From Great Resignation to Great Rejuvenation

In August, 4.3 million Americans left their jobs. We’ll talk to one worker who quit in search of more flexibility and a better work life balance. Plus Liz Fosslien, Head of Content at Humu, unpacks what this means for companies and what we can learn at this transformational moment.

PODCAST | 20m
November 17, 2021
S4:Ep5

Executive summary

  • It’s up to companies to create a work environment where employees like what they do.
  • Fostering work life balance that alleviates employee burnout is critical.

Featured voices

Liz Fosslien
Head of Content at Humu
Co-author of the best-seller No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work

Melanie Green (host):

Speaker 1: It’s being called the Great Resignation.
Speaker 2: People are leaving their jobs to look for more flexibility.
Speaker 3: A record 4.3 million people quit their jobs last August.
Speaker 4: The Great Resignation is picking up speed.

Melanie Green (host):

The reasons people give for leaving their jobs are as varied as the jobs themselves. But there are some common themes and one of them is actually quite positive. People are seeing possibilities of working differently. In a recent Citrix survey, 60 percent of workers polled left their jobs for positions that could give them more opportunities to innovate and try new things.
And that’s where we come in. I’m Melanie Green. This is Remote Works, an original podcast by Citrix. Today, in episode 5 of our hybrid work survival guide, the great resignation becomes the great Rejuvenation. I want to start by talking to one of the millions of people who left work over the past year and a half.

Sarah:

It was my dream job. I worked for the company for almost eight years at the time, and I worked my way up. I worked through college putting everything that I had into my career. It was my dream job.

Melanie Green (host):

Sarah had spent years working her way up in a major Fortune 500 company. And after years of hard work, she got a promotion in the company.

Sarah:

I had finally landed that position - my first salaried role - about six weeks before the pandemic hit. So unfortunately, you know, the last in the first out, and I lost my dream job. And with that, I kind of lost a little bit of my identity. So I spent a lot of the first part of the pandemic, really searching for who I was without that title.

Melanie Green (host):

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, Sarah didn’t quit, she was laid off. But there’s more to this story. After being laid off from her dream job, Sarah took stock of what she wanted from work and from life. That’s not unusual. This past year-and-a-half has been a time for many of us to take a pause and figure out what it is we really want out of work and out of life. And just as Sarah was getting settled in a new job - the phone rang. It was the company that had laid her off. Business was heating up. They needed her back. She got a second chance back in her dream job.

Sarah:

My first reaction was, oh my gosh, they want me back. They see something in me. You know, they chose me, they want me, they like me. It was very exciting and it was an adrenaline rush. It was all emotion and not a lot of thought, to be quite honest. I jumped at it. I said yes.

Melanie Green (host):

So this sounds like a happy ending, right? Well, not so fast. Even though Sarah said yes to coming back, she was already having second thoughts.

Sarah:

And it meant that I would be commuting an hour each way every day. And it meant that I wouldn't have weekends off and I wouldn't have a lot of time and balance and the things that I learned to now value. I just said yes because it meant that they wanted me.

Melanie Green (host):

So as time went on, Sarah continued thinking about her future that began during the pandemic. And soon enough, Sarah had an aha moment and decided to leave the dream job.

Sarah:

If you would have asked me this a year and a half ago, I would've said that is where I'm going to be for the rest of my life. That's where I meant to be. Once I got back there, I quickly realized no, this doesn't align with my morals and values anymore. I knew I was worth more than not only financially what I was getting, but I guess the treatment and the values that they kind of imposed on me. It was not what I was wanting or needing at this time in my life.

Melanie Green (host):

At one point, Sarah thought that her dream job would be everything she’d hoped for. It was more than just a job. It was her ideal identity. But her ideas about work life balance were changing.

Work life balance

Sarah:

You're kind of having to sit back and realize what is important to you. And I realized that my career isn't everything. My whole identity should not be in my career. I realized I want a job where I can have a family and raise children and not miss out on opportunities.

