“The Great Resignation” is a term coined by management professor Anthony Klotz. It refers to the idea that a large number of people are considering leaving their job as the pandemic eases.

There is mounting evidence that supports this prediction. According to the US department of labour, a total of 11.5 million workers quit their jobs between April-June 2021.1 Microsoft’s research has found that 41% of the global workforce is considering quitting their current jobs2 and Gallup has found that 48% employees are actively looking for new opportunities, specifically employees who are not engaged or are actively disengaged.3

Such drastic turnover is disruptive and expensive. It reflects a clear mismatch between what companies are providing, and the expectations employees have.

Why is this happening?

Purpose is a priority
For many people, the time spent at home during the pandemic – either due to lockdowns or remote working – has caused them to rethink their current work situation. Many people are re-assessing their goals and what it means to live life meaningfully. As a result of this, people globally are making major life changes to find work that helps them feel happy and fulfilled.

Lack of growth opportunities
According to a report by LinkedIn learning, 94% of employees say they would stay longer in their company if it invested in their learning and development.4 During the peak of the pandemic, personal development and career growth took a backseat. Promotion rates hit an all time low last year.5 Naturally, people are now striving to regain control over their growth and development.

High levels of burnout
A recent study indicates that 52% of employees feel burned out.6 The sudden shift to remote working, or the compulsion of going into work at the cost of safety has  resulted in a struggle to find work-life balance.  Heavy workloads, and a surge in responsibilities due to lay-off’s have also caused people to experience stress, disengagement and burnout. This has prompted people to prioritise their health and wellbeing, and take some time off to recuperate.

The great resignation presents a big challenge. Just as companies were beginning to see the light at the end of the pandemic and move forward with their growth plans, they now have to deal with the departure of some of their best people. Reversing this tide requires companies to empathise with their employees’ experiences and create a culture that promotes employee engagement.

Keep an eye out for part two of this article, where we will share how you can build a culture of high engagement, where employees are motivated to stay.

1data.bls.gov. (n.d.). Bureau of Labor Statistics Data. [online]
2www.microsoft.com. (2021). The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready?
3Gandhi, V. and Robinson, J., 2021. The ‘Great Resignation’ Is Really the ‘Great Discontent‘. [online] Gallup.com.
4LinkedIn Learning, 2021. Workplace Learning Report. [online] LinkedIn.
5Anders, G., 2020. Working hard, just to stay in place; job promotions this year slump 40%. [online] Linkedin.com.
6Threlkeld, K., 2021. Employee Burnout Report: COVID-19’s Impact and 3 Strategies to Curb It. [online] Indeed.com.

In 2020, companies spent $357.7 billion globally on Learning and Development (“L&D”) 1, yet 75% of employees believe that the training they receive does not improve their performance 2. A 2018 study by Gartner found that 70% of employees feel they do not have the necessary skills to do their job 3.

This would imply that the majority of the money companies spend on training is a waste. Where is the disconnect?

Most often, decisions around L&D rest with a central function because they feel that they know where their employees’ skills gap lies. They fail to factor in that employees are the primary key to their own learning. When employees are empowered to have a say in their own development, they are more motivated to learn, and L&D spend is more impactful. Without employee buy-in, chances are that commitment towards learning will be low.

How can companies empower their employees to take charge of their learning in an impactful way?

Personalise the experience
When it comes to personal development, there is no one-size-fits-all. Learning needs differ based on an individual’s experience, seniority, motivations, interests, profile. Personalising L&D to individuals is more impactful. One-on-one coaching, or providing employees with a library of digital courses to choose from, are ways companies can personalise their L&D.

Digitalise learning
Online learning works best for today’s workplaces, and 60% of employees prefer self-paced learning 4. Instead of signing up employees for an hour long in-person training session, give them access to online learning resources and content. This ensures that employees have flexibility over when and where they learn as well as offering a variety of tools to address their unique needs.

Seek employee feedback
To ensure that training is aligned with employee expectations, ask for their input. You can do this through company wide surveys or focus group discussions. This feedback can help improve the impact of L&D practices.

Take a collaborative approach
While this may already be part of the process, it is important to have a strong collaboration between managers and L&D professionals to make available to employees the most impactful development tools.

To keep up with the ever-evolving business landscape, companies need to equip their employees with skills and resources. One-to-one coaching takes into account the individual’s experience levels, strengths, motivations and their unique career paths. This is a great way to empower employees to be proactive with their development and to also ensure long-term success of both the individual and their companies.

1 Statista. (2021). Market size of the global workplace training industry from 2007 to 2020. [online]
2 Smet, A.D., Mcgurk, M. & Schwartz, E., 2018. Getting more from your training programs. McKinsey & Company.
3 Anon, 2018. Setting L&D leaders up for success – human resources. Gartner.
4 Lefkowitz, R. and Pate, D. (2918). 2018, Workplace Learning Report The Rise and Responsibility of Talent Development in the New Labor Market. [online] Linkedin Learning.

Agility and innovation have to be a priority for companies to survive in today’s dynamic environment.

