Michael McFall is the co-founder and co-CEO of BIGGBY COFFEE as well as author of the Inc. Original book GRIND.
Employee retention is understandably top-of-mind for many leaders and business leaders. A confluence of factors – from greater financial autonomy to a favorable hiring market – means people are leaving their jobs at record speed. This is especially true in the people-centric services industry, where modest rewards, difficult customers, and a variety of other factors push people out the door.
In response, companies are trying to improve their employee retention efforts by offering more pay, more autonomy and generous perks in the office. And yet people are still leaving.
That’s because, according to a recent Morning Consult study found it“The ‘big layoff’ is actually a ‘big reprioritisation’.” two-thirds of US workers in a survey McKinsey said the pandemic prompted them to think about their purpose in life, and about half are now rethinking their work.
Certainly, compensation remains a leading factor in the decision-making process. However, the two studies found that people most often cited work environments, relationships with managers, and alignment of the company with their personal goals and values as important criteria when choosing to stay with a company. Simply put, companies should not expect to overcome low wages and poor opportunities with purpose and mission, but the latter factors can ensure that employees with appropriate compensation remain engaged, committed and productive.
This is not an easy task. Many managers may not feel equipped to help people recognize and fulfill their purpose at work. Therefore, the solution should be both introspective and outward looking. It takes hard work from leadership teams to produce meaningful results that last. Here are three steps to start that process today.
Step 1: Determine your goal.
Business leaders cannot help their employees discover and fulfill their goals until they have completed the hard work of introspection and identification to define their own goals and those of their company. This can include clarifying your top priorities, desired outcomes, and fundamental values. At the same time, consider how these factors affect the day-to-day running of the workplace. Is your goal just a poster on the wall, or do these priorities actually impact people’s lives?
When companies in general and leaders specifically understand and live up to their purpose, employees will select the work environment that aligns with their values, mission and priorities. The results can be large and far-reaching, including increased employee engagement and loyalty.
Step 2: Meet people where they are.
People’s goals are as varied and unique as people themselves. However, their purpose often includes work. McKinsey’s analysis found that 70% of employees said their sense of purpose is largely determined by their job.
Interesting, when it comes to life purpose at work there is a big difference between leaders and frontline workers. While 85% of executives in the McKinsey survey said they lived up to their goal at work, only 15% of frontline workers felt the same way.
This paradox is untenable and is likely to lead to rifts between leaders and their teams, as those teams struggle with more rudimentary realities, such as work-life balance, remote working arrangements or staff shortages.
Companies need to address this inequality, recognize that leaders and employees have very different experiences, and develop strategic opportunities for everyone to connect with a company’s purpose and mission in personal and meaningful ways.
Step 3: Stand up for people.
High employee turnover and recruitment challenges are symptoms, not diseases. They are the inevitable outflow of misplaced priorities and people who feel unsupported in the things that matter most to them.
In 2022 and beyond, helping people reconnect with purpose and find meaning in their work will be a top task for leaders who want to make a difference.
Re-engage in empowering people by meeting their needs, supporting their pursuits, and connecting their efforts with real purpose and meaningful results. This starts with creating time for interpersonal relationships, getting to know people and understanding their desires, aspirations and challenges. Leaders must both regularly create opportunities for engagement and demonstrate a willingness to stand up for people, helping them connect their individual purpose with the company’s mission.
One last thought
Some leaders may wonder if it is really their responsibility to help people find their purpose, live their best lives, or participate in the “Great Re-prioritization”. After all, many people use their talents for jobs they don’t like. They clock in, work hard and go home.
This cynical approach will not get you very far. Like Gartner’s analysis of today’s rapidly changing workplace notes that people are now demanding “more personal value and purpose from both life and work. Smart employers will recognize this truth and respond with a more human and purposeful employment contract.”
When employers and leaders do this right, they will reduce employee turnover while moving forward with a more powerful, inspired and productive workforce. In other words, paying attention to the goal of an employee is not an obligation. It’s an opportunity to support people and build a better business than ever before.