Editor’s note: Veteran entrepreneur and investor Donald Thompson writes a weekly column for WRAL TechWire. These are published on Wednesdays.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Economists are calling it the Great Resignation: a post-pandemic wave of people quitting their jobs to find more fulfilling positions. Right now according to Gallup, “48% of America’s working population is actively job searching or watching for opportunities” and last week’s job report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that 3.9 million people quit their jobs in June, nearly surpassing the all-time high of 4 million people who quit in April. The single most impacted sector? Professional and business services, specifically tech.
A quick internet search will offer dozens of ways to avoid the Great Resignation in your business, like fair pay, engagement incentives, hybrid work options, targeted training, flexible hours and remote work. Yes those are all good ideas, but those are the “how” to improve retention, not the “why.”
The core answer is much more simple. If you want to win the talent wars and retain your current employees, you have to create an employee-focused culture by personalizing the employee experience.
We are used to thinking about personalization in sales. For instance, marketers use data analysis and digital tools to deliver individualized messages or product recommendations at precise times to specific consumers. As business leaders, we are typically ready and willing to personalize our products or services for our clients. Yet we rarely think about personalization for employees.
Consider, as an executive, how you can personalize the employee experience in your organization so that every individual can ask for and receive the tools, resources and support they need to do their best work. Leading an employee-focused business means personalizing your leadership style to meet the needs of each individual employee. It means tuning in to each employees’ diverse identities and life experiences so you can give them what they need to be successful.
This is a topic my team will be discussing at our upcoming webinar, Back to Work: Strengthening Workplace Culture, Tuesday, August 24 at 12 pm ET. Join us to learn best practices for inclusion and how to personalize the employee experience in hybrid and remote workplaces.
I’ll give an example from the disability community, since most executives I know are already comfortable with personal accommodation as it pertains to disability. Maybe you have an employee, James, who is Deaf, so you make sure you’re enabling live captions in Zoom meetings, training your managers on disability etiquette and providing a sign language translator at live events. James is young and healthy. He doesn’t have kids or parents to care for, and he lives under a mile from your central office. Working standard hours, in-person, is fairly simple for him.
In contrast, you have another employee, Angela, who has two young children and lives twenty miles from your office. Angela may need flexible hours and ample opportunities for remote work, or she may need a caregiver’s stipend for before and after school care. Yet she may feel uncomfortable requesting those accommodations since parenthood and geographic location aren’t typically accounted for at your organization. To you, those requests sound reasonable, but to her, they feel like a very big ask, so she keeps quiet and looks for somewhere else to work.
The point is that every employee has a different set of unique needs. Remember the old adage “people don’t quit jobs; they quit bosses?” People will stay in jobs that aren’t ideal if they feel welcome, respected and supported by their leaders. Your job as an executive is to create a work environment that clears their path to excellence and doesn’t get in the way of great work.
Personalization is the new employee economy. If you’re not personalizing the ways you incentivize, inspire, accommodate and give feedback, you’ll lose out to someone who can. Employees are the engine of every business. The strongest organizations will always be the ones that nurture engagement, loyalty, and trust by creating a personalized and employee-centered culture.
Still, building culture can be a challenge, especially if you don’t know what you might be doing wrong. Culture is a daily practice after all. You’re creating it at every interaction, and most people don’t know best practices for inclusive leadership that focuses on the employees. It isn’t about Friday happy hours or arcade games in the lobby. It’s in the way you structure meetings, give feedback, ask for input, make space for quiet employees to share their ideas and more. Those small moments are the ones that create a culture of engagement and lead to greater job satisfaction, trust, loyalty and employee retention.
In other words, yes, you might be able to avoid the Great Resignation by offering hybrid work options, flexible hours and skill-building courses. But the real way to keep your team on board is to invest in who they are as people, personalize their employee experience and create an employee-focused culture of work.
About the Author
Donald Thompson is an entrepreneur, public speaker, author, podcaster, Certified Diversity Executive (CDE) and executive coach. With two decades of experience growing and leading firms, he is a thought leader on goal achievement, influencing company culture, and driving exponential growth. He is also co-founder and CEO of The Diversity Movement, a results-oriented, data-driven strategic partner for organization-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Donald serves as a board member for several organizations in marketing, healthcare, banking, technology and sports. Connect with him on LinkedIn and at donaldthompson.com. Join The Diversity Movement to learn more about inclusive and equitable workplace strategies at their ”Back to Work” webinar, Tuesday, August 24 at 12pm ET.