What Are Your Employees Really Thinking?
This is seventh in a series of articles for consideration when thinking about yournextnext™. The content is based on the Springer-Alvarez career development survey for Employees and Employers.
Here at Your Next Next, we are often speaking with employees about what they really want – things that they would never share with their manager. While you may be thinking, “Oh, those millennials!”, it’s actually those in their 40’s and 50’s who are holding their cards close to the vest, and then BAM, they surprise you and resign.
Is this the Great Resignation? Partially. Millennials and Gen Z are certainly part of this phenomenon, yet Gen X and Baby Boomers are resigning in droves. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, four million resignations occurred in July 2021 alone. Some GenXers and Baby Boomers are pivoting and some are deciding to retire. A recent survey by the Federal Reserve Bank shows that the average chance adults will work past the age of 62 is 50%, the lowest rate since 2014. No doubt that the pandemic affected all generations in healthcare, hospitality, retail and other industries with frontline workers. These are workers who are burned out, fearful, over-worked, under-paid and looking for improved conditions. Surprisingly it is the white collar workers who had the highest number of resignations in history, with 700,000 quitting their jobs in the month of May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Management should not be shocked by the mass exodus or by the fact that higher pay, sign-on bonuses, fewer hours and more flexibility are all now demanded by their future workforce. The tables have turned and it’s no secret.
Where are they going? What do they want?
These professionals are not openly talking about it because THEY DO NOT TRUST YOU. These are experienced individual contributors and managers who are seemingly content. They cooperate, work hard and don’t make waves. They typically are well liked and receive good performance reviews. This is why it is shocking to learn that they do not trust you and haven’t talked to you about their discontent.
There are certainly cases of employees who are mistreated, who decide they need to leave their boss and / or company for their sanity, but since late 2020, we are seeing resignations for other reasons. The pandemic has created conditions for most knowledge workers to work remotely and under different conditions, conditions which have allowed for more time for self-reflection and exploration. This is often what leads to a call with an executive coach.
HELP – I’M STUCK!
The most prevalent motivation for individuals to hire a coach is when one feels stuck. At Your Next Next, we have found the desire to get “unstuck” to be the #1 reason clients call us. These are the clients who want to be re-energized. They may or may not know what they want to do next or even if they need to leave their organization in order to achieve their goal. The one common factor for all however is that they have not openly discussed this with their manager. Regardless of their relationship with their organization and direct boss, there is generally a lack of trust. It is rare to see someone share their true career desires or feelings of boredom / languishing.
WHAT IS MY FUTURE?
While a company may place high value on a talented employee, if no one provides that feedback to the employee, they may not know where they stand. If a manager never talks about the future career trajectory with their employee, then the employee may make assumptions that there isn’t one or assume that no one cares about them. Generally, in the absence of information, one is left to wonder.
You may ask, “Why wouldn’t an employee ask their manager for feedback?” It is rare that this happens. An employee has to be fairly secure and bold to bring up the subject. They may be afraid to hear anything negative, they may assume no news is good news or they may simply not know how to ask. As coaches, we often see clients make negative assumptions about their work or relationships, without having ever received specific input. All too often resignations of talented employees happen simply because they do not have a clear picture of their future and were approached by another company at a weak moment.
About 50% of our clients start coaching with the thought that they want to explore greener pastures, and many times they come to the realization that they can get greener pastures within the same organization. So why are employees so eager to jump ship? Because they do not see other opportunities. They do not know how to negotiate for more or different internally. They are not comfortable having the conversation.
When you do not know what your employees are thinking, you have to assume that they are seeing greener pastures in all of those job postings, when answering calls from search firms and when talking to others in networking sessions. Without proactively discussing career goals and having regular check-ins with employees, especially during post-pandemic days, you are leaving your employee to create their own narrative about greener pastures.
REFRAMING OF WORK
One successful outcome of executive coaching is when the client discovers a solution that was not visible to them before coaching. At Your Next Next, we are guiding both individuals and organizations in the exploration of career development and the reframing of work. These solutions include acquiring the language for career discussions, anticipating career pivots, finding the mutual rewards for employees and employers, exploring job crafting, and organization design to fit hybrid / remote environments.
As we enter the next phase of post-pandemic work, it will become even more important to know what your employees are thinking. You will not retain the best talent unless you know what they need and their career aspirations. Returning to office plans have personal implications which your employees may or may not share. As teams shrink from resignations, those remaining often feel overwhelmed and under-appreciated. Eighteen months of constant zoom calls have left many feeling burned-out and lost.
The scenarios are varied and emotions are high. Every employee and every business have unique situations that can not be solved with one broad stroke. We can however start with the premise that talent is scarce, so start by paying close attention to your employees. Ask them about their work. Ask them about their aspirations. Provide insight into other parts of the organization. Find out what excites them. Together, you and your employee may be able to reframe the work and find a mutually beneficial change that retains your employee.
Never underestimate the opportunity to develop the talent you have; missed opportunities can be very expensive. – Anonymous
Springer Alvarez is a team of executive coaches working with companies and professionals who are navigating the new world of work. Their work includes insights into current trends in talent management, leadership development and preparing for a future of work that is mutually beneficial to both employers and employees.
©Eileen Springer and Christine Alvarez November, 2021
Co-Founder of YOUR NEXT NEXT™
Co-Founder of YOUR NEXT NEXT™