“Nobody wants to work anymore.” That’s what I heard waiting in line to get my Covid-19 vaccine. The man behind me repeated his statement, this time addressing the attendant, “Nobody wants to work anymore, and I don’t understand it. Don’t they have bills to pay?”
I’ll follow his question with another question: have you tried buying a house recently?
It’s hell. Inventory is low. Buyers offer 100K over the asking price and still get outbid. People are paying outrageous prices in cash for substandard homes. Realtors don’t know where people are getting all this cash from, and maybe they know better than to ask. That’s why it’s called a seller's market, right? Now, it’s easy to tell the difference between a seller's market and a buyer's market, but have we considered the idea of an employee’s market?
That man behind me in line, and his sentiment that people “just don’t want to work” certainly isn’t a unique one. You see these headlines all over the place. Market Watch eloquently wrote, “‘Take this job and shove it’: American workers quit at record levels.” The New York Post’s article, “Job openings soar to new record of 9.3M as workers stay on sidelines” places the blame on the workers. Mish Talk more evenly distributes the blame between the pandemic, boomer retirement waves, and higher unemployment benefits. Every news outlet from CNN to the WSJ to NPR has had something to say about record numbers of quits.
But here’s the thing: whether you want to blame the economy, the pandemic, or general human nature on these soaring rates of “quitters,” the truth is that happy people just don’t quit their jobs. Not in a pandemic. Not after 2020.
Happy people don’t quit, but unhappy people do. And I’m not talking about trips to Disneyland, office snacks, or pizza Friday happiness. I’m talking about the kind of happiness that makes employees proud of their leaders and their company. The kind of happiness where an employee doesn’t feel like a replaceable cog in an endlessly grinding machine. The kind of happiness where an employee knows they matter. They matter not because their company does something good, but because they are the company doing good.
Here's the thing: we seem to be in an employee’s market, and it’s all well and good to cry foul in a market that doesn’t favor you, but that will only get you so far. So what is it that employees are asking for in this market? They’re asking for good wages. They’re asking for fulfilling jobs. They’re asking to have a say in how the company grows. They want to work for a company that cares about them. They want to really be the company.
Did you pick up on the good news yet? Those are all really good things for your company! Seriously. Do you want employee loyalty, creativity, and productivity to soar? Do you want employees to care about the company’s goals and find innovative solutions to your biggest problems? Then listen to the employee market. Create an environment that makes them feel seen and heard, where they get the pay they deserve, where they can develop their potential, and where nobody wants to quit.
You can chalk this quit-rate up to laziness. You can blame unemployment benefits. Or you can invest in what’s most important to your company: its employees. These headlines will die down. The overall quit-rate will eventually balance out as the economy continues to strengthen. The challenge is this: how your company responds to this market -- how your company treats its employees here and now -- will decide your company’s quit rate for the next decade.
By Julia Awabdy Patterson
Assistant Program Coordinator
Leadership Dynamics Inc.
A final thought from CEO Paul Brown:
There are three questions people ask to determine if they are willing to follow a leader. Their answers will greatly impact their desire to stay with your company:
If the answer to these three questions is yes, your people will not only stay with you, they will follow you through a brick wall.