HR

Turning the Great Resignation Into the Great Transformation of Work

While Great Resignation continues to impact the business environment, one truth remains clear: what people expect from work has irreversibly changed.

Over the past year, a record number of employees have quit or are now thinking about doing so. According to PwC's Global Workforce Hopes and Fears study, the Great Resignation has no end in sight. On the contrary, the trend will continue, with one in every five workers planning to switch jobs in the next 12 months. Executives who believe that employee attrition is decreasing or is limited to specific industries are mistaken.

According to a McKinsey study published this July, approximately 40% of employees are at least somewhat likely to quit in the next three to six months, while 18% of respondents said their intentions range from lightly to almost certain. These findings were consistent across industries and all five countries surveyed (Australia, Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States).

The explanation is simple: the pandemic has prompted millions of people to reflect on their lives in a broader sense, questioning whether their jobs aid or hinder their pursuit of happiness and meaning. When they are well designed, jobs can provide workers with a long-term sense of purpose and fulfillment. However, over the last two years, many workers have realized that their work was failing them in some respects and have sought fulfillment elsewhere. Burnout is also a factor, prompting some to take career breaks or seek jobs that better support their well-being.

The challenge posed by the Great Resignation is enormous and begs the question, "Is this the new normal, or are we approaching peak resignation?" While the mindset changes employees have adopted in the short term are likely to continue supporting the resignation trend, there are compelling reasons to believe that voluntary turnover will slow down in the long term. The primary reason is that organizational leaders have come to see this as a golden opportunity to create a more humane workplace.

When the Great Resignation began a year ago, leaders still hoped that a return to normal was possible, partly because CEOs and HR professionals were overwhelmed and still dealing with the devastation caused by the pandemic. However, most leaders' perspectives have shifted since then, and they now see the current period of disruption as an opportunity to invest in employees and experiment with new and more sustainable ways of working. At the same time, the current global economic crisis is likely to impact resignations. Employees may feel less inclined to leave their current job as companies begin to feel financial pressure, and jobs may become scarce - although this will, sadly, do nothing to improve their engagement. Whatever the rate at which resignations continue to impact the business environment, one truth remains clear: the pandemic has irreversibly changed what people expect from work. Companies must now adapt to meet the expectations of more empowered and emboldened employees.

Today's Empowered Employee

Employees' increased leverage will not be going away anytime soon. We have seen a significant shift in the workforce and labor market. The labor market is likely to continue facing pressures, allowing employees to demand more from their employers. Employers cannot control what employees want, but they recognize that many want more than just a job; they want a career and a sense of belonging. In a tight labor market, organizations that want to succeed will likely take a human-led, tech-powered approach, investing in transformations driven explicitly by RPA automation, conversational AI, and people development. After all, AI-powered virtual assistants have the potential to revolutionize numerous sectors of activity and free up time for people to do what only people can do.

Business Adaptation

"No area has undergone more rapid transformation in the last year than how we work," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said. The days of commonplace office practices, such as daily commutes and limited schedule flexibility, are long gone in this post-pandemic world. These changes usher in a new set of employee expectations, including greater alignment with their personal beliefs and a greater emphasis on employee well-being. To support remote and hybrid work models, businesses must invest in technology. The vast majority of HR leaders (95%) anticipate that at least some of their employees will continue to work remotely, potentially indefinitely, implying that the transition to hybrid work will be a significant driver of technology-driven transformation.

Remote and hybrid working arrangements have also expanded employees' options beyond simple economic incentives to change jobs. Since the pandemic, the time it takes to fill a role has increased by 18%. In a September 2021 Gartner poll of executive leaders, 60% said they were very concerned about employee turnover, but that doesn't even begin to capture the magnitude of today's talent challenge. All of this means that businesses will need to increase their recruiting efforts. Conversational AI can be an effective tool for improving the hiring process by providing a more personalized, scalable, and efficient experience with candidates. As a result, candidates have a better interview experience, and recruiters have more time to focus on identifying and developing top talent.

 

Maintaining or improving employee satisfaction is also high on many businesses' agendas. Remote working and burnout can result in disengagement, which leads to decreased productivity and, eventually, resignation. Managers must take concrete steps to improve the employee experience, but it is rarely second nature for leaders to prioritize job satisfaction. However, there is a significant opportunity to begin creating the right work environment by removing the most burdensome aspects of employees' lives: excessive bureaucracy, friction points, and administrative tasks that drain the joy of work. Intelligent virtual assistants can become integral to employees' daily work experiences, helping companies differentiate themselves from competitors through time and satisfaction gains.

Workers' reliance on technology to complete their tasks has improved their relationship with technological innovation over the last two years. Even among frontline workers, optimism for the opportunities afforded by technology is high: 63% are excited about the opportunities that technology creates, while technology ranks third on the list of factors workers say could help reduce workplace stress.

The Right Time Is Right Now

For years, the pressure to change had been building. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, senior executives were concerned that their organizations were too slow, burdened by too much bureaucracy and complicated matrix structures. The pandemic confirmed what many leaders feared: their businesses were built for a world that is no longer there. Instead, the era of standardization and predictability is being replaced by four significant trends: increased connectivity, lower transaction costs, unprecedented automation, and shifting demographics. The good news is that businesses worldwide realize that the pandemic represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for change and will dedicate energy and effort to get the change right. There is no time to lose - businesses need to start changing now.

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