Saturday, January 22, 2022

The big disconnect between employer and employee expectations.


                                                                 Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

From all the news and reports available on the internet and the media, it appears there is a big divide between the employer and employee expectations. Employees are looking for improved human aspects of work. 

Job seekers have become selective about the kind of work they want to do and the companies they would like to work for in their next job. Companies need to think beyond just compensation packages. Job seekers have a long list of considerations, and compensation could be just one point in that list.

 Experts predict that this trend will continue till the end of the year and maybe beyond. According to Gallup data, great resignation is not an industry, role or pay issue but is a workplace problem. So it seems the roots of these resignations are much deeper than the virus? What is your opinion, and how are the HR community and Company leadership addressing this issue.

The Great Disconnect

From all the surveys and reports, it is evident that the great resignation is not just in the US. It is a global phenomenon. While the crisis could be worst in Technology companies, almost every sector is facing attrition challenges. 

The accelerated digital adoption by enterprises and consumers across the globe has provided massive opportunities for the IT industry to grow exponentially, as per the experts. 

This is the time when the industry needs talent. Even though India has the largest technology talent pool of close to 4.5 million engineers, companies struggle to fill key positions. If the organisations have to succeed and grow, their people must first succeed. 

There is a lot of demand in the industry for niche skills like AI, Machine learning, cloud, cyber security etc. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2022, 54% of all employees will require upskilling due to the rise of automation.

Besides increasing opportunities in the job market for techies with specialised skills, there is a shift in employee perspective about work. 

The Mckinsey article, "Great Attrition" or "Great Attraction"? The choice is yours, clearly shows that employers have not fully understood why employees are leaving. Employers are out of touch with employee expectations. Employers are still focusing on transactional factors, whereas employees expect relational ones.

While lack of specialized talent could be one reason for the attrition, there is also a significant shift in the way employees evaluate their careers. Employees today are hungry for trust, purpose and inclusion. 

The pandemic has played a critical role in changing employee perspectives. Employees are not just looking at work-life balance, work bonuses and perks, but are also looking at what companies can offer in terms of work culture, environment, inclusion and empathy. 

Lessons learnt from Great Resignation. 

According to the Mckinsey's article, there is a significant gap between the employees' reasons for quitting and the employers' perspectives on the great resignation and high attrition.

Important attributes for employees are

  • Being valued by managers
  • Sense of Belonging
  • Being appreciated by the organisation
  • Potential for advancement
  • Having caring and trustworthy teammates
  • Flexible work schedules

Below are a few points that I think employers need to consider.

1. Reassessing Employee Engagement

Companies with a high attrition rate are compelled to reassess their employee engagement policies. What would have worked before the pandemic may no longer be relevant and effective in the current situation. 

Companies are taking steps to contain attrition, such as giving preference to internal candidates for open positions, global deployment opportunities, fast-tracking career paths, and promoting employees. These are traditional methods used by companies. But in the present times, employees are rethinking their priorities at work. Some of these methods may not be enough to retain your best employees. Financial rewards may not always help to drive motivation and performance.

The pandemic has radically changed the way people think about their work. Employers need to see employees as individuals with unique needs and challenges. Leaders need to understand what motivates their people and how does it align with the company's purpose.

Companies should start including employees in defining their work processes. Make the culture more inclusive. Listen to what the employees are trying to tell them. People should feel motivated and empowered to stay with the same organisation.

According to Gallup data, great resignation is not an industry, role or pay issue but is a workplace problem. Gallup finds that it takes more than a 20% pay raise to lure employees away from a manager who engages them and next to nothing to poach most disengaged workers.

2. Human aspects of work.

"Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability"-Anne M. Mulcahy, CEO of Xerox.

Leaders and managers must talk to and listen with empathy to understand what their team members are going through. Employees need to feel that their leaders and managers genuinely care about them.

Empathy is an essential skill for leaders and managers, and it takes on a whole new meaning and priority in the current scenario. It can help drive business results.

With declining mental health and increasing stress levels, people experience more negativity when subjected to toxic work environments. Being humiliated at work because of not meeting deadlines, receiving rude emails from managers etc., keep adding to the stress and negativity that people may be experiencing at home because of the pandemic. Such rising workplace incivility impacts productivity and collaboration. 

3. Skills required by managers

Technical skills are insufficient to tide over the chaos when attrition is soaring and rocking the workplace. The professional skills they learn at the beginning of their careers are not enough to see them throughout.

Companies need to invest heavily in training and coaching managers. They need different skills to attract, engage, and retain team members in a highly competitive marketplace. Companies must develop effective managers and leaders capable of managing during the VUCA times and cultivating skills required for business success.

Empathy is a critical leadership skill, especially during pandemics when people face grief, loss and sickness and live in fear. It is the ability to lead while understanding and awareness of the team members thoughts and feelings. It is not sufficient to show sympathy. 

Empathy is a learnable skill. One can learn to empathise if one can develop the skill to listen and be aware of what is happening around. It takes patience and practice to develop this skill.  

4. Resetting the company culture

"On what high-performing companies should be striving to create: A great place for great people to do great work." - Marilyn Carlson.

During the pandemic, when employees worked remotely, there were reports of zoom fatigue, and many individuals felt disengaged. New hires onboarded remotely found it challenging to navigate the organisation. To some extent, individuals felt alienated and stressed. 

Company cultures are defined as the ways in which individuals in an organisation behave and the ways things get done. The way people work together, actions and behaviours that are supported or discouraged, the language used by leaders and managers and more of such things define the type of culture an organisation supports.

Work culture can be evolving all the time depending on circumstances. The company core values are the foundation of your company culture. The pandemic has impacted the company cultures, and leaders need to reset the cultures to adopt flexible working, agility, innovation, respect for everyone, and customer-centricity. 

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”


– Simon Sinek, author, Start with Why

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