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Jump Ahead of the Curve

Access Continuum’s COVID response toolkit for leaders, teams and organizations

Continuum Consulting Services LLC

People are leaving their jobs at a pace we haven’t seen in several decades. Not only is this eye-opening, but it’s creating significant organizational challenges around retention as well as attracting and onboarding new employees. Almost every conversation with our clients and colleagues involves some reference to these topics and requests for tips and tools to offset the trend we’re calling, the ‘big quit’.

Unfortunately, the situation won’t be resolved so easily.  People who have emerged from months of pandemic lockdown, are seeing the world very differently. Economist Betsey Stevenson comments in an interview with Ezra Klein, “I can’t think of any other time when it’s been a correlated shock across the entire country, where we’ve all been faced – no, forced – to ask questions.” 

The questions she’s referring to — ‘Am I going in the right direction? Is this the right occupation for me? Am I living my best life? Am I doing work that fulfills me?’ — come when we have been shaken up, when we can see through and begin to question our quotidian lives. Great stress has been created through loss, loss of lives, jobs, and dreams, and it has impacted our thinking. People are adopting a ‘life-is-too-short’ mentality: too short to be doing this job and too short to be living the way I’ve been living. Carpe diem. Seize the day!

A New Marketplace

After all this time with our heads down, there is a pent-up desire to change jobs or change something, at the same time many companies are experiencing growth. It’s creating a worker’s market!  Outcomes from recent polls indicate that 20-40% of employees are looking for a different role. The exact reasons vary: burnout, re-thinking career and life choices, new opportunities, virus vulnerability, and the big one: more flexibility with work arrangements. Half the people currently working remotely say that if their company doesn’t continue to offer remote work options long-term, they’ll move to a company that does. 

Competition is fierce for qualified candidates. Recruiters are in high gear, with companies kicking in a variety of benefits above and beyond the usual. Some financial examples: the CEO of a veterinary company told me about a $30,000 signing bonus for a $17/hour Veterinary Technician’s job; other companies are adding incentives, such as college scholarships for both employee and family members, and guaranteed enrollment in management training programs. We have even heard about free hotel rooms offered for summer help at some of the big hotel chains. However, hiring bonuses and incentives can only go so far in such complex, uncharted waters.

Replacing one worker can be costly, both financially (up to three times their salary in providing training and team integration for their replacement) and resource-wise. The impact of multiple employees leaving within a short period of time can place significant stress on employees left behind who end up carrying increased workloads with potential critical gaps in a workstream. 

How To Retain and Attract Employees

No one knows how long this employee-driven high turnover will last or when the marketplace will settle down.  What will that mean for employers?  It calls for making immediate moves to 1) retain existing employees whose concerns are about finding the right hybrid work balance for themselves and their families; and 2) onboard new employees in such a way that they are up to speed and integrated into their new teams quickly and effectively, no matter what type of work arrangement they have. 

Continuum works with both those challenges.

One powerful process assisting our clients with retention right now includes the use of Continuum’s Workload Analysis Tool, designed to provide both the employee and their manager with a clear line of sight to all work-related activities. The tool is a simple one: capture the major work activities, bucket them by type of work and then prioritize. It works beautifully in deciding what’s important and where any blocks are, creating vital conversations to streamline workflows, clear up misunderstandings and reset everyone on the same page. Use the tool for the situations like the ones below:

  1. Having critical strategic conversations between managers and their employees to calibrate the work currently being done against the most important priorities, adjusting as needed.
  2. Keeping clear alignment with remote workers, given their lack of regular access to informal conversations in hallways and offices or water cooler chat that might alert them to changing priorities and opportunities. 
  3. Increasing visibility of projects and activities for a particular role when onboarding a new employee, so that everyone around them is aware of the status and responsibilities. 
  4. Increasing awareness of team’s work-stream overlap, redundant efforts and the potential to streamline dependent and interdependent work.

We’ve designed a coaching process to support leaders and their teams as they apply the Workload Analysis Tool. Feel free to download the tool spreadsheet and accompanying PowerPoint here for review. Contact us for more information about how we can support you and your teams right now.

Stay tuned for more on our Onboarding Toolkit, and here’s a link to our blog describing the important differences between onboarding and orientation.

By Melisa Gillis

Melisa Gillis is part of Continuum’s consulting team, bringing more than 35 years of experience in executive coaching, leadership and team development and as a facilitator of results focused transformational experiences