Posted November 19, 2021 by Mark Perna
If employees have mobility within the organization, they’ll be far less likely to look outside for opportunities to advance their career. Mark’s article, “How Social Agility Can Help Stem The Tide Of The Great Resignation,” published at Forbes.com on October 26, 2021.
The talent shortage is hitting every industry hard. Even as they work to bring new candidates in the front door, companies are scrambling to secure the back door—where almost 50% of their workforce may soon be exiting in what is becoming known as ‘The Great Resignation.’
The pandemic has changed everything, not least what people expect from their place of employment. Flexibility tops the list of workplace priorities in a recent Hibob survey. The childcare challenge has sidelined many working parents, while others have become attached to the work-from-home life and now won’t settle for anything less.
“As an HR practitioner for more than 30 years, I have never seen a time when organizations face as many complex ‘people’ imperatives as they do right now,” says Greg Pryor, People Evangelist at Workday. “However, these challenges also present tremendous opportunities for organizations to lean in on creating and delivering remarkable employee experiences.”
So what’s that secret sauce? How can companies prevent their best and brightest from giving two weeks’ notice in favor of a better opportunity elsewhere? “Make sure the best opportunities are already here and within their reach,” says Pryor. “Social agility is the key.”
The cornerstone of a retentive company culture is social agility. If organizational agility is a company’s capacity to pivot quickly to meet fast-changing market conditions, social agility is an individual worker’s ability to swiftly absorb new information, apply it effectively and thrive amid times of rapid change. “When employees feel like they have opportunities for career growth and building new skills, they are more likely to stay at a company,” says Pryor.
Social agility is, in many ways, a culmination of an employee’s soft skillset. But the onus is not just on the individual contributor to develop this skill. To retain talent, companies must support social agility at the organizational level.
“The pandemic has amplified the need to be collaborative, requiring individuals, teams and organizations to nurture this new capability,” says Pryor. “Social agility is now required to more quickly and effectively join new organizations and contribute to new teams by understanding context, accelerating trust and avoiding collaborative overload.”
In action, this can look like Workday’s Talent Marketplace that offers employees (or “workmates”) short-term career opportunities known as gigs. “Workers looking for opportunities to learn new skills outside of their current roles can receive curated content to help develop new skills, or sign up for a gig to work on a project with a different team,” says Pryor. “People leaders can encourage team members to leverage their capabilities and grow new skills, which in turn helps to increase employee engagement.” Gigs also allow leaders within the company to source additional resources internally if their team is running at full capacity.
Thus far, the results have been encouraging. “Based on preliminary data, we found that 95% of gig participants said they were able to build on existing skills or build new skills through this opportunity,” says Pryor.
A socially agile culture allows a company to forge productive inter-team connections—a critical yet largely unseen network that Pryor believes has become weak from lack of use during the pandemic.
“These connections that were historically nurtured in the hallways, after meetings and at town halls were largely invisible and under-appreciated until they were gone and suffered the atrophy that we can now measure,” he says. “Companies should be intentional about cross-team relationships, considering days or events when all functional and people leaders come together to renew the critical bridging relationships that serve as the backbone for enterprise execution, innovation and strategy alignment.”
To support a socially agile and cross-connected workplace, Pryor says that culture carriers and influencers within the organization should be leveraged to intentionally model values, give feedback, solve problems, share career advice and energize colleagues—especially as we adopt new work environments.
Then, leaders need to keep a pulse on how socially agile their employees are feeling. “Data-driven decision making is the new competitive advantage,” says Pryor. “It’s critical that every organization consider how its data can help it to understand employee sentiment, experiences, skills, interests and more to predict the practices and programs that will accelerate its business.”
The turnover generated by the Great Resignation is real—and the cost is no joke. On average, companies can expect to pay an average of 33% of the role’s annual salary to attract, interview, hire and onboard one new employee. Much better, then, to invest in a company culture that people simply don’t want to leave in the first place.
“While we are in the same storm, every person and organization are in very different boats,” says Pryor. “Slowing the Great Resignation and taking advantage of newly available talent requires the creation of an employee experience focused on well-being, including understanding the unique context of each employee’s situation so that they feel heard and supported.”
As we think about the next world of work—whether it’s remote, hybrid, flexible, or fully onsite—Pryor encourages people leaders to be intentional about how they bring people together. “This is especially important where the research tells us we thrive together, including generating energy about the organization’s purpose, learning from each other, and solving hard problems together.
“It’s not about building a plan, it’s about building the muscle of social agility for the next world of work.”