I’ve been thinking lately about what’s been dubbed “the Great Resignation” and what’s driving it. How come people are quitting their jobs en masse as a result of the pandemic?
Some observers have said it’s because of the changing expectations that surround work. Now that most of us have experienced working from home—and having the freedom to do what we want with our time, for the most part—why would we go back and tie ourselves to the office and to the long commutes? Many, especially those from younger demographics, continue to chase that much-vaunted ideal of “work-life balance”, and find that it’s impossible to do so in the old set-up—or even in the new one, in a time where every free hour you have is just a free slot to squeeze in a virtual meeting.
Some have also posited that it’s a sign of a greater dissatisfaction among employees. I can imagine how the events of the past couple of years have led people to reassess their career paths and their life plans in general. There are the pressures of social media, of the romanticization of “loving what you do”. There’s greater awareness of the mental and emotional impact of our work. There’s (marginally) better access to opportunities to strike out on your own, maybe establish a business, “be your own boss”. Perhaps it’s because of the stresses and pressures of these past couple of years—of feeling stuck, of being overwhelmed with having to do more work with less resources, of needing to take a break once and for all—something more evident among workers in disproportionately affected industries like healthcare.
The question now, of course, is how organizations can address these concerns without impacting operations. But I believe working with these circumstances is only addressing half the problem. All the talk of “The Great Resignation” seems to fail to take into account people who have all these concerns and yet feel they can’t afford to leave their jobs, much more look for new ones. It’s not just true of the people working labor-intensive roles, but also those in office roles—again, particularly the younger generation. Any efforts to address a potential brain drain should take into account everybody, and not just those who choose to leave.
But of course, there are other factors to take into account. Sometimes resources are just limited, particularly for businesses who were badly hit by economic shutdowns. There’s the difficulty of getting qualified people, something that remains true in the supply chain sector. There’s also the challenge of changing mindsets from management. “This is how we always do things” remains an oft-used excuse, even if the expectations of the bulk of employees today are different.
I’m no expert, but I think a good way to approach this is to scrutinize your work culture. Sometimes we focus too much on output and results and do not pay heed to whether the people tasked with delivering are in the best frame of mind and body to do so. Technology may have helped us continue to work almost normally, but it comes at the expense of feelings of camaraderie and connection. The past couple of years have been isolating for all of us. Whether the employees are working an office job or a field one, a good approach is to consider the humanity of each and every one of your team. Let them know you have their backs—whether it be better benefits or “mental health breaks” and “offline days”—and understand that they can see through you if you’re implementing measures half-heartedly. You can only go so far by referring to your employees as a “family” or “community”, after all.
It’s not an airtight solution—people will leave if they’re really fed up—but a little at the start goes a long way. And it works well from an operational standpoint too: A little investment in wellbeing can pay dividends in service levels and customer satisfaction, and minimize disruptions that may reverberate for a long time. Call this the Great Recalibration. The way we work is changing, and we have to keep up if we’re to stay on top of the game.
SCMAP Live Innovation Spotlight: SCMAP is partnering with UPPAF-RESPOND for a series of events exploring how companies deployed best practices and innovations to respond to pandemic-induced challenges. Our first event is on December 9, at 10am, via Zoom: We will talk to Woomera Wines’ Jonathan Nisperos on how they have adapted to lockdowns, liquor bans and shifting consumer behaviors. Visit scmap.org to register for free.
Henrik Batallones is the marketing and communications director of SCMAP, and editor-in-chief of its official publication, Supply Chain Philippines. More information about SCMAP is available at scmap.org.