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So what’s next for business?
Now that we’re starting to see some rays of post-virus light, what’s next for businesses? The Great Resignation is one thing on that list.
Microsoft research claims over 40% of the global workforce are considering leaving their employers this year. Australian data suggests that 40% of workers want out within six months.
Of course, considering is a long way from doing.
People have always fantasised about telling their boss where they can stick their dead-end job.
Particularly now Friday drinks are coming back, the traditional arena for running that plan past anyone who’ll listen.
But actual resignation rates are up, and the US has the highest new business startup rate since the Census Bureau started tracking it.
That’s bad news for traditional employers.
Plus we’re seeing skills shortages in all sorts of areas, much of it from decades of corporate cost-cutting with no thought to the long-term results.
That’s an opportunity for you, or a Code Red hazard, depending on how you approach it.
Your good old days aren’t coming back
Take the Back To The Old Days mindset, and your business is in trouble.
If you can approach the new era with an open mind, it’s opportunity time for your business.
It’s good news for smaller businesses not weighed down by committees and crusty senior management.
Most big businesses will be putting action plans together to deal with the new era of work. Those plans will get through their approval process in late 2022, by which time plenty of their best staff will be working elsewhere.
Every hot take you read on where it’s going is either “it’s time to get back to the office” or “the office is dead”
That simplistic approach isn’t going to work.
Most articles you read on remote vs office can be boiled down to this:
“My choice works great for me, therefore everyone should do it. ”
Don’t project your own motivations and situation onto your entire workforce. They’re not you.
I’m a big fan of offices for all sorts of reasons. Training. Culture. Energy. And I stand by what I said back in March about 100% remote work making you a sweet target for offshore cost-cutting.
I also think five compulsory days a week in the office is stupid and inefficient. People get less work done. It’s control for the sake of it.
People have discovered the joy of having more control over their own life. That genie ain’t going back in the bottle.
“The future is a balanced blend of office and remote work depending on your industry and people’s individual circumstances” is the most boring, no-clicks headline you can imagine but that’s the reality.
Being adaptable doesn’t mean throwing everything in the bin.
How do you take advantage of the new opportunities?
Ordering your people in to the office won’t work. The art of 2022 success is making them want to come to work.
Now is the time to listen to your staff.
Ask them what they want to do. What tools and systems they believe will help them do their best work.
So many pissed-off staff are good people who offer ideas and suggestions that fall on deaf ears. Nothing changes. Or worse, people above them claim credit for those ideas and get promoted.
Listen to your people both individually — where people come out with more interesting suggestions — and as a group. Group discussion can take the edge off some of the nuttier ideas without you being the one who kills them.
Get your people involved with your plans. They need to own it.
If they’re involved in the choices you make, they’re much more likely to say with you.
The Great Resignation is a time for gratitude
Make sure they know you’re grateful to them for their effort in surviving this.
This is a tricky one for employers.
If you own a business, you may have been battling to survive.
You could be excused for thinking: I’ve sacrificed everything to keep my staff employed. I’ve made nothing, probably lost a ton of money. Those staff should be grateful they’ve still got a job.
They owe me.
That’s not how it works.
Their stress is different to yours, but it’s still real. Odds are they are completely cooked by the last two years.
It’s hit ctrl/alt/delete on all sorts of previously-unshakeable habits and ambitions.
If you’re an SME employer, it’s brutal on you to stagger over the COVID finish line, aching and blistered, then have to re-energise to persuade your staff to stick with you.
But that’s how it is.
Try to focus on the real opportunities that will come from this re-set.
Think back to previous sweeping changes, like when mobile devices became a central element of life. So many of the businesses who adopted it back then are large and rich now.
Those who stood back and waited… aren’t.
This is another of those fundamental, permanent changes.
All levels of the workforce are re-assessing
Much of the Great Resignation stems from people in lower-paid, service jobs. Don’t think your senior corporate or professional staff aren’t also up for serious change.
For an interesting window into where things are going, I spoke to my friend Fionn.
Her legal firm, Bowd Legal, provides project-based senior lawyers for law firms during peak demand periods. (Disclosure: I’m on Bowd’s advisory board).
Bowd’s staff have the skills and experience, and also don’t want to live the traditional law firm life i.e work yourself to death over decades of 18 hour days in a CBD tower block, with all-consuming sacrifice of your personal life.
Fionn’s business is booming right now as a shortage of lawyers kicks in, a situation that’s been brewing for a decade. She has strong feelings on remodelling the legal profession’s traditional burn-out culture.
She’s signing up lawyers who have had a taste of freedom and don’t want to go back to work in the mill.
Some have moved to regional areas. Some have decided they want to work fewer hours and see their kids. For a host of reasons, they don’t want their old life back.
One held a senior position in a large firm that just told all their staff: back to the office five days a week, no exceptions. So she left.
Now she’s working with Bowd, doing the same level of work on different projects, working at home. Talent lost to her old firm from their inflexibility.
The rise of the undercover double-job
Something everyone hates about work life – remote or office – is spending half your life in stupid, unproductive meetings.
Which is why I loved discovering that people in the US are working two full-time remote jobs. For which they freely admit they do as little as they can get away with.
Read the full story here, it’s well worth it.
The two-jobs brigade are enjoying the exciting salary benefits. Plus they feel justified by decades of low pay, career insecurity and working for crap managers.
They usually run two separate computers, labelled Job 1 and Job 2.
They share tips on the Overemployed website. Much of the advice is based on being able to attend two virtual meetings at once, doing the bare minimum and not drawing attention to yourself.
It’s a fitting end result for businesses where you get rewarded for looking busy, while not getting much done. And having no clear measure of work achieved.
Those business are getting exactly what they deserve.
That’s not your business, is it?
How do you persuade people to come back to the office?
Good question. It’s a big topic. I have some thoughts, and so does Fionn.
So we’ll cover it in next week’s story. See you next Tuesday!
Maybe you’re thinking of joining the Great Resignation yourself and setting up your own business? In that case you might like to read my book on that very topic. Yes, it’s Undisruptable, Timeless Business Truths for Thriving In A World Of Nonstop Change, out now on Penguin Random House.
It’s a step-by-step guide to how to do that and survive, stuff I learned after I resigned from my job a while back and set up our own businesses. Even if that isn’t your plan, there are also lots of tips on how not to be a shitty corporate boss who makes their staff want to resign.
Get it in e-book, audio-book or book-book.
Non-streamed audio version if you’re in a geo-blocked region: