As the world begins to turn a corner on COVID-19, many global economies are reporting a major labor shortage.
And the worst is yet to come.
According to experts, the tight labor market is expected to produce a “turnover tsunami”– a mass number of employees voluntarily quitting their jobs and pursuing new opportunities. The conventional wisdom of preventing employee turnover–that is, to pay people a higher salary–fails to take into account the realities of human behavior. It’s not all about the money. These days, especially post-pandemic, people expect more out of their work beyond a paycheck. This is particularly true of the younger Millennial and Gen Z cohorts, a purpose-hungry demographic on the quest for making meaning at work.
So if it’s not about paying them more money, what is it? As Chief Scientist at Emotive Technologies and Apex, my team and I are always on the hunt for finding the secret sauce of employee engagement and how it aligns with the psychological realities of the human experience.
My workplace’s latest research, in collaboration with our academic partners at Harvard Business School and the University of California Berkeley-Haas, revealed what we call the ‘two-step people strategy’ to help de-risk possible turnover.
First, make people feel good; and second, find their fit.
Make People Feel Good
Employee happiness is your first line of defense in preventing turnover: academic studies suggest that employees who feel more positive emotions at work are more engaged, and thus, are less likely to leave the organization.
Positive emotions include feelings of joy, enthusiasm, inspiration, pride, and challenge. These positive emotions underpin engagement at work: engaged workers are bursting with energy, happily engrossed in work, and view their work as more significant and meaningful.
Here’s a pro-tip on positive emotions: A good rule of thumb is to spend on experiences instead of material items. Although experiences are, by definition, short-lived and fleeting, they can engage all of the senses (from smells to touch)–resulting in a fond memory that can cheer someone up during a hard time as they recollect and think back to the fun time.
Find Their Fit
What do I mean by fit, exactly? I’m not talking about exercise. In the workplace, feelings of fit entail the belief that one’s values match (or “fit”) the values of one’s organization. People who experience fit tend to stay because values are long-lasting.
It’s more true now, post-pandemic than ever before. In our study last month, we found that feelings of fit–by far–are the most important driver of employee engagement. In fact, it was 6 times more important to boosting engagement than an increase in pay.
Fit is all about values, meaning and purpose. So, to get there, consider revising your organization’s mission statement to reflect the enduring attitudes of your employees.
Do a regular pulse to get a sense for what your people value the most. If your organization’s mission is to become the industry leader and generate revenue, then it will be difficult for employees’ values to align with the organization’s mission.
If, on the other hand, your organization’s mission is to have some societal impact (such as Google’s “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”), then it is easier for employees to find that their values are reflected in the business.