Employees are the lifeblood of a business. When workers are happy in their roles, companies experience high retention rates and increased productivity. But when employees aren’t, these benefits quickly reverse. The Great Resignation and “quiet quitting“ phenomena reveal what happens when employees’ needs and expectations aren’t met.
Over the past two quarters, productivity has dropped dramatically. In the wake of the pandemic, tight labor market, and ongoing battle over remote work, people are reconsidering what they do, where they do it and who they do it for. Employees know they have choices as to where and how they work. But although some might feel comfortable walking away (prompting the Great Resignation), others are just shutting down and doing the bare minimum (leading to “quiet quitting“).
“Resigners” and “quiet quitters” alike demonstrate the need for new approaches to culture and management. The new era of work is here, no matter how hard some companies might fight it. To be successful, managers must understand the necessity of flexibility and support for employees.
Building flexibility into the workplace
Currently, a flexible working arrangement is one of the top three reasons people search for new jobs. However, flexibility isn’t black and white; it means different things to different people. Some might want to be able to put in their hours at any time of day. Some might be more concerned about the location where they’re working. Others might want to take off an hour here or there for family obligations. That’s why flexible policies that don’t consider individual preferences won’t work.
Alternative models to consider include remote work (to accommodate employees across the country), hybrid work (to give local employees a space to congregate), flexible work hours (to help working parents and individuals with unique schedules) and the gig economy (to access necessary expertise without hiring full-time team members).
As a manager, you have the power to create a high-performance environment. If you can commit to change and get the rest of your company’s management team aligned, the results can be excellent. Here’s how to start:
1. Stay curious
The way your business has always done things might be comfortable, but it isn’t necessarily effective. Instead of instinctively making decisions grounded in what you think you know, challenge yourself to adopt a mindset of curiosity. If you’re curious, you ask more questions, gather more information and involve others. This helps you see more things as possible versus not possible. It gives you the opportunity to discover the best solution, not just the one you’re most familiar with.
There are many benefits to curiosity: It helps with building empathy and seeing the value of diverse thoughts. Try encouraging employees to pursue passion projects and learning opportunities. Multinational pharmaceutical corporation Novartis, for instance, requires employees to dedicate 100 hours per year to learning and developing curiosity. The company also hosts webinars, funds training and creates events to help achieve this goal.
2. Focus on outcomes, not tasks
It’s easy to get entangled by the specifics of a given task and focus on the “how” more than the “why.” But a single task isn’t worth much if it doesn’t contribute to the bigger picture. When it comes to defining remote work rules, ask yourself, “What’s the desired outcome of a role?” and “What results are expected?” Then, talk with your team about the best ways to achieve these outcomes. When you do this, you create a culture of commitment and accountability.
3. Build relationships
Employee expectations are changing, and flexibility is key in the new era of work. It’s already a factor for many in their career decisions, and it will only continue to grow in importance. You must grant employees the flexibility and autonomy they need to succeed. You’ve already taken the time to hire great people, so continue to build and strengthen those relationships instead of micromanaging their day-to-day workflows.
Building relationships is easy if you care about the people on your team. Take time to talk about more than just work. Find out about their passions, families and interests. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings and let employees lead them. Resist the temptation to make these meetings solely focused on work. People will naturally talk about what they’ve got going on, so give them space to ask questions about the business or discuss development. You can schedule other meetings to discuss project details.
These one-on-one meetings are even more critical with remote team members, as there aren’t opportunities for hallway conversations. You have to be more deliberate and intentional about relationship-building. People are more open when they know you care, so prioritize authentic and transparent communication. When you create a strong foundation with your team, they’ll be more honest, more likely to share ideas and concerns and more apt to rally around change.
You’ve been conditioned to put structure behind most things you do at work, but overly rigid strategies can also limit your organization’s growth and potential. When you and the rest of your company’s management team commit to fostering a people-first, performance-driven culture, you’ll be astonished at the resulting growth and profitability.
Gloria St. Martin-Lowry is the president of HPWP Group, a company that promotes leadership and organizational development through positivity, coaching and problem-solving. HPWP is driven to create high-performing workplaces by partnering with courageous leaders who value the contributions of team members.
Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.