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The Great Resignation: Why Trust & Care Matters

A recent interview with a US Army veteran in McKinsey quarterly gave a possible explanation for the “Great Resignation” that many employers are facing during the Covid pandemic. Employees have been forced to work from home, then asked to return to work (“be deployed”), then sent home again, asked to come back (“be deployed”) - multiple times. This is a similar situation to that experienced by people in the armed forces.


This constant shifting of office and home environment is unnerving. It throws people out of their daily routines. People are not only missing elements of the work environment, but are also grieving how work used to be and the benefits of being in the office. The coffee shop, sandwich bar that used to be there has closed down. With so many changes there is a real sense of loss. This is compounded with the feeling of guilt for not being allowed to grieve when many have actually lost loved ones. Nevertheless the grief is real and needs to be recognised. When they return to work they also miss elements of working from home.


This is an unsettling time. It has opened up more options for ways of working than before. Significant changes such as these are difficult for people to work through and process.


The key question that neither the article nor the interviewer address is why are employees resigning rather than working with their employer to figure out what the new normal should be?


We believe it’s because employees that resign do not believe that their employer sufficiently cares about them, nor do they trust that their employer will do the right thing for them.


Trust and care come about from personal relationships. An organisation is not a person, it is a legal construct. The employee experiences trust and care, or lack of, from their line manager. The line manager is the face of the organisation, not the CEO, nor someone in HR for most employees.


If there is high trust and I believe that someone cares, I would prefer to figure out what to do with that person then just leave and be on my own.


There is a mountain of research by academics that the line manager is critical, and is the weakest link in most organisations. That same research shows that poor line managers can create an environment where their subordinates never complain, because they fear that they will not be listened to it would be worse if they did. A poor line manager may be awful to their subordinates but may be seen as an asset by their line manager. They may have been promoted due to technical ability and not people management skills - these need coaching. Others may be borderline sociopaths, the damage they are doing needs to be dealt with swiftly.


Traditional systems are incapable of identifying these poor line managers. If they were then there wouldn’t be any. You only have to look at Glassdoor reviews and comments to realise that this is the real pandemic within every organisation globally. Even organisations with very high averages will have clusters of comments from employees who are miserable and feel oppressed by their line manager. The reviews are anonymous and are difficult to trace, that’s why they are so damning.


No employee is going to tell the truth in a survey run by their employer whom they don’t trust. Employee surveys give a false impression of the true health of the organisation. Leavers are never surveyed. In the past surveys were the only tool available, until now.


HRClarity.Ai applies ML and AI to payroll and absence data to identify which line managers may need additional support to become better. It uses behavioural data that cannot be manipulated by savvy managers. It is the only software of its kind that does this.



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