Melanie Green (host):

Sarah’s story is echoed in the experience of thousands of others who have left their jobs in the past year. In a 2021 study in the UK and Ireland, almost a quarter of people planning to quit their jobs said it was because of a worsening work life balance.

Sarah:

I think the key word is balance. I had no balance in my life. I needed time, for me. I needed time for my health. I needed time for my family and my friends and I needed a weekend. I needed to be able to go to my leader and say, Hey, I'm having a bad mental health day, or I need to go to a doctor's appointment or I just want a Friday off because I would like to go to the beach.

Melanie Green (host):

The dream job had lost its luster for Sarah.

Sarah:

It was extremely difficult. It was scary. Even though I did have a job that I was welcomed back to with open arms, thankfully. It was really vulnerable to kind of sit down with somebody who, to be honest, my leader was somebody I'd never worked with before. We'd only known each other for five weeks. I had to sit down and say, hey, this is no longer serving me. And it's not something that I can see myself doing at this time in my life. It was really difficult. It was vulnerable. It was scary but it was necessary.

Melanie Green (host):

The job Sarah has now is a better fit for who she is. She’s now working in communications for a healthcare company that challenges her, is fast-paced and gives her the balance she craves.

Sarah:

So I work Monday through Friday with ample breaks and time off if needed. I am working from home a hundred percent at the moment so I have my nice little home office with the opportunity to be going hybrid eventually once our state opens back up a little bit more. It's great because I get to make my own hours. If I need to take an extended lunch, if I need to go to the grocery store, if I need to go to a doctor's appointment or just need time to unwind if I had an especially difficult morning, I have that opportunity to take a breather, go outside, take a walk. It's amazing flexibility.

Melanie Green (host):

So what’s the takeaway here? Sarah says that when it comes to employees, it’s now a sellers’ market. Companies have to work to attract talent. They have to become a place where people really want to work.

Sarah:

Companies need to really re-evaluate what they stand for. There's going to be no retention if certain companies are staying the way that they are and it's those large corporations that really set the precedent for all other companies. I think we really need to stand together. The world needs to kind of come together and say, hey, this is what's important and it's not running yourself to the ground for a job that's not taking care of you and who you are. We need to take care of ourselves before our career I think, and I think a lot of people are kind of getting on the same page and I think it's going to take time, but it's going to happen.

Melanie Green (host):

We all want to create an environment that attracts great employees. Sounds like Sarah’s new employer has figured out how to attract and keep good talent. So Sarah has found work that fits her life. And that’s great. But what can we learn when we look to Sarah and the millions of other Americans who are quitting their jobs? What is pushing people out the door? And just as importantly, what are the reasons that people are staying put?

Liz Fosslien:

So the great resignation describes the increase in people who have been leaving their jobs, especially over the last six months. I think a lot of people became excited about the opportunities and also had just been through so much after the past year that a lot were just looking for a fresh start. And so that again was reflected in these much higher than average quit rates. That has continued.

Melanie Green (host):

That’s Liz Fosslien. She’s the co-author of the best-seller No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work, and an expert on how to make work better. She’s also Head of Content at Humu, an HR company. In the past year, she has seen a big shift in the employee-employer power dynamic.

Liz Fosslien:

So what we've heard at Humu across customers and what I've also heard anecdotally in my own conversations with leaders, especially in human resources, is that the power has shifted from employer to employee. And so people also saw over the past 18 months what's possible. They spent less time at the office or commuting. And so that gave them more opportunities to rediscover the other parts of life that are meaningful. So spending time with your family. Staring up at the sky and watching the clouds go by, whatever it might be that matters to you, that's not work. We had more time for that. It was a slower pace of life for those people who were lucky enough to work from home. And so I think that has made people much less willing to put up with some of the workplaces in which they didn't feel included before the pandemic when they were still going into the office. So I think in all organizations there's a shift of power towards employees so employees have more say in terms of what they want, flexibility in their work.

