Over the past 15 years, I've led human resources at LinkedIn and consulted with both small organizations and Fortune 500 companies. I've seen palpable frustration rising between employers, who are trying to advance their businesses, and employees, who are concerned with their professional futures. The pandemic only accelerated this revolution, to a point where now both employers and employees are uncertain what the future of work will look like.
My new book, Workquake: Embracing the Aftershocks of Covid-19 to Create a Better Model of Working (Amplify Publishing), explores how the two can come together to create a new contract of work that benefits both individuals' careers and companies' bottom lines. Business owners, for their part, will need to rethink their strategies around hiring and retention. Here's one example of how to do that -- by preparing your employees to leave.
College basketball players in the top NCAA programs often leave college to go pro after just one year. As a result, to recruit the best talent, each college coach has to convince players that their program will give them the best shot at the NBA draft. The message they send to prospects is: "If you come to my college, I will prepare you better than anyone else can for your future career."
Companies need to do the same thing. In the past 10 years, the median job tenure for professional employees dropped to 4.9 years from 5.2, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This may not seem like a significant change, but that number is considerably lower for younger generations: For college graduates aged 25 to 34, the median tenure is just 2.8 years. It's simply unrealistic to expect an employee to stay at your company for 20 years -- you'd be lucky if they stayed for five. So instead of making promises of long-term employment, tell applicants: "If you come work here, you'll learn more in one year than you would anywhere else, and you'll meet people who can help catapult your career."
Then, like top coaches, you'll need to strategically fill open positions and scout talent in advance before an employee's tenure, no matter how short, comes to an end. The old-school practice of shaming employees who resign is not acceptable anymore. From day one, you should acknowledge that your employees will leave eventually. While they're working for you, help them build their skills and expand their professional networks, and when they do move on to other opportunities, celebrate their departures. Turnover is healthy -- it creates new opportunities for existing staff and allows new talent to come in and shake up ingrained habits, bringing new ideas and solutions to challenges.
More than ever, Americans are entering and leaving the workforce on their own terms. The changes we're witnessing -- from the "Great Resignation" to employees demanding more agency in their jobs -- have been percolating for decades. The success of any business comes down to its employees, so instead of contemplating whether your company should have cold brew on tap, you first need to reevaluate your relationships with employees and whether you're helping them be successful and feel supported at work. The world of work will never be the same, so it's time to abandon the old, outdated ways and embrace a new model.