How to Prevent the Great Resignation – part 1


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By now, I’m sure you’ve heard stories.  The marketing company that just lost 3 of their people, so they can’t take on new business because they don’t have the capacity.  The bakery that has to reduce their hours of operation because 2 of their employees decided to move out of the state..  The hiring manager whose team is facing burnout because it takes 3 times longer to find a replacement for that junior designer.  Well, there’s actually a name for it – they calling it The Great Resignation.  It’s the anticipated post-pandemic talent shuffle, and you may find it touching your company.

So, what can you do to hang on to your best, and attract new, talent?  Well, in this series, we’ll explore concrete steps you can take to become an employer of choice, which gives you the best shot of keeping your best people.

Actually, it’s all about culture.  That’s the secret weapon, your super power.  People think culture means does everyone get along, or how many vacation days you offer, or if you provide catered lunches.  That’s not culture, those are only outward signs of the things you do to influence culture.

Company culture, is the personality of the business.  Specifically the personality that most closely impacts employees.  And, like a person’s personality, you can’t touch it but you know how to describe .  Lot’s of different things can influence company culture, policies, procedures – how you do what you do.  Values and ethics, goals, maybe even a code of conduct.

In fact, Indeed, the job posting platform, has identified three types of company culture

the Traditional company culture – this is, what can I say, the traditional model.  Generally it has strict rules set by the company, rigid reporting structures, and can be considered authoritarian.

Leadership culture – where the focus is on employee development, supported by growth and training that helps them succeed in their field.

And the Innovative or ad hoc company culture, that usually focuses on innovation above all things.

Actually, I’ve found that most companies have a mix of the traditional company culture, and leadership culture.  Meaning the culture, or company personality, might be more directive or more development depending on the specific circumstances.  And, in fact, I believe the shift that we’re seeing most companies make is from a traditional culture, to a more leadership culture model.  You have to – employees want more opportunity and growth.  Gone are the days of ‘do it this way because I said so’ – people want to know why are we doing it this way.  And, what if there’s a better way?

So, to help you move the needle on your company culture, you should focus on three main areas for your team – environment, development and wellbeing.  We’ll talk about development and wellbeing in upcoming episodes, but today let’s focus on environment.

I wanted to start here because too many times we completely overlook the impact environment has on our culture.  Think about it – if you walk into someone’s home and it’s dirty, junk is everywhere and you can’t quite identify that smell – well, (like it or not) that’s going to impact what you think of them.  But we don’t realize that our work environment has the same impact.  So, make your work environment inviting, a place people want to be – and I don’t just mean fancy chairs – although that may be part of it.

You know, Gensler – one of the largest office design and architecture firms in the world has been conducting a series of workplace surveys to understand what workers want in a post-pandemic future.  In the results of their Research Institute survey, everyone they asked said that the office is still the best place to connect, collaborate, and socialize with others. So, start with the nuts and bolts.

“Get larger monitors, for goodness sake, people have been hunching over laptops with tiny monitors for the past year and a half.

A good 32 inch monitor will feel like nirvana.”

Get good equipment.  I can’t tell you how frustrating it is when you’re trying to accomplish something, but your equipment keeps letting you down.  The internet isn’t consistent, or your computer is so slow you have time to get a glass of water between switching from one application to the next.  Or, you’re working away, and suddenly you feel that shooting pain in your back, or wrist, or neck, or your eyes start watering.  It’s all about good equipment.

On the computing side, get good, current equipment and up to date software.  Now, I’m personally not a fan of being on the bleeding edge of hardware or software, I want someone else to work out the kinks before I get my hands on it – but you can’t run Windows 7 on a 10 year old PC and expect any type of productivity to be happening.  For goodness sake – upgrade.

Put it in the budget to upgrade machines at least every 4 – 5 years.  I know, but you have to – because computers (like many things these days) aren’t built to last.  And even if they were, they generally can’t keep up with the computing power needed to run newer software and applications.  So, you’re going to have to upgrade.

And if you’re thinking, OK – I’ll just stick with old hardware and software, forget it.  Out of date software isn’t only an issue in getting the work done, it actually become a big security issue.  Again, the tech world is moving at the speed of sound, and so are the hackers.  You really need to stay on top of hardware,  software and most importantly, security innovations.

Get larger monitors, for goodness sake, people have been hunching over laptops with tiny monitors for the past year and a half.  A good 32 inch monitor will feel like nirvana.  Or, for some people, they might prefer a dual monitor setup, to get the most productivity out of their workspace.  Don’t forget good lighting.  Nobody likes sterile, overhead lights – try providing desk lamps at the workstation.  It can go a long way toward reducing eye strain.