Melanie Green (host):

In a poll back in September, Citrix talked to more than 400 people who had left a job or were considering leaving a job. Thirty-five percent said they were leaving because they were burnt out. Liz Fosslien says there’s plenty of additional research that has identified an upturn in burnout.

Burnout

Liz Fosslien:

So research shows that over 80% of people in the workforce experienced burnout once last year, at least once. And so many more experienced it multiple times. And again that's just understanding that the pandemic was exhausting. It was stressful, especially for managers.

Melanie Green (host):

That’s interesting. We often forget the stress that managers are under. It turns out, there’s a lot on their plate.

Liz Fosslien:

So burnout rates tend to be higher among managers in these tech companies because they are now being leaned on to communicate policies to employees, to establish culture within a remote or hybrid setting which is, it just takes a lot of time. You have to be very thoughtful about how to do that. And they're still doing all the things that they used to do.

Melanie Green (host):

So managers are tasked with trying to keep everything running smoothly in extraordinary times, and making sure that their employees are doing all right. But they’re feeling the strain too.

Liz Fosslien:

You also can't walk by someone's desk anymore and quickly ask a question or answer a question. You have to set up the 30 minute video call and that's really draining. So one thing, especially again around managers, that we've been hearing is they're saying I'm doing the work, but without the fun. And I also don't feel like I have a sense at all anymore of how my people are feeling and what kind of support they might need. So yes, burnout is across sectors. I would say actually across job types, but we're really seeing it at this manager level. I think a big reason that people are leaving is the lack of relational aspects of work. And so what’s interesting is that often I'll hear business leaders focus on the quantitative side of work. So maybe they're leaving because they can get a higher salary or they're leaving because they can get better benefits but it seems pretty much across the board, what employees are saying they want more of, is meaning, connection and purpose.

Melanie Green (host):

So what gives a job meaning? One of the ways to answer that question is to look to employees who are staying put, and ask them why they aren’t leaving.

Liz Fosslien:

There are many reasons to stay at a job that also includes, work sometimes is meaningful because it gives you a paycheck with which you can provide for your family or put a roof over your head. And that's a perfectly reasonable reason to find work meaningful. And so I think it really is taking a step back holistically. If you're in a horrible work environment, you should probably leave. You'll probably look back on it and thank yourself for doing so. But if there're some part of your job that you like, then actually try going a couple of days by creating more flexibility for yourself and see what happens or see if you can have a conversation with your manager about, here's how I'd like to structure my day. Here's why. Here’s how I think it would improve my work and improve my performance and see if they can help accommodate you.

Melanie Green (host):

Liz Fosslien’s advice and insight is sourced from working with dozens of employers. Her macro view gives her the wide scope to understand what employees want and need from their work, particularly at this singular moment in time.

Liz Fosslien:

And so going back to the offices after not having been there for 18 months, by then two years almost, is going to be an incredible fresh start. And so really thinking ahead and saying, what are the values that we want to live by as an organization? And you should have three. You should not have 20. Nobody's going to remember twenty but they can probably remember three. And then what are the behaviors that will bring those values to life? And how can we model those on day one? What kind of feedback can we give? What incentives can we offer? How can we train managers to bring those values to life in the first 30 days, the first 60 days, the first 90 days.And so seeing it as an opportunity to set the culture that you've always wanted to create within your organization.

Melanie Green (host):

To help her clients embrace their rejuvenation, Liz offers three tips to attract and retain a talented workforce. Tip number one: connect with co-workers, particularly all those new hires that started during the pandemic.

Liz Fosslien:

So one of the biggest reasons people like their jobs and stay is because they feel included. They feel connected. They feel like they have a community at work. And that doesn't mean that your work has to be your family or your best friend. It's just nicer to work when you work with people that you care about and that you trust and that you feel respect you. And so trying to cultivate that. I know some managers I've spoken with have set up random one-on-ones between their team members. So it's not always the manager talking to their reports. Sometimes it's just the team getting to know each other.

Melanie Green (host):

Liz Fosslien’s second tip: now is the time to take that extra step to foster and strengthen relationships.