Ground-breaking discoveries often result from challenging established ways of thinking or doing, but people generally feel that to fit in, they need to conform.

Companies need to nurture their rebels and encourage innovative thinking.

In her ground-breaking research, Francesca Gino found that making space for a form of rebelling that challenges existing norms led to innovation and higher productivity. She has called this form of rebellion “Constructive Nonconformity1.

Companies can create space for Constructive Nonconformity:

Embrace constructive dissent
Conformity is common because it is rewarded when conflicts and differences are often seen as problems. However, different ideas and perspectives are crucial for innovation. To welcome and encourage constructive dissent, create a safe space where you invite criticism and constant communication by embracing the ‘why?‘ and ‘what if?‘.

Give employees opportunities to be authentic
Studies show that those who are able to show up authentically at work are on average more engaged 2. Employees who feel safe to express their ideas and working styles will feel comfortable challenging decisions and practices they may disagree with.

Reward innovative thinking
Creating a culture of innovative thinking is about empowering people to take risks and drive change. To enable this, celebrate discoveries but also embrace failures as learning opportunities rather than judging them.

Create opportunities to innovate
People feel motivated to perform well and innovate when their work involves challenges and they feel mentally energised. One way of doing this is by having “innovation challenges” to provide people with opportunities to work on projects and indulge in creative problem solving.

Cultivating constructive rebellion allows companies to prosper. Companies should look at designing cultures that have a balance of structure and freedom that enables people to do their best work. This will increase and support engagement, productivity, and innovation while ensuring agility in a competitive world.

1 Gino, F. (2016, October 24). Let Your Workers Rebel. Harvard Business Review.
2 Cable, D.M. & Kay, V.S., (2012). Striving for Self-Verification during Organizational Entry.
Academy of Management Journal, 55(2), pp.360–380.

We are all wired to make automatic assumptions about people.

Biases are a natural part of our thinking. These mental shortcuts are necessary for human survival as it helps us sort through infinite information to make quick decisions. Sadly, the same process can also lead to flawed judgements and actions.

Biases pose big challenges on our mission to build an inclusive company culture. A 2017 study showed that those who perceived biased judgements either towards them or their colleagues were twice as likely to not feel proud of working for their company, three times as likely to think of leaving within the year, and four times as likely to report feeling alienated at work(1).

While it is impossible to eliminate all of our biases, there are some ways our biases can be managed to limit their damaging effects.

Acknowledge your biases:
Acknowledging that we all have biases is the first step towards working on them. Ask yourself “What biases might I have?”, “What impact does this have on how I act and what do I do about it?”. One-to-one coaching is an effective way to build awareness of our biases and blind spots. Through constant dialogue and accountability, it can challenge us to overcome counterproductive patterns of thinking and acting.

Be curious:
Challenge assumptions and biases by nurturing a sense of curiosity. Being curious pushes us to question our fixed mindsets and assumptions, and become aware of our own privileges. This helps us cultivate deeper connections with people by asking insightful questions, truly listening to responses and building relationships.

Communicate effectively:
Despite our best intentions, our messages can get misinterpreted. Part of successful communication is being able to adapt our style in order to get our point across while still maintaining positive relationships. Practicing inclusive language can help communicate more effectively and sensitively.

Use gender neutral language as much as possible, such as switching from words like “chairman” to “chairperson”, and address people with their right pronouns. These are a few ways we can ensure we don’t use words or phrases that communicate stereotypes.

Seek exposure:
Seeking out people who are from different backgrounds to us or our close circle can help expand our outlook. The more we expose ourselves to different perspectives, the more we can educate ourselves about the world around us.

By working on broadening our mindsets, drawing well thought out conclusions from existing facts and norms as well as constantly questioning how we and others around us make decisions, we can contribute to an inclusive work culture in which diversity can thrive.

(1) Hewlett, S., Rashid, R. and Sherbin, L., 2017. When Employees Think the Boss Is Unfair, They’re More Likely to Disengage and Leave. [online] Harvard Business Review.

The “new normal” at work is transitioning to a hybrid set-up.

Gallup’s research shows that nearly 65% of US workers who worked remotely during the pandemic would like to continue to do so. This poses challenges that need to be accounted for.

The differences in physical and virtual locations can contribute to unequal access to information and resources, as well as differences in opportunities to interact face-to-face with colleagues. This can result in some people receiving more recognition than others, as well as creating feelings of exclusion.

There are steps companies can take to successfully establish a hybrid work culture that is sustainable long-term:

Commit to fairness
Research by MIT shows that there is a negative impact on performance evaluations, appraisals and promotion opportunities for remote workers compared to their colleagues who work in the office(1). This happens due to passive facetime – crediting people more on the basis of being seen at work, rather than their actual performance. To ensure fair evaluations, define clear KPIs that account for these differences in visibility.

Making the performance evaluation process as data driven as possible can also help reduce the risk of biases cropping up while assessing performance.

Focus on a shared purpose
Focusing on a shared vision and goals ensures alignment and engagement. Bring teams together for strategic planning sessions. Reinstate and clarify how everyone’s skills and responsibilities uniquely tie to the long-term vision and goals of the company.