Don’t’ forget about the peripherals.  Get good, solid, enterprise level printers and scanners without shelling out thousands of dollars to buy something.  Lease instead.  Not only does it take the ‘what do you mean it’s out of warranty’ headache off your mind, but most times the leasing company will provide toner as well as take care of all the repairs.  Actually, of the two, the toner is the best part….because we all know how much toner can cost.

Also remember, sitting is the new smoking.  So think – standing desk.  Oh, you don’t have to run out and buy state of the art standing desks at upwards of $500 a pop.  Check out the standing desk convertors on Amazon for under $100.

Oh, I could go on – headsets for the phone.  Footrests that promotes proper posture, under the desk.  And of course, good chairs, on good chair mats.  It does nothing to have a great chair and not be able to move it without picking it up.  Ergonomic keyboards and mousepads.

By the same token, cast a critical eye on your furniture, and office configuration.  Face it, we can’t get away from it – most companies, at least most companies that want to keep or grow their talent pool, are going to have to consider remote working or some sort of hybrid arrangement.  This throws all the pickup sticks in the air – everything’s up for grabs.  It makes it easy to get paralyzed and not know where to start.  Well – start with your team.

Listen, right now anxiety about how and under what circumstances people will return to the office, is high.  And employers are confused trying to figure out what will work best for the company too.  The answer, or at least first step, is communication.  Don’t try to make these decisions in a vacuum.  Talk to your employees.  Focus on teams, and how they need to function.  Who knows, once you talk to them, you might find that a one size fits all solution isn’t the answer.

Maybe team A needs to be in the office, but wants to work a 9/80 shift (that’s where they work 80 hours in 9 days instead of 10; and get one day off).  On the other hand, maybe Team B can’t be gone a full day, so maybe 1 or 2 remote days a week would work better for them.  Or maybe you want to go all out remote and downsize the office altogether.  Again, a solution that’s right for one team, or even one company, may not be right for another.  So you’ll have to talk to the team, see what options might be available, and be creative.

No matter what you decide, you have to focus on designing the office as a destination.  Think about, and enhance the opportunities for collaboration and team building in your configuration, safely of course.

And I think this is a good time to have a chat about workspaces.  It’s no secret that for the past few years, well actually a couple of decades, the trending has been toward common work areas or bullpens; and in fact discrete workspaces have been a point of scorn – come on, who hasn’t hated on cubicles?  But according to Diane Hoskins, co-CEO of Gensler – Health is a new lens with which to view the workplace, and this will force new approaches, including more sensible density,” –  “But beyond health, from an individual effectiveness or business sense, our pre-Covid research had begun to reveal that densification may not have been fulfilling some of our fundamental functional needs in the office.”

What that means is, even before COVID, we were beginning to figure out that the bullpen model wasn’t working, too crowded, too noisy and now, just too close together.  But that doesn’t’ mean put everyone in their own walled off fortress.  Sure you may opt for the cubicle route – but why not consider transparent walls vs. fabric covered ones.  The extra added bonus is it lets more light get to everything.

So, as you’re looking at office design and configuration, just decide that you’re going to give people the space, the individual space, to get their work done.  And when people need to collaborate, they’ll need meeting options where they have space to feel comfortable.  By the way – don’t overlook outdoor space you may have nearby.  If you’re in a temperate climate, like we are in Southern California, you might schedule all your big team meetings outdoors if you can.  Besides, a change of scenery does everyone good.

And finally, think about amenities and beauty.  Sure, the shift, for good reason, is toward non communal experiences – but that doesn’t mean you can’t get everyone their own reusable water bottle (maybe even with the company logo), or coffee mug, or get a pod enabled coffee maker.  And then there’s food.  If you don’t’ have a few great food, coffee and juice options near by, hop onto Google and line up a delivery service or catering option.  You know what they say – the way to the heart is through the stomach.

Anything you can do to up level the physical experience your employees have at the company, helps company culture.

While you’re at it, don’t forget the virtual aspect.  You can’t leave your remote team out – they need the feel the love to.  Make sure your conferencing technology is solid, take a look at upgrading your internet connection – after all, all those people Zooming will take a toll.  Get headphones with mics and webcams for every PC setup.  Have great lighting options, good acoustics and cameras that let you actually see everyone’s face.

Yes, I know that company culture is more, much more, than what the office looks like and the amenities available – and we’ll tackle the other critical elements of culture in the next couple of episodes.  But for now, why not start with the low hanging fruit.  Make it pretty and inviting, and someplace people would want to spend some time.

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