How to ward off the “great resignation” and create a positive culture change

The heart of any organization is its people. As we work, we develop myriad human relationships and interactions that are always responsive to the environment around us. But the past two years of the corona pandemic have changed our working world significantly.

Responding to the constant uncertainty we faced has required tremendous resilience from employees and steadfast leadership from employers. It’s a pressure that has led to 82% of executives reporting exhaustion since the pandemic began and 41% of employees considering quitting their jobs, according to a recent Microsoft Corps survey.

During this time of crisis, teams have needed support and proactive decision-making from their leaders. As a result, 2021 became the year of “great resignation” for those organizations that could not deliver, with workers quitting their jobs at an historic pace. In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an annual high of 4.4 million people leaving their jobs in September 2021, and through November there were 1.5 jobs per unemployed person. According to Gartner, 91% of HR managers in the UK said they were concerned about employee turnover. Meanwhile, companies that invested in the well-being of their employees saw a significant increase in performance.

Retaining and attracting talent has never been so difficult. It’s a complex situation that has caused many companies to reconsider their existing, ingrained ways of working. Culture change and creating jobs that motivate employees are on the HR agenda now more than ever.

Long before the pandemic became a buzzword, there were several reasons why a company could spark a culture shift and change the way things are done in their business. Challenge-related issues such as low retention rates, not attracting the right talent, or the need to increase performance and productivity were all drivers of change.

Now – by using the current conditions as an opportunity – there is a pool of experienced talent waiting to join the organizations that create the best cultures. It’s one of the biggest differentiators and a clear competitive advantage. Get the culture right, especially in a post-pandemic world, and you will win the “war for talent.”

Well-being is an important factor in building a great culture. It is increasingly central to promoting a positive work environment, as mental health has also become an important consideration for employers in recent years. A McKinsey report found that working parents were far more likely to experience burnout during Covid than their childless counterparts. However, many leaders have never had the experience of managing mental health in the workplace before. High-pressure environments may have dictated that their workplaces be ruled by a “push-through” mentality—a mentality that encouraged employees to put their own feelings aside in favor of the rapidly escalating pace of their work. Consequently, a recent survey by Mind Share Partners found that only 41% of respondents felt that mental health was a priority in their organization, while 37% viewed their leaders as advocates for mental health in the workplace. A proactive approach to supporting mental health in the workplace is a sign of a healthy culture and something prospective employees are looking for.

So how can leaders ensure the culture they create is one people want to be a part of, and how can they deter layoffs and attract the best talent? The answer lies in raising awareness.

To cultivate such awareness, empathy, and connection with the people you lead, as a leader, you must create environments of psychological safety—environments where people can be honest, open, and ultimately, themselves. Without an appropriate level of awareness as a leader, it is more difficult to create security.

While many leaders struggle to be aware of their needs or those of their teams due to increased workloads and the pressure to meet competing demands, there is a growing number of leaders who are bucking the trend. They give themselves permission to manage their own needs and are aware of their own mindset, making them better able to develop a positive culture. This, in turn, contributes to better individual and team well-being and, most importantly, better results. In fact, in a recent report, researcher Josh Bersin found that companies that invest in employee wellbeing and put it at the heart of their organization are almost four times more likely to be leaders in their industry.

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