The Great Resignation – A New Era in the Workforce
Many of you have heard about what is being referred to as the “The Great Resignation” – a new era for the workforce as we emerge from the pandemic. In this new era, we see a critical movement from employees – a change in their hearts and minds about where and how they want to work.
I’ve personally been giving this some serious thought and personal reflection over the last many months and, for those who read my articles regularly, you will see this common thread in my writing; maybe more so now as I call it out directly. My thoughts and writings have been focused on workplace culture, leadership, flexibility and alignment to individual values and purpose.
The shift in employee mindset from career advancement and total compensation to a greater focus on the things that matter, to what they value the most; things like a healthy organizational culture, positive and effective leadership, diversity, equity and inclusion, flexibility in how/where they work does NOT change the career advice that I have been providing for years to those I coach and mentor – ensure that you are running TO your next opportunity and not just running FROM the current.
I’ve talked about how leaders and organizations can create the right culture, environment, and career opportunities for their employees, but I want to focus here on the individual; providing advice and sharing my personal experience for those who want to take control of their career. I use these words intentionally – “taking control” of ones’ career – I have seen many colleagues over the course of my career not taking charge of their career – hoping that their work performance will speak for itself and bring them to higher or more progressive roles in their organization. Taking charge of one’s career means developing a plan; be clear about the type of work you want to do and where you want to do it and with that plan in hand, focus on developing your skills to deliver exceptionally. As I said however, performance and skills alone are NOT enough – you must also focus on developing your personal brand, your network, including a cadre of mentors and sponsors, and learning to advocate for what you WANT and what you DESERVE. Each of these elements are articles unto themselves and areas I spend significant time coaching and developing others on; in this article I will focus much more so on the elements to consider when planning a role or organizational change.
I have found, both for myself personally, and for those I have coached over the years, that the decision to change roles, or organizations, is often driven out of unhappiness – either with a lack of challenge or fulfillment in the current role, or the lack of alignment to what matters most to me: culture, leadership, purpose or belonging. I would encourage you to resist the temptation to run away. Build a plan to take you to a role or company that you run towards. This may include a role that is more challenging for you – either a stepping-stone in your learning or advancement to a more progressive role, or a lateral move should you be focused on changing functions or getting into an organization that you really want to work for. One caveat…there are times when the work environment or situation is untenable – your mental or physical state is at risk, for example, in these instances, do everything to escalate and/or remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible – and if it’s to leave the organization, I’d still encourage that you leave with a solid plan that takes you towards a destination versus simply fleeing from the poor situation.
In advising others about how to think about a change and choosing a destination versus an escape, my advice is to critically evaluate each of the following:
• The role. Does the new role excite you? Does it challenge you? Perhaps it’s the steppingstone into a new career path or functional area. Or into a company that you’ve always wanted to work for. If you’re leaving to do the same thing, purely for more money, then I’d encourage you to evaluate the other reasons for making this change.
• Purpose. How does the purpose of what you’re about to take on stack up against your personal values? Whether it’s the company, the products they offer, the services they provide or the personal cause – consider how your own values align. Purpose will drive your passion and make a role more than work as you invest in the moral good.
• Leadership. We know that a significant reason that employees look to new opportunities is because of their direct or surrounding leaders. While I encourage individuals to not make a career move because of a single beloved new leader, it is crucial to evaluate leadership in the change process. Find a leader that will challenge, coach, and support you to become a better contributor; one who supports your career growth and aspirations, your passion and is focused on your best interests; one who won’t stifle or block you from progression due to self-serving interests.
• Culture. Make sure you understand the culture of the company you’re going to. Go beyond simply reading the organizations’ value statements and assess whether the company, as a whole, invests in its culture and holds the leadership accountable for their behaviour and actions in driving towards the stated cultural objectives. Finding your people and a sense of belonging is just as important as compensation and opportunity. Miss the mark on this and you’ll surely be miserable and demotivated quickly.
Once you’ve assessed the above and you’ve found the new role and/or company that checks off all the boxes for the next step in your career, I would provide another piece of advice…. leave well. While there may be reasons you want to be running away from your current situation (I can assure you I have been in situations where I want to exclaim “toodaloo $%” like Mr Chow in the Hangover movie), but I would encourage you to remain professional and do all that you can to support the transition out of your role – the world is small and our personal brand and reputation lives far beyond the history of this role, that one terrible leader or the toxic situation you may be exiting.
For those reading and contemplating a change, know that the change will be challenging, however, if you build a plan and if you follow the guidance above, I assure you, it will be worth it – YOU are worth it.