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Wednesday, Nov 29, 2023

Great Resignation Not Really So Great

It’s impossible not to hear any echoes of the “Great Resignation” from our friends and family, from our coworker who found a new job, to those talking about how they are tired of the way the entire office over-roasts the coffee in the breakroom, so now it’s time for a change. We see this labor shortage in the grocery store, the convenience store, or your local auto parts store, where people fester in resentment over the long wait times because of severe understaffing. And to be honest, I’m tired of long drive-thru lines. Drive-thru was meant to be quick, not a half-hour gas drainer.

The “Great Resignation,” the “Great Reshuffling,” the “Great Attrition,” the “Great Negotiation”; no matter which way you slice it, dice it, or rename it, employers from across industries and business sizes are seeing employees leave, leading to challenges and pressures for our HR departments to struggle to find qualified workers.

Since last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has stated that more than 47 million individuals have quit their jobs. Yes, 47 million. While few may have gone on to enjoy early retirement and taken their golden years with them on vacation, many individuals who resign have gone to work in jobs that they say gives them the work-life balance they want, the pay they desire or the respect they deserve. And it won’t stop there, as 40% of employees plan to leave in the next six months.

Why are we struggling to keep our employees around? The initial thought would be, “They want more money.” Good guess, but we know that has done very little to keep employee turnover from occurring. Take for example the sign-on bonuses that several firms have provided new hires, just to have someone leave within six months. Why would someone stay if there is no commitment period in their onboarding documents? They basically received their severance in advance!

While employers look at the traditional aspects to attract and retain employee prospects such as increased pay rates, career opportunities and titles, employees are setting other requirements to include such things as a sense of appreciation, purpose and belonging. Many employees believe the increases in pay by their employers is a transactional relationship rather than an interactive one. The reality is that, yes, it is a transaction.

Not once would I have thought that a financial transaction between an employer and employee would not be a major factor to keep your staff around. But we have approached that day where compensation is no longer the determining factor for a person’s time. In many respects, the increased levels of awareness from younger generations have provided them greater opportunities to achieve and succeed both personally and professionally, but have increasingly made them cynical and pessimistic about contributing to long-term employment to their employers (if you can consider long term to be three years nowadays). The younger generation, coupled to their social media and short attention spans, have entered the workforce, and are becoming entry-level professionals, with all due respect to everyone else. 

Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting more, but I ask but for two things before throwing out your employer with the bathwater. One, we all must put in work. So come on in, and put in the work. Show that you are worth your salt, my friends. Yes, there are things about every job we may not like and may never ever like. But at the end of the day, you are contributing to your organization, learning important skills, so take the time out to understand your environment so when you’re taking your next career step you make one that will be both beneficial to yourself and your potential employer, which can end those six-month stints.

Second, let me remind you that time is taken out at the beginning of any introduction to any organization to train and get you acquainted with the environment. At that point, you are not providing any value to your new employer, and your paycheck costs way more than what you see on your paystub. (It’s a lot more, I’ll tell you that).

But as business leaders, we are not off the hook, as we may be responsible for employee burnout. We may expect our employees to be workhorses like us for our business, but they are humans with their own lives. It’s our job as employers to treat our employees as people, understand that life happens, and as much as we want our employees to reach out to us if they need anything, we need to do better and approach them and ask, “Do you need something?”

I believe the central message of having a constant flow of communication between employers and employees is what will make all the difference in having a local workforce that will understand the hardships, the successes, and the grit needed as those business peaks get heavy. If trust, communication and recognition can be given to employees, we employers can avoid the “Great Grievance” or whatever else marketing firms can come up with. The simple reality is people will be loyal to those who recognize their humanity. Now … get back to work.

Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business advocacy organization based in Van Nuys that represents employers in the San Fernando Valley at the local, state, and federal levels of government.

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