A few months into our first lockdown last year, I recall having a conversation with two colleagues about the importance of treating people well – whether they were a client, a team member or a colleague -because people have long memories and when this moment passes, they will make decisions about whether to stay or go based largely on how they felt.
We didn’t know then what we know now in terms of the level of upheaval and stress that people would experience with protracted periods of lockdown, working from home, home schooling, increased workloads, furloughing and collapse of life structure. But what we do know is that the actions that organisations and leaders take and how they make someone feel makes a huge difference to relationships, loyalty and retention in the longer term.
As the world turns again the question of retaining talent now comes into sharp focus. There are many recent survey findings suggesting that significant numbers of existing employees are actively considering / intending to leave their current organisations as we start to move into a post pandemic future.
So what can you do about it?
The first step may be to get a sense check of what is really going on in your employee population and how they are currently feeling. Previously within an office setting you may have been witness to behaviours that demonstrated dissatisfaction and disengagement – but within a remote environment, unless you are explicitly being told it is now hidden from view. You will need to employ other mechanisms to invite this information and people will need to feel safe to share their thoughts to get a true sense of what is going on. A pulse survey can offer a quick snapshot across a group, but an even more effective method is to sit down and talk to your people.
You may also want to consider these key reasons why people are considering leaving their current organisations post pandemic and whether you are offering appropriate support to mitigate the impact.
Have you been overly reliant on certain people or groups during this period? Did they pick up and have they continued to carry an extra workload. Are they demonstrating or telling you that they are exhausted, depleted and in need of space to recharge? Continuing to work whilst exhausted is not sustainable and something will eventually break. It is not enough to offer well-being initiatives that sit around the sides of heavy workloads and not enough rest. Check in with yourself and with those that you are responsible for, review workloads and make sure that people have the opportunity for regular, longer breaks.
It’s been a slog – for everyone. And given the way in which covid has ravaged certain sectors of the workforce indiscriminately, it is a turn of fortune to have been able to continue to work. However, as human beings we need to feel valued - for our contribution and effort to be recognised and appreciated. Demonstrating appreciation and to your people is vital if you want them to stay working for you. Appreciation takes many forms and is not limited to financial reward. Thinking more deeply about what people might value – connection, fun, personal thanks and praise, development, personal time – can offer a range of opportunities to demonstrate appreciation. And, don’t just do it once. Make it a regular activity.
Expectations / Flexibility
People have very different expectations to how they can do their jobs than at the start of the pandemic with flexibility now being a key factor cited in why people will ultimately move on – especially if personal preferences are at odds with the degree of flexibility the organisation is prepared to offer (or not) in the future. And there is no one size fits all in terms of what works for people. Even if you are moving into a hybrid working model, people will want to have more control over how they work and you will need to take the time to understand their needs and preferences to find balance against the needs of the job they are entrusted to deliver within the organisational setting.
In a nutshell, to understand whether your people are committed to your organisation or seeking new opportunities, you need to start by having the right conversation. Ask questions to understand their experience and where their head and heart are at, seek clarity on what they want and need, be prepared to listen and then make a decision as to whether you are prepared to take action.