Can improv thinking help companies survive The Great Resignation?
Faced with burnout and the prospect of putting on a dress shirt, professionals are quitting in droves. What’s a manager to do?
Last year, there were nearly 6 million fewer resignations than there were in 2019. Now, professionals who have been hunkered down for the covid winter are making up for lost time. NBC reports that the resignation rate in March 2021 was 2.4% — the highest in 20 years — and another U.S. survey found 26% of workers are planning to leave their current job over the next few months.
Forbes writes that companies should expect a bumpy re-entry and months of experimenting, while their workforce experiences the “biggest sunday scaries of their lives.” So, who is at the highest flight risk? And can companies use improv thinking to stay 1 step ahead?
Who’s most at risk?
When a company experiences growing pains, those who are “most able and likely to quit” are the highest performers. That hold true now, particularly at companies enacting rigid back-to-work conditions.
CNBC writes that women and mid-career employees (those 30–45) are leading the resignation charge across industries, while the tech and healthcare industries have been hit by employee turnover particularly hard.
Why are people jumping ship?
Economists note that the pandemic has created “two distinct financial realities for workers”: some are unemployed and behind on rent payments, while others have increased their savings and can use this financial safety net to make a change.
Employees in the tech and healthcare industries, which experienced the lowest financial strain from covid, are finding themselves in the latter camp — with the added pressure of burnout from working harder than ever through a global pandemic.
Mid-career workers tend to have the most leverage to find a new job when it comes to their disposable income, skills, and network. Meanwhile, women are disproportionately shouldering the burden of childcare in the pandemic and facing hefty bills for nannies and daycare upon their return to the office.
What can companies do to mitigate damage?
Lean on the principles of improv thinking. Mental health and operations professionals agree that “a dismissive and top-down approach is not going to work anymore.” Instead, the #1 rule of thumb? Be flexible and communicate that flexibility early and often.
When possible, organizations empower managers to have one-on-one conversations with employees about how their jobs can be re-crafted to support their pursuit of joy and purpose, while reducing outside stressors.
Destigmatize asking for help and proactively offer support for workers in high-pressure positions, like managers and high-performers.
Express gratitude for employees and don’t expect perfection: “The re-entry into the new hybrid will be messy and uneven,” writes the chief of research at Gartner. The difficult work for companies will be in resisting the urge to reinstate what “worked before,” instead of rising to meet the moment.