During the course of the last two weeks, I’ve heard it called a variety of things: the turnover tsunami, the Great Resignation, and the hopeless black hole. These three bleak terms have been used to describe the current and impending shift in our available manpower and expectations of work. According to Paycor, nearly 11 million jobs lost during the pandemic have been recovered, and 9.2 million job openings were recorded in June. Currently, 48 percent of American workers are actively searching for job opportunities, and 42 percent of business owners have job openings they can’t fill.
I work as an external change management consultant and teach organizational change leadership and human resources courses at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. As I interact with folks from various industries and experiences, one thing is certain: right now, not much is.
One thing we do know is that work-life balance has become increasingly important to our employees and potential employees and that practitioners have done their best with the resources at their disposal. In the more recent past, policies and expectations were already shifting to accommodate the younger generations, shifting from work-life balance to work-life balance. New ways to reward, motivate, and develop employees were the norm. Then came COVID-19. In an instant, it was no longer a generational divide; it was a reminder to every person, everywhere, that work-life balance matters.
As organizational leadership across industries and sectors struggles to adapt and understand the changing environment and workforce, employees are experiencing burnout. As functional areas continue to do more with less and less (while adding new COVID-19 precautions and policies), the change fatigue is real.
At a recent event, when asked for their best suggestions regarding the current and impending worker shortages and burnout, the ideas from professionals revolved mainly around wellness and mental health benefits, recognition (including promoting from within), transparency, compassion, and adjusted schedules and work locales. However, one person boldly said, “I’ve got nothing. I don’t know. I need help.” People are tired. These professionals’ attempts at curbing their talent shortage are supported by the literature. We are finding ourselves at a global inflection point. This is our time to envision, reimagine, and retool who we are and how we engage with employees.
In a recent Sage survey, 27 percent of businesses invested more in nontraditional benefits during the pandemic, like flexible work arrangements and child or eldercare stipends. Some managers discussed the startup of walking clubs, yoga, and other wellness activities and stipends. Additionally, Upwork’s study of the transition back from remote working indicates that by 2025, 22 percent of the American workforce will be working remotely. This is more than a 75 percent increase over prepandemic remote worker numbers. Prepandemic, the assumption was that remote workers would not be as productive as their on-site counterparts; however, in a recent Mercer report, 94 percent of employers say that productivity has either remained the same or improved since employees began working remotely.
McKinsey’s research also demonstrates that the professionals have it right. Mental health services are a critical component of employee well-being, longevity, and work-life balance. According to Paycor, one thing missing from this list is that employees who are job hunting or are satisfied in their current position are specifically engaged by organizations known for exceptional learning and training.
Creating a culture focused on training, learning, and development is critical given the current and impending workforce changes. Growing employee skills and resilience in the areas of change, both large and small scale, is needed if we are going to move through this inflection point and be ready for the workplace of the future. Increasingly, organizations are asking key professional employees to be the change agent within their current role for these specific initiatives.
Organizational change leadership capabilities are a highly sought-after skill set for just about every position. Growing your own change leaders helps position your organization for continued success and the ability to weather the current and upcoming labor market changes. To learn more about UW-Platteville’s Master of Science in organizational change leadership program, visit our website.