We’ve all been hearing about the huge labor shortage and have been discussing, ad nauseum, why this has happened. From Covid concerns to the desire to work remotely or more flexibly, to the many people simply exiting the traditional labor market, the reasons are numerous.
What can you and your company do to mitigate the risk of the labor crisis further impacting your business dramatically over the coming months and years?
What may have kept your employees from looking at alternatives in the past may no longer be relevant. One technology consulting client of mine historically attracted young professionals who were excited about the opportunity to travel across the country for their clients. Due to Covid, this client’s value proposition – which had given them an edge over more “sexy” companies such as Google and Facebook -- disappeared due to the elimination of travel. This client had to re-think what would differentiate them from these other companies when travel to cool places was no longer a differentiator. They focused extensively and creatively on virtual events and get togethers, face-to-face connections as soon as feasible and offering more developmental opportunities like training and exposure to new clients and technologies. Or, take another client of mine, who had always been remote and could pay slightly below-market wages to their employees, mostly young parents who greatly valued the ability to work from home. With Covid, many companies pivoted to remote work options, giving this client’s employees other fully remote alternatives, which hadn’t existed before. This client saw the effects early on in the Pandemic and quickly made changes to salaries, their incentive plan and paid time off policy, swiftly reversing the turnover spike. Pivoting quickly, being creative about your new value proposition, and making necessary changes will be critical to mitigating the effects of this retention crisis.
Throughout my internal HR and consulting/coaching career, communication has emerged as the overarching theme. Now, more than ever, it is the highest frequency topic of my consulting and coaching conversations. Changes in how the younger generation view the employer-employee relationship, the reduction in personal contact, and uncertainty and volatility associated with the Pandemic, have made talking to your employees more challenging and at the same time, more important. Opportunities to drop into someone’s office to chat, peek over a cubicle wall to ask a quick question and even group outings have drastically declined. Employers have found ways to try to replace some of these things with creative remote options. But it’s just not the same. It is vital that your managers regularly connect with their people on personal, work and career matters in a high-quality way on a much more frequent basis. Listening is equally important to ensure you recognize and address potential issues that might cause an employee to leave -- before this happens. For years, we have heard that the #1 reason an employee will leave or stay with his or her company is his or her relationship with his or her manager. Building and maintaining meaningful relationships has become even more important and more challenging during this time.
The results and priorities established from culture or engagement surveys conducted in years past may no longer be relevant. As the value proposition has changed for your employees, your current and desired culture may have also changed. As discussed above, talking to your employees is the most important step in understanding the new delta between your current and desired culture. Newly designed, targeted employee engagement surveys that focus on today’s environment and priorities have also been helpful for many of my clients. Of course, listening and surveying without tangible action won’t change the situation or culture. Being nimble, failing fast and quickly addressing cultural issues will be more important than ever.
Someone shared this with me early on in my career: “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” If what you’re getting or what you are worried about is losing your employees, then change your value proposition, communicate A LOT with your people and reimagine your culture.