The U.S. workforce is currently experiencing what many are calling “The Great Resignation.”
There’s some truth to that notion: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in November, a record 4.5 million U.S. employees quit their jobs. This means more people are quitting, month over month, since the beginning of 2021. What makes this even more remarkable is that resignations are happening in a time of unpredictability and a global recession.
If you’re an employer, the statistics raise a question: With employees quitting at this rate, how do you attract and retain engaged, productive, and happy employees?
Jenn Lim, CEO of Delivering Happiness, has made solving this conundrum her life’s work. The company she co-founded in 2010 consults companies on improving culture and employee happiness for a more profitable and sustainable approach to business.
Values and culture
The first step toward sustaining employees, Lim says, is making sure the company has clearly defined purpose, values, and behaviors that its employees can align with. “Once you get that codified, you can see their light bulbs go off in how they’re bringing their own personal purpose and aligning that to the company’s. Then it becomes more meaningful work that goes beyond just a paycheck,” Lim explains.
Keeping culture alive in a time of remote work is something larger companies like Automattic (the company behind WordPress, the most popular website platform in the world valued at $3B), which has been remote since its inception in 2003, have mastered, Lim says. And if you’re an employer in a remote or hybrid setting, Lim says we can learn from those that have a history of success with remote work, and begin testing how to do it yourself to recruit and retain your best talent.
Delivering Happiness follows a specific framework to this end, which includes increasing engagement between team members through scientific factors like control, progress, connectedness, and purpose. There are several online platforms that employees can leverage to cultivate their unique culture, such as Facebook Workplace, Culture IQ, or Slack, Lim adds. That said, “There’s more to it than the tools you use,” Lim says. “It’s how you recognize, incentivize, and prioritize the initiatives that mean the most.”
Empathy and compassion
Another key to keeping employees happy is ensuring leaders create workplaces with “psychological safety.” Giving employees free access to mental health apps like Calm and Headspace is nice, but less than half the battle, Lim says. More important for employee well-being are compassion and connectedness. “From a team or company perspective, it’s as simple as embedding in your culture, like, ‘Let’s be real with each other.’ If someone seems a little off or disruptive in a meeting, let’s embed a behavior where you feel safe to say, ‘Hey, are you okay?’
“When we’re being human, we empathize and respond with how we’d personally want to be treated in that situation. We don’t assume the worst of that person because everyone is going through an internal battle that we have no clue about. I think that comes into codifying values and behaviors, so everyone is clear on the way this company works together.”
This point in time, when employees are being more selective about the work they accept and stick with, is an opportunity for employers, Lim strongly encourages. “What’s coming with the Great Resignation is the Great Awakening or the Great Reset or the Great whatever-you-want-to-call-it. But that’s not the point. The point is competitive advantage comes as people are resigning, sometimes without even a place to go. The stakes — and possibilities — are even greater for companies to be really intentional about how they want to attract, retain, and grow the right people, especially when they’re doing it for the right reasons with purpose and values in place.”