Foster connectivity
Things that once drove informal office cultures such as casual and friendly chats around communal areas, should be reformatted to encourage a connection between remote and in-person teams. This could mean replacing coffee breaks with virtual team chats or celebrating milestones and achievements that allow team members to form social bonds.

Rethink psychological safety
Psychological safety has been a strong predictor of team effectiveness. The hybrid work environment can give way to biases and judgments around where and how people prefer to work. Be understanding and supportive of people’s working styles and preferences, as well as frequently checking in and communicating with them. This creates an inclusive, safe and trusting environment.

Prioritise professional development
Commit to developing your teams and help them be more agile and resilient in the face of dynamic changes. Professional coaching is one way to do this. The personalised nature of one-to-one coaching takes into account employees’ unique experiences and recognises their strengths. This helps them feel truly engaged, empowered and supports their wellbeing.

Companies need to be responsive to the changing work landscape, and commit to a fair and inclusive workplace culture in order to be successful. This will drive and sustain performance, engagement and ensure agility.

(1) Elsbach, K. and Newberry, S., 2021. Why Showing Your Face at Work Matters. [online] MIT Sloan Management Review.

High performing companies have deep rooted feedback cultures.

43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week, as opposed to 18% of disengaged employees.

While a large number of initiatives have focused on empowering managers to give feedback, it is equally – if not more – important that employees ask for feedback. Yanagizawa et.al (2008) found that employees who regularly seek feedback achieve more goals and adapt more easily to their work environment.

Here are a few ways to help build a healthy feedback culture:

Build trust:
People feel psychological safety when they can speak up and share ideas and concerns without fear of repercussions. Employees tend to ask for help and take risks when they feel safe to do so. Managers should avoid micromanaging and inspire employees to take initiatives – earn their trust by trusting them.

Lead by example:
To normalise feedback, managers should themselves seek feedback from their more junior teammates, and actively apply the learnings. This also helps show team members that their opinions are truly valued.

One-on-one check ins:
Employees may be nervous to seek feedback in public. Creating opportunities for more private interactions, such as one-on-one check-ins, can encourage team members to ask for help and feedback.

Make communication continuous:
Free flowing communication channels are conducive to a feedback-friendly culture and reduce the perceived formality around feedback. They also help build high quality relationships across the company. Opening up lines of communication ensures that employees have opportunities to exchange information with each other – especially in today’s increasingly virtual/remote environment.

Focus on Learning:
When it comes to defining “success”, companies should also focus on learning opportunities instead of solely looking at performance. When there is a focus on learning, employees are driven towards improving their skills and knowledge and, as a result, seek feedback more often. To encourage this, companies should highlight that failures are important for learning opportunities and growth.

Talk about strengths:
We learn and grow when people focus on our strengths. Instead of always making it about what an employee could improve on, or be better at, managers should also acknowledge what they do well, and celebrate their strengths and successes.

A feedback culture encourages positive behavioural change in employees and empowers them to take charge of their own learning and development. This helps excel at work and in life.

Gen Z constitutes 24% of the US workforce.

Unsurprisingly, they have different needs and aspirations than their managers. They grew up in a digital world, experienced the great recession as children, and entered the workforce mostly as remote workers. This has had an impact on their working styles, career aspirations and core values.

More than their predecessors, Gen Z values independence and ownership at work. This makes them more likely to voice opinions, suggest initiatives and take concrete steps to achieve their goals. They also look to work at companies that are aligned with a larger purpose and social impact beyond just work.

To attract and engage Gen Z, companies need to be thoughtful about their approach. Here are a few things that can help:

Make it flexible
84% of Gen Z employees identify work-life balance as a top priority. An EY survey found that 50% of Gen Z mentioned flexible working is important to them. One way to address this is to allow discretion over where work is conducted. To make this work, companies have to adopt transparent policies and set clear expectations.

Deepen DE&I
Gen Z is possibly the most diverse generation of all. 48% of Gen Z in the US identify as non-white. Approximately 77% of Gen Z stated that a company’s level of diversity affects their decision to work there. Gen Z employees are more engaged when the company aligns with their values, such as having diverse representation within teams and focussing on fostering an inclusive culture.

Plan for their professional development
Gallup research identifies development opportunities as one of the most important factors that makes younger employees decide to stay at their company. Statistics by SHRM show that 62% of Gen Z prefer to customise their own development and career path.

Professional coaching supports Gen Z in their personal development and allows them to supercharge their careers. The self-directed and personalised nature of coaching helps to develop key capabilities to have a positive impact through their work.

Revive your online presence
Gen Z are digital natives who grew up in the age of social media and smartphones. To attract Gen Z, companies should focus on increasing their online visibility. Being innovative with your social media presence and diversifying channels to reach potential employees can be impactful in being visible to, and sparking an interest amongst the Gen Z candidates.

Companies can greatly benefit from fostering generational diversity. To attract and retain Gen Z, the work environment has to be supportive and allow them to develop both as professionals and individuals.

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