A new bargain with employees

August 12, 2021

Employee tolerance for anything less than forward-thinking leadership is disintegrating before our eyes. 7.9 million Americans have quit their jobs since May.

You feel the hit to morale with each new resignation. You know there's less bandwidth to attract high-quality replacements; HR folks are just as burned out from the pandemic as everyone else.

And while you're dealing with attrition, the people who are staying want flexible, hybrid work options at home and the office.

Add these to the list of challenges that are largely out of your control: the surge of the Delta variant, back-to-work and school plans in disarray, CDC recommendations, and local regulations changing daily. It's chaos and it's not going away.

I'd like to offer a small way to reframe the chaos. Let's stop talking about bringing your team back from the pandemic. Back is not going to happen. You need to bring them through the pandemic.

Through means being realistic about the stressors employees are facing and building the culture around their needs, first.

Through means accepting that—relative to how chaotic the outside world is— companies must be a source of stability, belonging, and genuine care for the mental and emotional wellbeing of their people.

Through means creating a culture of accountability where the folks at the top are held to the same standard as direct contributors are.

This is a seismic shift. It's a reformation of the bargain between employers and employees forged in the Industrial Revolution. We’ve evolved beyond that old bargain.

It's time to forge a new one.

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