". . . The answer to that is easy if only you'd stop looking in the wrong place. This has nothing at all to do with working from home or working in an office. It has everything to do with trust, autonomy, inviting talented people to be themselves, telling people that the right behaviour is their natural behaviour."
We keep hearing about the Great Resignation - countless tens of thousands of employees resigning, job vacancies at long-term highs, risks of wage inflation as a result; along with speculation as to whether the phenomenon is driven by early-retiring boomers, mid-life change-of-sceners, dissatisfied millennials or some other niche sub-set of society.
I thought the reason for the Great Resignation was obvious; but the speculation I keep reading in the media and hearing in conversations tells me that it isn't. I read of HR professionals and leaders scratching their heads and wondering what it is that they need to do to retain talent, experience, corporate memory and finely developed skills.
It turns out the answer isn't obvious - so, let me offer it to you. The answer comes from what I pick up helping organisations develop inclusive workplaces that deliver positive wellbeing. And it's something I gather from conversations with people I coach and the leaders I talk to.
Your employees, your colleagues, your people - they have just spent the past two years being themselves and they've learned to love it. They've learned to love themselves, and they don't want to give it up.
Yes, they've still worked. They've worked damned hard. But they've done this without being in the constant gaze of the workplace. The constant oversight of an untrusting manager, or an untrusting system. A system that treats them as resources. Human Resources.
The situation we've all been in for the past couple of years has forced employers - managers and leaders - reluctantly to trust people to get on and do things.
And, you know what? They did just that. They got on and did things. And, you know what else? They made a bloody good job of it.
The need to conform to your office politics, your office banter, your office culture and so on was kept to a minimum. Maybe just confined to those Teams or Zoom meetings. Maybe not even then as the individual chose whether to be on video or not, to have a real background or not.
People have been able to dress how they liked, eat when they liked, take breaks when they liked, work around personal responsibilities.
And they still made you those widgets, or whatever it is that you wanted them to do. It turns out that you didn't need to be overseeing them quite so much. You didn't need to watch their every move. It turns out that it doesn't matter much when they take breaks, eat, go for a walk, talk to someone. It turns out it doesn't much matter whether they're a morning lark, a night owl or a bit of both with a siesta in-between. It turns out your people are responsible adults who can be trusted to do something, do it well and enjoy doing it with a sense of purpose.
For the first time in a working lifetime; people have realised who they really are, as individuals. And they've come to love themselves as they are. They value themselves and the ability to be themselves more than they've ever been valued before.
They've also come to realise that they used to spend SO much effort working SO hard to 'fit in'. And that's an expenditure of energy that used to drag on their wellbeing and leave them unnecessarily exhausted. This need to 'fit in' led to them feeling excluded, because not everyone wants to do the exact same thing in the exact same way. That's the wonderful diversity of humanity.
So. If you want to understand what it is that's pulling your staff away from your workplace. Here's the answer.
It's you. It's your culture. It's the sense you give to your people that they need to be a particular type of person to 'fit in'. That they need to have the 'right behaviours' which is corporate-speak for 'they need to behave in a certain way that only a few people (the leaders) get to define'. It's the lack of trust, the loss of autonomy, the (mis-)perceived need for oversight.
These are the things that are driving your employees away.
So. How do you retain talent? How do you retain experience? How do you retain corporate memory? How do you retain finely developed skills? How do you become an 'employer of choice' that countless new employees want to join.
The answer to that is easy if only you'd stop looking in the wrong place. This has nothing at all to do with working from home or working in an office.
It has everything to do with trust, autonomy, inviting talented people to be themselves, telling people that the right behaviour is their natural behaviour.