With Covid-19 easing, managers should expect to find many of their employees with a considerably different mindset.
Some workers are burned out after more than a year of unprecedented and often short-staffed assignments. Others are reluctant to come back to the office after working so long from home. Record numbers of workers decided they've had enough, and they quit their jobs this spring. More than 40 percent of all workers say they're thinking about leaving their jobs this year, too.
Old methods of leadership will no longer succeed with workers who just survived a pandemic and discovered there can be better work/life balance without sacrificing productivity.
The most recent Prudential Pulse of the American Worker Survey revealed that in addition to prizing remote work flexibility, a quarter of workers were planning to look for new jobs post pandemic mainly out of concern about career advancement, better pay and benefits, and company culture.
As leaders, we need to get comfortable with the idea that our organizations are under constant scrutiny from employees and if we don't measure up, they will walk. According to Whitney Johnson, author of the terrific book Disrupt Yourself, the average tenure of the incoming workforce is just 18 months.
So how should a business leader respond to the new reality of a workforce willing to move on if conditions don't meet expectations for personal growth and engagement?
I believe in the Four Drivers of Engagement for employees. They are best summed up for employees with this simple statement:
I'm a valued member of a winning team doing meaningful work in an environment of trust.
Let me break down how to tell whether your team is meeting the Four Drivers of Engagement:
1. I'm a valued member ...
This means: Does my voice count? Am I respected? Are my ideas not immediately dismissed as naive? Am I taken seriously? Can I speak my mind?
2. ... of a winning team ...
Are our goals reasonable and attainable, or are they far-fetched? Is success clearly defined, or is the leader frustrating everyone by moving the goalposts? How do we know when we succeed? Is there a scoreboard or way to keep track that everyone understands?
3. ... doing meaningful work ...
Only rarely do leaders explain the why behind the what. It almost always is important to show how tasks matter. You don't just work a drive-through window at a fast-food joint -- you also provide a meal to someone with a busy schedule, maybe even to someone dealing with a personal crisis.
4. ... in an environment of trust.
Do you have a high gossip culture? Do people feel like they can confide in you as a leader? Can they freely discuss their fears, their insecurities, their passions, their vulnerabilities? Do they work in a place where their personal life isn't being spilled out? Do you, as a leader, make and keep commitments?
What I especially like about emphasizing the four central roles of leadership is that it encourages you to listen to what your workers are saying, and then find a way to accommodate them in a way that gets the work done.
To succeed in a post-Covid world, a business leader needs to consider the life and values on the other side of the office. And being flexible, making sure workers are being constantly challenged and rewarded and understanding that culture matters, will make your workplace stand out at a time when workers have options and are willing to exercise them.