As with all significant shifts in the workforce, the Great Resignation enables learning and development (L&D) professionals to recognize why they can learn to better manage the impact of such change. Unlike the gradual recession of the Great Recession of 2008, this period is like an avalanche when organizations seek to retain their workforce. According to The future of PwC work45% of CFOs are unsure of their company’s ability to retain critical talent.
However, most organizations overlook an important factor: how they are culture contribute to this evacuation of talents.
Culture is related to how work is done in the organization – the collective action of the team. This is the difference between organizations that experience minor depletion and those that are stuck in rebuilding their workforce. People stay and contribute to a culture of trust, fairness and inclusion that leads in the workplace to greater participation, more innovation and better business results.
Most likely, your organization may need a reassessment and change of position to be more culturally effective in 2022 and beyond. To change organizational culture, both managers and employees need to learn new and different behaviors, and this learning often falls into the realm of learning.
Here are three ways L&D professionals are improving organizational culture to limit employee segregation now or in the next workforce revolution:
- Prepare for constant change
I once worked with a senior HR manager, who started the meeting with the words: “In 18 months everything will be fine.” It lasted four years! After a while, our manager realized – and helped our team understand – that change should remain, and eventually this phrase became a HR joke. Following the example of this leader, we have learned to think in terms of the next, best step we could take, creating maximum stability until a new approach is needed. Being flexible and realistic has become part of our team’s culture.
In contrast, I worked with another leader who, even though they were aware of the devastating market conditions, stuck to old ways of doing business that no longer worked. We were a stagnant team in changing circumstances and we were unable to meet the needs of our customers, even in the slightest sense, because we could not bend. The result was widespread frustration and disunity.
Thus, although a continuous turn can be difficult and expensive, the new rule requires us to accept that everything is always changing – for us as L&D specialists, leaders of our organization and the students themselves. Investments with a customer base can suddenly dry up. We can master one skill, but then have to move on to another. We can train on one platform, only to be replaced by the best. Nothing ever stays the same.
This can be a lot to handle for those who need a routine. But there is no reward for staying committed to processes and behaviors that no longer work. We need to find the next step that makes sense at this time, and be prepared to release this approach for the new in the future.
- Check for low trust
Now my family is repairing a house that was built in 1972 – it will take a few walls. Who knows what we’ll find: old newspapers, animal signs or even black mold? We quickly learned that undertaking major repairs means being mentally prepared, having the right resources to deal with things that may not be so beautiful.
Similarly, creating cultural change may require us to tear down several “walls,” and the organization’s terrible black mold is a low level of trust.
The low level of trust may be endemic due to last year’s turmoil, slowing the pace of work and stifling innovation. When a low level of trust has crept in, performance flexibility falls into the “wait and see” mentality. People are too busy looking over their shoulders, defending their territories and listening to rumors to learn new, effective behaviors. Or, as the Great Resignation taught us, employees who have thought about jumping off a ship for a while find this moment a natural pause and take the opportunity to take a clean break. Higher trust organizations develop managers, habits and processes that are attuned to escape risks long before they arise.
If you are implementing teams with learning initiatives, make sure you are working on a high level of trust or at least consider places with low level of trust. Be prepared to go on a slightly longer, if not painful, mission to uncover dimensions of low trust, such as excessive bureaucracy, low morale, and toxic office policies. Culture doesn’t happen fast, and if low trust persists inside your organization, you can’t fake your way to high trust. You need to solve these problems and solve something with them in advance.
- Review your adaptation process to make sure it creates a culture of inclusion at a manageable pace
Despite this ever-changing environment, there is at least one area that has remained true and remains relevant today: people’s adaptation is important to their long-term success in organizations and teams.
That seems too obvious, right? Even if the employee stays for three or five years, after leaving they will return to how they were accepted and talk about how this process has affected their sense of belonging, inclusion, what they see and accept. Organizations can never focus too much on first, critical experiences, from the recruitment and interview process to meeting with their executives and new colleagues.
Sure, we want to hire qualified and capable people who can give advice, but the problem is that in this environment we are likely to recruit highly qualified people who are also, frankly, exhausted.
I recently spoke with a colleague whose adaptation process has now expanded to 12 months. On the one hand, this may seem excessive in terms of time and resources required, but the 12-month backend adaptation studies information in small pieces that can be digested and integrated into work. With additional support, they can navigate within the organization and make professional choices to stay for a long time.
Developing – or perhaps restructuring – a healthy organizational culture in today’s environment requires an investment of patience, trust and support. But the reward is a workforce that truly shows its work, does its best work, and is less likely to leave when it becomes difficult.