In the workplace: Here’s how managers should handle 2021’s ‘Great Resignation’

Garrett MintzAttracting and retaining talent in the summer of 2021 has been incredibly difficult—so much so that LinkedIn and other news outlets have dubbed this period the “Great Resignation.” I have personally interviewed dozens of executives and consistently heard sentiments like this:

“Business is booming, but we can’t find people to staff the demand we are receiving or keep the people we have!”

Some executives I have interviewed have blamed working from home and the general burnout from the increased uncertainty as reasons for this struggle. Other executives blame generous unemployment benefits.

I’m going to focus on solutions and highlight one major way we can handle this challenge to our businesses’ viability.

According to a Gallup survey, 75% of employees who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses, not because of the position itself.

In other words, the adage “people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses” seems to ring true for people who are quitting—and with workers quitting at an incredibly high level at the moment, it is paramount that we, as leaders, do more to equip our managers with the tools and resources to be better managers.

There has been significant research into measuring work engagement and its impact on retention and productivity from teams. But new research is showing that five additional criteria—assessed by employees, not managers—should be measured to understand the level of satisfaction employees have at work and their productivity.

1. Team cohesion: how well the team has been working together in terms of camaraderie.

2. Team productivity: how productive the team has been.

3. Task performance: self-assessment of how productive each employee has been.

4. Manager performance: how effective an employee’s manager has been at leading.

5. Organizational citizenship: self-assessment of each employee’s ability to be helpful to the team outside of the employee’s explicit work duties.

A few caveats about measuring this data:

 It should be measured monthly, at minimum. Feelings about work and productivity change rapidly; asking annually, biannually or quarterly is not often enough to garner an accurate picture.

 It should be measured on a team level, not a general overview of the entire company. The dynamics that occur within teams are more relevant and critical to an employee’s sense of belonging and willingness to stay at a company. Company-wide metrics are far too broad to be useful.

 Managers should be provided with tools for enacting change based on these metrics. For example, conversation prompts and suggested questions for one-on-one meetings with direct reports can help managers address these issues early. Collecting data without immediate action diminishes the employee experience instead of enhancing it.

If you can measure this data on a monthly basis for each and every manager and their respective teams and equip your managers with suggested questions and conversation prompts to discuss with their direct reports based on the data, you are significantly better equipped to elevate the employee experience and feelings of belonging at work.

Why?

Because employees’ feelings of burnout and dissatisfaction with managers don’t happen because the manager is purposefully trying to sabotage the team or individual employees. These negative feelings typically happen because of poor communication between the manager and their employees.

When an employee receives poor communication from his or her manager, there are consequences. It might cause the person to do work that is not what the manager actually wanted, or to feel unfairly treated, or to feel the recipient of inadequate feedback (or too much unnecessary feedback), or to just feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied with the manager. When this happens, it is vital that the manager understand this frustration right away and have a conversation to rectify it.

If a manager doesn’t rectify the situation and this feeling of dissatisfaction from the employee festers, that person is going to become actively disengaged, bring down other employees and eventually leave.

If you are a CEO and you believe that having an open-door policy or clear lines of communication is enough to gather this information, you are making the massive assumption that your managers’ direct reports have the same level of psychological safety as your direct reports have with you. You are also assuming that your employees have personality traits in which they are comfortable being optimally objective with everyone they interact with across all levels of an organization.

Overall, now is the time to equip our managers with the data and tools necessary to build strong teams. Providing a robust system through conversation prompts helps managers understand how their direct reports are feeling about work in terms of their team cohesion, team productivity, task performance, manager performance and organizational citizenship. If we can do that, we are much more likely to increase retention and the productivity of our teams.•

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Mintz is founder of Ambition in Motion, a firm that helps companies increase employee engagement and collaboration by implementing corporate mentor programs.

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