Last November, roughly 4.5 million American workers looked for other job opportunities, the highest number of quits on record for a single month since this became a statistic in 2000.
The Great Resignation has ushered in the Great Reset. Senior leaders and HR chiefs of corporations big and small are rethinking employee retention and engagement strategies to stop the turnover bleeding.
Billionaire Warren Buffett has a simple solution he's preached for decades. Lecturing to University of Florida's school of business students, he offered this lesson:
I urge you to work in jobs you love. You're out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don't like because you think it'll look good on your résumé.
Well, good advice, but a job candidate can't just stare a hiring manager in the eye and declare in a job interview, "I want a job that I love."
The real question for leaders to figure out is one that addresses the corporate culture: how to create work environments where people do what they love and that results in good business outcomes. It's a problem that needed to be addressed pre-pandemic and certainly needs to be addressed now.
How to keep your people from leaving
To put Buffett's advice into your local business context, you first need to acknowledge that this generation of workers has an entirely different set of expectations. Therefore, leaders must operate by an entirely new set of rules. Here's a roadmap straight from my executive coaching and training playbook to help your employees love their jobs:
1. Make work purposeful
The future of work is autonomous and purpose-driven. It's owning what you do -- whether working for yourself or partnering with peers and colleagues to build something of value that they all love to do, in a respected spirit of community and entrepreneurship.
2. Create an environment of shared values
Let's face it -- work can be a grind, political, and filled with toxic personalities, but the best places to work are places where people love coming to work because the culture is positive and uplifting. When co-workers and leaders share the same values, ethical behaviors, beliefs, and norms in a psychologically safe environment, every individual contributor is uniquely positioned to give and receive love without fear of retribution. This leads to a high-performing company that will attract other, like-minded people who love what they do.
3. Empower your "middle manager" to lead
In many organizations I've coached, the immediate manager in the trenches is merely there to push for work to get done and enforce rules and policy. This is a missed opportunity to empower them to lead better but often they can't because they don't have the freedom and decision-making authority to focus on the human aspect of the work.
When managers are given such freedom and begin focusing on the relationships with their employees -- actively listening to their concerns and needs and different ideas -- they can reach innovative solutions faster.
For example, how many times have I heard a manager tell me they cannot accommodate an employee's request because "It's policy," and "my hands are tied." In this new age of flexibility and well-being, senior leaders must give middle managers the autonomy to exercise their human instinct to meet the needs of their employees, whether that means shifting the employee's job role so they work from their sweet spot or tailoring schedules and policies to fit the unique strengths and personalities on the team. The end result is a place that employees and middle managers alike will want to stay because they feel loved and supported by their senior leaders.
4. Hire and promote leaders with character
Whatever level of leadership in the hierarchy, people operating with character and integrity can be trusted; you never have to worry about their actions or being thrown under the bus, which makes work fun and a place where love flows. A person with character also brings more truth and truth-tellers to the business, which makes it very attractive to others seeking the same. This is a place where people love coming to work.
Remember also that employees who love what they do makes them more motivated to put in more time to get work done -- the kind of work they want to do, not feel obligated to do.
I'll end with Buffett, who said, "I love every day. I mean, I tap dance in here and work with nothing but people I like. There is no job in the world that is more fun than running Berkshire, and I count myself lucky to be where I am."