Liz Fosslien:

And so, again, really trying to be purposeful. One: when you go back in the office or when you are all together focusing more on relationships than performance for the first few months of reconnecting everyone. Getting them together to work as a team. And then also looking for ways to create those moments that really embed someone in an organization and make them want to stay and want to invest in the company. You know, still it can feel like a drag sometimes when it's remote to set up a virtual social event, when you have so many meetings and we've been virtual now for 18 months, but I'll speak personally. What I found is that five minutes into that one hour social event, I actually really enjoy myself. And I'm like, oh, I'm glad we made time for this today. I do miss these people. And then also acknowledging some large organizations have hired up to 30% of their staff over the last year. And so realizing that there are all these people that don't actually know your culture and have never met their manager, have never met other people.

Melanie Green (host):

Strengthening relationships is critically important for a distributed workforce. We need to devote meaningful time and effort to community and relationship building. That’s the only way we’re going to foster an equitable hybrid working environment. And finally, Liz offers up tip number three: give your employees purpose.

Liz Fosslien:

So encouraging managers to set a three-month mission for their teams where they say, over the next three months, we're going to try to deliver this exceptional customer experience, or it can be, we're going to try to become more inclusive as a team. But putting some kind of inspirational stake in the ground. Also at a time frame that's not too distant so uncertainty isn't going to completely upend your plans. So definitely re-investing in meaning.

Melanie Green (host):

Connecting. Strengthening relationships. Giving employees purpose. Three powerful tips. Three imperatives at a time when the power balance lies with employees. If the great resignation is to become the great rejuvenation, then organizations must be ready to understand and accept why employees are leaving. And to take action to create a work environment that’s worth being a part of.

Liz Fosslien:

It's a range of reasons, but generally it seems to be that they're leaving for more meaningful work and better work-life balance. And I read a statistic that one in three people who quit over the past couple of months did not have another job lined up. So they're not necessarily leaving for a different company. They might just be leaving because they've had enough and they're exhausted. They're burnt out and they just can't put in the hours that they have been asked to put in. Laszlo Bock wrote Work Rules. He was the CHRO - chief human resources officer at Google, for 10 years. He founded the company where I work. And one of the things that he has been saying recently that I think is true is people want to work. They just don't want to work for you. And so I think that's something really to keep in mind is, you can demand a lot of people. You can treat them poorly. You might see higher profits that year but at some point you're going to have to pay the price. And I think that’s actually what we're seeing now is many organizations paying the price for how they've treated employees over the past five, ten years.

Melanie Green (host):

So while it may be a difficult prospect, asking people why they left your organization can be a valuable learning experience.

Liz Fosslien:

I think the exit interview is a good opportunity. So when people no longer feel scared to say something, there's just less risk in voicing your opinion when you're not going to be at the company a week from then, that's actually a great opportunity to learn from what wasn't working. Also, what was working, what did they like about the company?

Melanie Green (host):

Listening to why an employee decided to leave can be tough. But that listening can yield practical and maybe painful information about what you could be doing better to improve retention. Chances are what you hear will echo back to Liz Fosslien’s three tips: Creating connection. Strengthening relationships. Giving employees purpose. Sarah, who we heard from at the top of the show, says employers need to be proactive. They need to reach out and listen.

Sarah:

Taking the time to really get to know people for who they are and not just the work that they do. Ask them about their family life. Ask them about life outside of their career and get to know who they are and what their values are and what they need out of their career because there are so many other companies that will give them what they're looking for.

Melanie Green (host):

A recent Citrix study asked employees, what is keeping you in your current role? The number one answer: I like what I do. I’ve always believed that if you do what you love, it’s like winning the lottery. It’s up to us to create a working environment that helps people achieve that. You’ve been listening to Remote Works, Hybrid Survival Guide, an original podcast on Fieldwork by Citrix. Subscribe and come back in two weeks. That’s at Citrix dot com slash remote works.

BIULETYN

Najnowsze badania, analizy i historie z serwisu Fieldwork firmy Citrix.