initiatives tend to fizzle shortly after they’re launched.
- The Changemakers: These leaders give their employees time to innovate, focus on the future, and contemplate change. Change thrives in these organizations because there tends to be more flexibility, less rules, and more trust.
The Changemakers spend a considerable amount of time thinking about change and preparing for it. They also spend a considerable amount of time thinking about how to hire the best people and build the best teams.
The other two types of companies are heavily focused on the day-to-day, investing little time or effort into the concepts of talent or change. This makes employee engagement a constant struggle.
With an estimated 80 percent of companies falling into the Ostrich category, it’s no surprise the quit rate is skyrocketing. In today’s rapidly-changing world, leaders need to be able to embrace change and meet the changing needs of the workforce.
Do you know what inspires your employees or what hurdles prevent them from becoming engaged employees? If not, you should find out. Start by asking yourself and your team these questions:
- Do employees feel engaged in the organization’s mission, culture, and values? Do employees feel engaged in the organization’s strategy for success?
- Do employees consider the work that needs to be done as valued and necessary? Do they feel they have access to the knowledge, skills and tools, and connections needed to get the job done?
- Do employees feel the team they are working with can achieve their goals? Do they feel they can trust other employees, give advice to others, or ask others for help?
- Do employees feel engaged with clients, customers, volunteers, and members in professional or social settings outside of work? Do they feel engaged in a network or community via their work?
It’s not an outcome of the global pandemic. It wasn’t unpredicted or something outside of our control. The Great Resignation happened because leaders stopped paying attention to the changing needs of their teams.
Workforce disengagement and decline has been worsening since the year 2000. Let’s make this the year we kill the ostrich mentality once and for all and start innovating, practicing inclusion, and modernizing.
Engaging people is impossible until you understand them, which can only come from time spent pursuing a relationship with them – and that’s something that will never change.
Has your organization been struggling with turnover and employee disengagement? We can help. Reach out to us, and let’s find a solution that suits your team.