Time to dance to a new tune of employee empowerment
Executive, strategist, advisor and strengths coach Dr Gary Crotaz, PhD is the author of The IDEA Mindset, a new book on how to get what you want from work. Here he explains what employers can do to replace discontent with engagement and wellbeing.
Overwhelming workload. Disengaged employees. Increased sickness absence. Burnout, stress, depression and anxiety. High staff turnover. Whether we’re trying to survive or growing like a weed, the pandemic has driven us to the edge and beyond. And there isn’t a quick fix. But this new work dynamic is causing new headaches for senior leaders, just when they themselves are at the end of their collective tethers.
As we move through the pandemic, there’s been a fundamental shift in the dynamic between employer and employee. In the US a record 4.5 million people voluntarily left their jobs in November 2021 and there is huge churn in the UK too.
The drivers of the Great Resignation (or Reset, or Discontent) are myriad and complex but one thing is for certain – stress and burnout caused by the pandemic is a major factor. Gallup demonstrated that employees who were struggling or suffering were twice as likely to leave as those who were thriving. Recent data from the UK’s Health and Safety Executive demonstrates a material rise in work-related stress, depression and anxiety in the last two years, particularly impacting women.
So what can employers do? A great place to start is to focus on engagement and wellbeing. And a key route to engagement and wellbeing is giving accountability, ownership and trust to your people. Accountability, ownership and trust to design their ways of working, to design the activities they undertake and the timeline they deliver them on, to design their career paths. It’s a more enlightened model of management, more coach than boss. Your managers need to go on a journey to shift their mindset, just as much as the teams they manage.
My new book, The IDEA Mindset – figure out what you want from work, and how to get it, takes individual leaders and team members on a personal, self-reflective journey to discover their Identity and Direction for a future with Engagement and Authenticity (hence IDEA). It’s for people discovering their unique leadership style, reshaping their work patterns, planning their career progression or maybe their next career move.
It might feel familiar to people that have been through a structured business strategy and planning process, and indeed I’ve drawn on a lot of the lessons learned from my years as Director of Group Strategy for brands like Mothercare and Selfridges Group. But my experience balancing my career as a strategist with a side-line travelling the world as a professional competitive ballroom dancer also taught me the importance of finding your passion in work and life and appreciating what you’re prepared to give up to get it. Never apologise for wanting to love the work you do.
As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, a common theme with my coaching clients is that they want to do work that connects with their values and purpose, that allows them to have less stress and a happier home life. They want more flexibility and to feel in control…and they’ll trade off more than before to get it. Sometimes employer brand, sometimes progression opportunities, sometimes pay. According to research by thinktank Global Future,, three-quarters of people in the UK say the coronavirus pandemic has made them re-evaluate the most important aspects of their lives.
But despite the high turnover rate, it’s not true that everyone wants to quit their job. They just want change. In the US, 52% of voluntarily exiting employees say their manager or organisation could have done something to prevent them from leaving.
Research published by the online coaching platform BetterUp and highlighted in Harvard Business Review indicated that employees produce more, work more, stay at companies longer and will sacrifice higher pay if they find meaning in their work. How much pay will they sacrifice for work that is always meaningful? An incredible 23% of future earnings.
Here are three things you can do to fix your employee engagement:
- Trust your people. You have to believe that your teams will take the initiative and figure out approaches and solutions that are better collectively than you can design individually.
- Develop your managers. The culture of ownership and accountability is only maintained by managers who know how to be leader and coach, not just boss.
- Anticipate the troubles ahead. Don’t only focus on the people who are already on their way out of the door. The people you can most impact are the ones who are still currently engaged and enthused – keep them that way.
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