The Great Staffing Shakeup of 2020 is about to begin.
COVID-19 has impacted many businesses leading to a record high unemployment rate across the US. Here in California, the EDD has reported a 15.5% unemployment rate of non-farm jobs. As businesses start reopening under modified practices, some employees are choosing not to go back to work because they're actually making more money with the federal CARES Act payment of $600/week in addition to the (obscenely low) $450/week unemployment payouts.
That means that the employees you used to have may not want to come back to you. You'll have to start all over again, posting jobs, interviewing, and onboarding new staff, which takes time and money.
Many speculate that a large percentage of the workforce will be desperate enough to accept any job offer and that employers will be able to get away with paying less and expecting more, taking advantage of the overflowing market. But let me ask you... is that what you actually want?
If you want my opinion, that's short-term thinking. Many employees, whether they were laid off or not, will be looking at employers with new eyes. Change breeds opportunity. Money, skills growth, and career advancement will all be evaluated by prospective hires when applying to jobs. And while companies may be inundated in applicants, these people are applying to similar jobs everywhere else. You're going to have to compete just as much as they are and top talent is looking for more than just money and a robust benefits package.
There's one element of your business that you can address right now to attract and retain top talent...
your work culture.
Here's how to know if your work culture needs a revamp:
You have a high attrition rate
Employees are going to HR more frequently
Your Glassdoor reviews are poor and/or indicate common issues
Workplace morale is low, negative, or fearful
You have a bad reputation in the industry or local market (because everyone talks to everyone and word spreads quickly)
If you identify with one or more of these issues, you need to address your workplace culture STAT.
All too often I see culture issues being dismissed as coming from "disgruntled former employees" or blaming current circumstances for the rise in dissatisfaction. This is a red flag for top talent. It's the business equivalent of talking shit about your ex or saying the other person was "evil," "crazy," and the source of all problems. It's not a good look.
Every time I search for a new gig, I do my homework. I ask around. I look online. I read Glassdoor reviews. And then, while interviewing, I pointedly ask about any negative Glassdoor reviews and watch how the company responds. I also ask everyone I interview with what they like least about working there. I ask to speak to people who report to my would-be supervisor and ask direct questions about what they're like as a leader. Basically, I like to know where the bodies are buried before signing away 1/3 (or more) of my life. I do this because I know I put in 110% to my job, day in and day out. I want to know that my efforts will be appreciated and actually matter.
If you have candidates who aren't asking these questions, chances are they're junior and don't know better or they're just looking for a paycheck. They're probably going to turnover in less than two years, if you're lucky to get them for that long. Top performers look deeper. Workplace culture is one of the biggest deciding factors in accepting a job. More important, in my opinion, than salary, 401k, and health benefits combined. Like dating, if a company is dismissing clear problems or making no efforts to enact positive change, ideal candidates are going to be turned off by that messy baggage and go elsewhere.
So what are some steps to improve workplace culture?
Review employee exit interviews. If you don't have those, start them immediately. Outgoing employees are a goldmine of information. Everyone knows that most people leave jobs because of their managers, so pay particular attention to this. If you see chronic issues with the same person, you may want to invest in coaching/training for them or moving them out of people management entirely. Not everyone is cut out to manage other people. This can be a hard pill to swallow when time, money, and energy have been put into grooming a manager. There is a place for those who are great project or task managers but not people managers. The old way of looking at career advancement is that you have to begin managing people in order to move up the ladder. That's not the case anymore. So if your organization has that world-view, you may be doing a disservice to top producers who aren't cut out for leading people. And you're definitely harming those who report in to them, so consider reevaluating how you reward and elevate your staff. In all likelihood, your employee exit interviews will yield a treasure trove of info that you need to fix workplace culture.
Use Glassdoor to your advantage. Look at your Glassdoor reviews as if you were an outsider. If you were considering a job at this organization and saw the reviews online, what impression would you have of this company? What dirty laundry is being aired? What questions would you want to know before agreeing to work there? Also, make sure that someone is honestly and directly responding to issues being called out there. Top talent looks at that.
Conduct anonymous companywide surveys. Your employees are more likely to be honest with you if they can respond anonymously. Sure, some of them would probably tell you the truth to your face, but many people are not like that. If you want to get the pulse on what's going on with the company, ask. Be sure to compile a report of the good, the bad, and the ugly so you have some intel that you can pull from in order to make change.
Give managers 360 degree reviews. A 360 degree review is where direct reports are able to give feedback on their managers in addition to that of supervisors. It's also a good idea to allow same-level colleagues or common collaborators to weigh in. You don't even have to wait for annual review time to do this. If you're seeing that a manager may be an issue, conduct the 360 review before things get too dire. I worked at an agency where 120% of the workforce turned over in less than 2 months due to the leader. (Yes, 120% because the replacement creative director quit in his first week!) Top performers will be excited to receive this kind of feedback, so if you get pushback from someone about it, that's another red flag for you to watch for and potentially address later.
Actually do something. Create a plan that identifies your top issues and solicit feedback on what can make things better. For example, if your employees are feeling stressed and overworked, you can come up with a plan to show your appreciation. This can take many different forms. Some of the ones I like best are: (A) "work from wherever" where employees aren't forced to come into the office every day, but can take their work with them wherever they are. The freedom shows trust. (B) Adding team-building into the budget. This can be companywide or by department, depending upon where your biggest issues reside. This breaks out time for appreciation and "time off" on the clock to bond as a group. (C) Create a rewards program where employees can choose how they get validated. Often this is some sort of points system with a variety of prizes or incentives. Think everything from gift cards to a day off or free products. Whatever your company has to offer that's not a standard issue employee perk. If it doesn't cost you anything, like say an extra "business casual" day a week or rebalancing workload to allow for summer hours (i.e., half day Fridays June-August), definitely go for it! Once you have a plan, tell your employees about it and let them know you are making these changes because you heard them and you are working to make things better. Allow space for future feedback and suggestions. Once they see you making an effort, they're more likely to pitch in as well.
One big caveat here: if your leadership is the issue, it needs to be addressed. Until it is, you will keep losing good people and have a hard time retaining whoever is left, pandemic or not.
While money is important to employees, it's not all-encompassing. Because people spend 8 or more hours a day at their jobs, where they work and who they work for/with is equally important. That's why work culture is so critical.
Use the time you have been given now to reevaluate your work culture and the business practices it affects. This will help you be ahead of the game when your business is looking to rehire roles and attract the right people to help you achieve your goals. While you may not have a lot of cash to throw at prospective employees, your work culture is 100% within your control and it's just as important as money. Influence the areas that you can, while you can, so you will be primed to retain your best people and bring in the right ones to take your business to the next level.