A lot has changed in the past several months in the workforce. With fast access to vaccines, the economy has rebounded—sparking a nationwide confrontation with the way we work.
Dubbed ‘The Great Resignation,’ employees have quit their jobs in droves this year as they reevaluate how they want to live and work. After months of working remotely—or not working at all—people across the globe have realized that the way we did things before wasn’t necessarily the best or right approach.
Along with the Great Resignation, we’ve seen countless union strikes and tense negotiations from the labor force. According to Bloomberg, there have been over 178 strikes throughout the country so far in 2021. From IATSE to Nabisco, employees are demanding more support.
Additionally, more unions are forming to advocate for employees in industries that historically have not had them, from Starbucks to the tech industry. A recent Gallup poll even found that 68% of Americans approve of labor unions—its highest point since 1965.
With this clear reevaluation of how we work across all industries, it is clear that we are in the middle of a new labor movement; one that speaks to the real humanity of employees who will not compromise their health or wellbeing for a paycheck.
So, what should employers take away from this new labor movement? With the competition for talent at an all-time high, organizations need to take a big step toward meeting the needs of employees. Otherwise, they risk losing out on the talent they need to sustain their business. To become an attractive employer in today’s climate, employers should prioritize the following:
Respect & Humanity
For many professionals, what they’re asking for is simple: to be treated like a human being. Rather than someone who lives for the sole purpose of serving your company, employees have families, responsibilities, social lives, hobbies, and goals that all lie outside of work. Treating them as a whole person rather than just an employee is the first step. Often, employees who are striking or asking for better working conditions are asking for the following:
- A living wage
- Affordable healthcare coverage
- Reasonable scheduling
- Enough time to see their families
- Time off to avoid burnout
- Safe working conditions
When employers respect these basic needs, they will go far in attracting and retaining their staff.
Listen & Individualize
Once an employer is meeting the basic needs of employees, it’s time to take a more individualized approach. This is where organizations can truly shine in understanding their staff members and showing their effort toward meeting their individual needs. As a first step, it is critical that employees feel they can voice their opinions without retribution. Creating a culture that supports this, either through town halls, open door policies, or supportive management, is critical.
Remember, every employee has different interests, priorities, and needs. Understanding these on an individual level allows employers to adjust policies and requirements to meet those needs. For example, a working parent may need a more flexible schedule to accommodate child care, while an employee with a health condition may need extra support with healthcare or paid leave. When you understand these issues, you can act quickly to connect employees to resources and create solutions for what matters to them.
Support & Empower
In addition to showing support for individual employees, it is critical that employers show vocal support at every level of their organization. This includes outreach from executive leadership, human resources, and direct supervisors. If employees feel pushback or a lack of support in any of these areas, they will hesitate to share any concerns or issues and opt to simply find a more supportive workplace instead.
Lastly, do your best to include employees in the decision-making of the organization. For example, The New York Times allows their employees to choose which healthcare benefits are offered. When you empower your employees to help shape company policies, they will feel more invested in the outcome.