Most of us grew up with the mantra, “don’t be a quitter.” We were taught to be persistent and finish what we started. And for years, this same mantra was commonly practiced in the workplace – employees would stick with the same employer up until retirement.
From an employee perspective, working for the same employer made sense as companies invested heavily into employees by offering an attractive benefits package including pensions, investments in its people and a family-like atmosphere. Companies even had a chant of their own, “our employees are our greatest asset.”
Flash forward to today, however, and companies are lucky to have employees work for them for more than a few years. Welcome to the “quitting economy.”
Contrary to popular belief, millennials didn’t invent the quitting economy. In a recent Aeon essay, the quitting economy can be traced back to the early 1990’s when two radical shifts occurred in the market.
First, career advice started to change as a neoliberalism movement was transforming society. Employees were being told that they should think of themselves as their own CEO and “view themselves as a business – a bundle of skills, assets, qualities, experiences, and relationships to be managed and continually enhanced.”
This change in career advice occurred at the same time that the value of a company was redefined. Maximizing the short-term interests of shareholders prevailed, and “quarterly earnings reports and stock prices became even more important, the sole measure of success. How companies treated employees changed, and has not changed back.”
As a result, the quitting economy was born, and loyalty within the workplace became a thing of the past.
“Good jobs used to be ones with a good salary, benefits, location, hours, boss, co-workers, and a clear path towards promotion. Now, a good job is one that prepares you for your next job, almost always with another company.” – Ilana Gershon is associate professor of anthropology at Indiana University, Bloomington.
How does a large enterprise exist in today’s quitting economy? Enterprises really only have two options, and selecting the right option to go with is best made consciously, intentionally, and with follow-through.
Option 1: Re-establish Relationships with Employees
Employees want to work in environments that are more meaningful. When companies prioritize hiring for purpose, and make HR decisions based on this approach, they end up bringing on employees who are more engaged with their work.
Using communication platforms such as video conferencing early on in the screening process when interviewing candidates makes hiring for purpose not only feasible, but scalable. Employers can better pre-screen applicants via verbal and nonverbal expressions versus a phone interview or worse, just the words included in their resumes. Also, when using a video conferencing platform to interview candidates, you open your talent pool to a wider base and can drastically cut down the time it takes to hire quality talent.
Once you’ve hired a workforce that is united on a common purpose, then catering to that purpose, even when it extends beyond the walls of the business is what drives loyalty. Meaningful, fulfilling work is the baseline, but two other trends are rising in the pursuit of employee loyalty.
First is work friendships. As Adam Grant notes in his column in the New York Times:
“Once, work was a major source of friendships. We took our families to company picnics and invited our colleagues over for dinner. Now, work is a more transactional place. We go to the office to be efficient, not to form bonds. We have plenty of productive conversations but fewer meaningful relationships.”
Reestablishing these friendships can be a key motivator to stay at a job. One study found that positive relationships at work can bring us as much happiness as earning $100,000 more per year. Organizing your own company picnic is a good start, but not enough. If employees are instant-messaging each other from a few feet away, they are stunting their chances at making real connections. When executives put a premium on face-to-face conversations, it trickles down through the rest of the organization. And with video conferencing, geographic location needn’t hinder that face time.
The second trend is allowing employees to work where it’s most productive for them. Even the organizations rescinding their flex work policies acknowledge it’s not a productivity issue. And with a flexible work environment, employees not only get to do their work in an environment that suits them, but the ability to engage fully in their personal life (e.g. make it to a child’s sporting event) is a benefit with immeasurable value.
Companies that cater toward providing flexible working arrangements with the right collaboration tools end up with employees who are more engaged and productive. And when companies hire for purpose, promote connections between coworkers, and provide flex working, employees remain loyal to your organization, which lowers turnover costs.
Option 2: Embrace the Short-Term Nate of Work
With the first option, there is a chance public companies might butt heads with shareholders as their interests may not be met in the short-term. With the second option, you can remain nimbler as an organization, and keep the shareholder as the number one priority.
The downside with this approach, however, is that employees will view their employment with equal detachment and may quit when you need them most. One strategy you can leverage to mitigate this from impacting your organization is to build processes and systems that cater toward short-term employees.
What is a short-term employee?
Almost all of the 10 million jobs created since 2005 have been freelance, temporary assignments, or on-call opportunities. Companies save resources in terms of benefits, office space and training when hiring contract or temporary help.
The companies that come out ahead when hiring short-term employees know how to hire exceptional talent for immediate projects. And being that the vast majority of short-term hires work remotely, video conferencing is a must for teams when collaborating and improving work relationships. When teams collaborate through face-to-face interaction via video conferencing, they can efficiently and effectively spark creativity, solve problems, avoid miscommunications, and drive innovation.
The quitting economy isn’t going away anytime soon. The organizations that acknowledge this new world order and build a culture, processes, and collaboration technology to support their cognizant approach will be the most successful