The COVID-19 pandemic shook up the workplace in more ways than one. Perhaps most notable is the rise of the Great Resignation—although candidly I think this would have happened with or without the pandemic. The good news is there is growing consensus about what needs to be done to address this.
Last September, McKinsey reported more than 19 million U.S. workers had quit their job since April 2021, and that companies are struggling to address the problem. At the time, it suggested that many companies don’t really understand why their employees are leaving in the first place. Much work has been done since that time and it seems there is an underlying reason at play. Employees want purpose.
Employees want social and interpersonal connections with their colleagues and managers. They want a sense of shared identity. Yes, they want pay, benefits, and perks, but more than anything else they want to feel valued. Study after study that I have reviewed in the past few months seem to be point to this same trend. Workers want purpose.
Gartner research shows roughly 65% of people are now rethinking the place work should have in life and 62% of people are longing for a bigger change in life. Roughly 56% said the pandemic made them want to contribute more to society.
Not only do workers want greater purpose in their personal lives, but they also want greater purpose in their careers too. A Gallup poll found 57% of U.S. workers want to update their skills. Even among workers aged 55 and older, more than half say upskilling is either very or extremely important.
This is precisely the conversation I had with Susan Dalton, leadership coach, Susan Dalton Coaching on The Peggy Smedley Show. She actually points to two key factors that have arose following the pandemic: purpose and safety.
She explains one of the things so many people are talking about with the Great Resignation is if people feel safe enough to say they are in over their head and need help. Building on that, are they in a place where they can grow as a person and grow in their career? These are amazing and poignant points, something I really believe have been ignored for a decade, if not decades, in the workplace. And it’s not surprising then that during COVID people really reevaluated what they are doing with their life. Thus, leaders in the company need to give purpose to their employees.
Having managed people for four decades, Dalton saw this firsthand and often found when fabulous individual contributors were promoted to tech lead or engineering manager, they would stumble. Thus, in her new role today, she is helping STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) professionals learn how to be a manager.
“The world of ambiguity is something that makes a lot of STEM people uncomfortable, and it is something they have to learn to become comfortable with,” she says. In her new business, she teaches the skillsets needed to be a great leader like social skills around communication and active listening and conflict management, just to name a few.
We have entered into a new era of management—one where we need to give our workers greater purpose and help them reskill and upskill. If you don’t pay closer attention, get ready for more resignations.
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