Daniel is the founder and CEO of MyOutDesk, a company devoted to providing growing companies with proven, reliable virtual assistants.
Expressing the sentiment of many others, Kim Kardashian was in the headlines recently for saying, “It seems like nobody wants to work these days.” However, I find that this type of thinking as an oversimplification of a very real crisis facing business owners in the United States today; it’s more complex than people simply not wanting to work. I tend to agree more with Heidi Shierholz, Chief Economist at the Economic Policy Institute, who said, “People who are quitting are taking other jobs, not just leaving the workforce.”
It’s not simply laziness or wanting more money that is driving professionals to leave their jobs—it’s about wanting a better work experience. While everyone else is talking about why professionals are leaving, I’d like to talk about why they stay.
According to a recent LendingClub report, 64% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. And that data was pulled before events like Russia invading Ukraine amplified our economic hardships. Further, a 2021 Work and Well Being survey by APA found that about 59% of the employees surveyed have experienced negative impacts of work-related stress in the past month, including emotional exhaustion and physical fatigue.
Here are three simple steps I’ve found can make your business recession-proof while retaining your top talent.
1. It’s Not About the Money, It’s about Meaningful Work
You know what busy work is: a variety of non-dollar-producing tasks that most professionals groan about doing. They’re important and need to be done, but what’s less important is who does them. There is plenty of software out there that can help us do what was traditionally a three-person task with just one person. By finding alternative ways to get those tasks done, you free up your local experts to focus on more meaningful tasks. Repetitive busy work does not spark joy; it just wears you down. Knowing you’re directly affecting the bigger picture and have room to really excel at it, however, does spark joy. That’s the kind of thing that makes people proud of where they work. Money is not the number one reason people leave their jobs.
According to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is going down, reaching 3.5% as of July 2022. But still, the number of discouraged people who believe there are no jobs for them is high—at almost half a million. In a recent SHRM State of the Workplace Study of 1,737 HR professionals, 19% of respondents said they plan to increase benefits and/or compensation for current and newly hired talent in the year ahead. When you step back and look at this data, two things become apparent: the job market is exceedingly complex, and throwing money at it isn’t the sole answer.
2. There’s No “I” In Team: Invest In Employee-Focused Events
It’s typically easier to not care about something if you never see it. This can end up being true for our coworkers as well as our job as a whole. Staying connected to peers, leaders and the company vision is imperative to an employee’s professional morale. I recently hosted a company get-together in our hometown of Sacramento to properly introduce a handful of new hires to the existing physical team (our team works on a hybrid model). It was also a great excuse to just get everyone in the same room again for some bonding over bowling. I watched teammates who had only ever met over Zoom laughing together as companions. The more connected your employees feel to each other, the more a part of something they feel, the harder it is for them to say goodbye. And that’s not just regarding each other, but your company vision as well. Employee events can also put a spotlight on how your business is doing, what’s next and how everyone is contributing to the larger goal.
Companies with engaged employees make 2.5 times more than companies with lower engagement scores. And those engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their companies. We tend to crave a sense of accomplishment as well as a sense of community. Combine the two and you’ve got an effective ingredient for positive morale. You keep calling your employees a team. What do teams do after they win a game? They go out and celebrate together.
3. People Don’t Leave Businesses, They Leave People
Of course, there will always be exceptions, but this quote still has a lot of truth to it. Every department of yours is a team, regardless of its size. And a team is only as good as its leader. A great manager provides clear direction and keeps their team on the path without micromanaging. They provide achievable goals along with the appropriate support to see them through.
A great manager isn’t limited to their corporate agenda either; they genuinely care about their employees’ well-being and make themselves available when necessary. That also extends to career development. You should not be afraid to lose members of your team to promotions, and in fact, you should encourage it. If you and your managers have positive relationships with every member of your team, it’s amazing the difference in morale and productivity you’ll see. Managers make themselves seem important; a leader makes the employees seem important.
In short, it really pays to think outside the box, now more than ever. Because everything going on in the world is outside the box itself. Stop focusing on surface-level solutions and start looking deeper at the root of the problems you face. I know I said money isn’t the whole picture, but it’s still a part of it. By outsourcing some of your tasks, you free up both time and money—both of which are all you need to achieve all three of these steps. You can also win big if you invest in your people and create a team atmosphere.