I quit.  I resign. I’m leaving.  No one likes to here these words. However, the latest figures came out on Jan. 4, 2022, and showed that 4.5 million people voluntarily left their positions in November 2021 for greener pastures elsewhere.  The numbers keep coming showing that the great resignation continues in the first quarter of 2022.

What is the root cause for so many employees heading out the door?

The great resignation is symptomatic of Leaders who viewed employee value and employee development as insignificant. When the TIGERS 6 Principles — trust, interdependence, genuineness, empathy, risk resolution and success — are anchored by behavior employees experience every day at work, they tend to stick around.  They don’t resign. They feel understood, challenged and can see a career path that is enriching for them. They are also more engaged and committed to their organization’s success.

From the time the six principles emerged from business, education and psychology group dynamic research and four years of independent evaluation, it became clear that there are two dominant forms of work structure – the Individualistic and collaborative work cultures. One experiences high levels of resignation and diminished loyalty. The other isn’t.

Two main work cultures impacted by the great resignation

The Individualistic culture is internally competitive.  As such, the following practices result in a high number of resignations. There will be more to come if culture behavior change is ignored based on the following drivers:

  • Limited opportunity for advancement. What a person needs to look like to assume a leadership position has improved over the years with more emphasis paid to diversity and inclusion. It still isn’t good enough.
  • Individualistic organizations operate through command and control, autocratic leadership mindsets that view employees as a cost of doing business that must be tightly controlled.
  • When employees are regarded as a cost, these organizations work to hold employee compensation to the minimum pay possible. For them, the loss of female employees who were paid on average 18% less than their male colleagues who performed similar work is a serious wake up call.
  • Other employees leaving these organizations see no future for their career development. Forced into jobs with limited scope, the people who I have congratulated for switching jobs on LinkedIn often say that there was more opportunity to fully expand their skills in the organizations they relocated to. They also report there is more conscious attention paid to flexible work schedules and their individual training and development.

Equitable pay, opportunity, flexible work schedules and life balance are a few of the factors driving the great resignation and drop in employee loyalty in these organizations.

The other work culture is collaborative. the collaborative workforce operates through teams of employees who are respected as key stakeholders in operations and profit.  According to Harvard, Gallup and other researchers, workforce studies reveal that when employees collaborate, they work on average 15% faster; 73% do better work; and, 56% are more engaged. Practices that support these results include the following:

  • The management style is employee-centered.
  • The leadership and operational mindset is to develop employees.
  • Employee enrichment often occurs through cross-functional team assignments and cross-training.
  • Operations and profit are transparent. For example, in some organizations every employee experiences profit-sharing or gain sharing bonuses rather than just managers or a select few C-suite employees.
  • Employee discretionary actions are recognized and rewarded.
  • Resignations in these organizations happen through natural attrition that is predictable and can be planned for.
  • Many of these organizations already had hybrid part-time, remote work operations in place prior to the pandemic. It saved their employees travel time, wear and tear on their automobiles and child care hardships. Some are now going to a 4-day work schedule. Others say they will not reopen their brick-and-mortar operations at all, deciding instead to sell off their real estate holdings.

Frankly, employees working in these organizations often find it difficult to leave. The exception is extremely extroverted people who suffer when they miss daily in-person interaction with colleagues.

What potential outcomes will flow from this disruption?

I’m a person who always sees the glass half full. Here’s my optimistic view. for the future of humans at work.

We already see the shift toward this second, collaborative work culture in the small to medium sized organizations.  And when attention is paid to culture behavior that is measurable in group performance such as trust, interdependence, genuineness, empathy, risk resolution and success, how leadership work is structured could shift in the following ways to boost employee loyalty:

  • Computer applications and AI frees managers up from many business reporting functions. This means leaders who are willing to improve their own behavior and leadership mindset will turn toward developing employees.
  • Behavior focused work culture means more attention paid to group process, behavior norms, communication, education and team process training that applies to everyone.
  • Upper level management positions and CEO compensation will be tied to performance rather than position. This means leaders will have skin in the game should employee loyalty drop further due to poor work culture behavior, lack of employee training and development, diversity and inclusion and equitable take home wages. this is because Boards of Directors and stockholders are keenly attuned to organizational profit and rising and falling stock values. Employee turnover is expensive, measurable and frequently falls to leaders to correct their personal behavior, empathy and communication skills to turn things around.
  • Leadership positions will be filled by people who are trained in leadership and who have demonstrated their leadership and collaborative team leadership acumen prior to assuming leadership roles. The days of sink or swim leadership promotions could be coming to an end.
  • Entrepreneurial employees and leaders who are team-trained will be in high demand as organizations work to renovate their work culture.
  • Collaborative problem-solving and decision-making will be facilitated by managers who understand employee strengths, how employees think, and process information. This means more employee input will be sought and respected.

The future of work and employee loyalty is interesting.

The fastest way to improve work culture is through behavior improvement.  Organizations that monitor their workforce behavior for the trust, interdependence, genuineness, empathy, risk resolution and success principles and supporting behavior will continue to thrive because turnover will be much lower.   The bottom line is that employees are loyal to organizations that are loyal to them.

Repetitive, dangerous or low skill work will be replaced by robotics and AI. On the other hand, operations that requires human discernment and cooperation among people and departments will be tracked with emphasis on work culture behavior. This means that organizations experiencing employee loyalty and talent retention will expand their attitude on what success means.   Work success will take into consideration not only profit and goals accomplished but also the satisfaction of employees performing the work. Leaders who focus on that satisfaction, will experience more employee loyalty and business growth in times to come.

Care to dig deeper into this topic?

Here are a few resources to take this topic deeper

Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Dianne Crampton

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