In order to anticipate and prepare for what’s coming, it’s helpful to look back and learn from the past. One of the biggest challenges that companies face right now is a lack of workers. To get through and get beyond this situation, let’s examine #theGreatResignation and #theGreatReshuffle through the perspective of engagement.
Before COVID-19 began to circulate, everyone was aware that levels of engagement were low. What we didn’t anticipate was the way that the pandemic and engagement would interact. In hindsight, we see that the pandemic created a space for people to act on their engagement.
During the lock down, starting when work was remote and no vaccines were available, people became introspective. They reviewed their lives and became more aware of what was important to them. Many workers perceived their disengagement more keenly and considered it more thoughtfully.
Some people identified that they lacked purpose and meaning. Others determined that they lacked career success. Others decided they were hindered by inadequate compensation. Yet others discovered that working wasn’t worth a lack of work-life balance.
So, these sentiments… combined with the freedom that came from working from home and the ability to connect virtually, compelled people began to act. They took steps to become engaged. They networked, interviewed, got promoted, changed jobs, changed careers, and quit.
But, the big question is what will happen next. It depends on the extent people accurately identified what they needed to become engaged and whether they found work that satisfied their needs.
If they found work that gave them purpose and meaning, they will be engaged. If they found a workplace that provided community, they will be engaged. If they found work that allowed them to be authentic, they will be engaged.
But for those who did not look for or find these things, their disengagement will return or become deeper. When effort does not lead to the expected outcomes, people become less motivated. Their disengagement may also become associated with regret, helplessness, cynicism, or hopelessness.
Employers, who want to keep the people who came to them through #theGreatReshuffle, who still need to attract people due to #theGreatResignation, or who would like to improve retention in the face of current conditions, would benefit from learning more about what engages people and creating the conditions that foster engagement.
While it’s not easy to do, employers should develop workplace cultures that foster meaning, provide psychological safety, and promote internal availability.¹ If you are an employer, commit to being purpose and value driven, create a compassionate and service-oriented culture, and encourage interactions that foster everyone’s ability to see the best in themselves.
¹Rich, B. L., Lepine, J. A., & Crawford, J. A. 2010. Job engagement: Antecedents and effects on job performance. Academy of Management Journal, 53 (3), 617–635.