Embrace the New Norm by Listening to Your Employees
AFTER a tumultuous couple of years, the majority of the U.S. workforce is disengaged, burned out, and fed up. The work-life balance mindset has become increasingly prevalent, and people are taking major steps back from the workplace bustle. Many people are becoming less motivated in their jobs and leaders are stuck wondering what to do.
The answer is simple – listen. Listening to your employees’ complaints, wants, and needs goes a long way. It’s very obvious what the workforce needs to stay motivated because they are being very vocal about these shifts in priorities.
When Millennials entered the workforce, they prioritized “work to live” and did not want any part of the “hustle culture” that prioritizes face time, long hours, paying your dues. Gen Z feels the same way. In addition, research continually shows that Millennials and Gen Z’s in particular, plus an increasing number of other generations, are wanting to work in places that are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. They want their voice and opinions heard, they want to feel valued for their contributions, and they want flexibility to work how, where, and when they want. People have always wanted to do interesting work, they want flexibility, they want to grow their skills, they want to work in places where the culture allows them to thrive. The difference now is that people have seen that that’s a real possibility, so they are having a hard time going back to ‘the old norm.’ They are fighting for what they want, and organizations that don’t meet them in the middle will simply be left behind.
COVID has made everyone examine their relationship with work and now millions of workers are opting out – whether it’s to take a sabbatical or join a new firm or start their own gig or do something totally different. The old-time view of grinding your way to the top is not only outdated it also puts you on the fast train to burn out, and no one wants that. Our world is also moving at a rapid pace and the constant barrage also adds to the burnout we are all experiencing.
Right now, the power rests with the workforce – and will continue to do so even through a predicted recession. They are telling us in many ways that the status quo is not acceptable. Droves of women left the workforce in 2020. Millions have joined the great resignation, and over two-thirds of the workforce is disengaged or a part of the “quiet quit.” This is an opportunity for leaders to step up, lean in, and engage their staff to ask what would work for them and then work to make it a reality.
Organizations that stand any chance of making it to the future of work will do the following:
- Prioritize DEI and make it a clear part of your ongoing way of doing work – you have to walk the walk.
- Be conscious of your culture so it can be the culture you want, not the culture you get.
- Live your values. It’s very easy to come up with a few cool-sounding words and phrases. It is much harder to live them and to live them through adversity.
- Offer flexibility and put trust in your team. Showing your employees that you believe in their ability to self-regulate will give them a sense of independence that will likely boost both their morale and their work.
- Foster a collaborative work environment and do away with any outdated formalities (think unbending hierarchy and jumping through hoops)
- Take steps to prevent burnout by reassessing workloads, expectations, and deadlines. Employees shouldn’t feel like every task is urgent or like they have to respond to emails on a Saturday.
We are on the heels of the future of work. Our nation’s workforce is undergoing a major transformation in attitude and priorities. What motivated someone 5 years ago – even two or three years ago – is not the same thing that motivates that same person today. Organizations that continue to ignore/resist this shift and try to force old processes are setting themselves up for failure. In order to motivate your employees, you just have to listen and embrace change.
Shaara Roman is the author of The Conscious Workplace: Fortify Your Culture to Thrive in Any Crisis, and the founder and CEO of The Silverene Group, a culture consulting firm that aligns people, strategy, and culture to optimize organizational performance. As an award-winning entrepreneur, board member, speaker, author, and experienced chief human resources officer, Shaara and her team consult with leaders to create healthy workplaces by helping them build inclusive workplace cultures, design effective organizations, and align their company values and people programs to achieve business goals. Born in India, schooled in Nigeria and England, and having lived in Greece before coming to the US, Shaara uses her global experience as the foundation for her distinctive expertise in crafting strategies to improve culture, workforce quality, and operations across a multitude of disciplines in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. She received an MBA from Georgetown University, where she is also an adjunct professor. Today, Shaara serves on several advisory and nonprofit boards. Connect with Shaara on LinkedIn and at shaararoman.com
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