The Great Rejuvenation

From: AJ Moore

Maybe it’s doom-scroll fatigue, but the fear-harvesting of the articles flying around on this one are bouncing off me like mozzies meeting permethrin. I am just not tempted by the shiny red panic-button: that Covid’s hangover will manifest as mass resignations and the industry will grind to (another) halt.

I read through waves of literature, and they all scream:

“OMG! The workers! They’ve figured out there’s life outside of work! QUICK! Deploy the retention strategies – payrises, perks and we’re gonna need some hampers!”

The song sheets of recommendations shuffling around the business halls are all about how to retain staff, lest the dreaded war-for-talent be lost. Training, promotions, flexi-days, tech-toys, actually let’s do put the foosball table in the boardroom.

Those things are fun, and sure, who doesn’t want a payrise and a fancy pen…. but aren’t they all dusty parts of the same system that huge waves of people are deciding they want a change from?

Seriously: more of the same, when people are looking for the new?

“More employee care, but louder this time! And T-shirts!”

We could blame every one’s favourite scape-covid-goat…but that would pretend the shifts to new working models weren’t already happening before we could (literally) hide behind the masks. The rise of the gig economy, Industry 4.0, the digital landscape, workforce reinvention from lifetimes of servitude to contemporary agile freelancing, etc: these fires of change were already smoldering, long before Covid spilt rocket fuel on them.

If people are about to resign, en masse, it’s not because they’re about to play an enormous game of musical chairs. Your competition is as worried as you are, because they’re not expecting to catch the talent resigning from you, any more than the panic levels out there suggest that you are expecting to hire the talent resigning from them.

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The articulation lacking across the discussion threads is: “The Great Resignation” isn’t just people resigning from one company to join another almost the same, but rather people are just over the entire system as a whole. It’s the ‘machine’ they are resigning from, rather than you personally.

Which is why existing company-level retention levers (might) buy a little more time with talent still on the fence about the drift to Work 4.0; but throwing more perks at people is really only a short-term tool rather than a long term strategy for talent sustainability in an increasingly digital world.

Because while business may be panicked by it, the humongous crowd of people now seeing things very differently than through pre-covid corporate lenses: are totally invigorated by it. Excited.

So I guess I see this next wave as an opportunity, rather than a threat:

It’s more like The Great REJUVENATION.

Imagine this huge wave of people – skilled, qualified, educated, experienced – sent into lockdown, literally forced to take a long hard break from the usual system, structures and rhythms of normal work life. They are not nameless employee numbers or statistics; they are real people that you know.

Those 1000’s and 1000’s of smart, top-talent professionals then spent months in their loungerooms – thinking, analysing, deciding what’s important, dreaming, planning, solutioning and creating hypothetical pathways to new fields of opportunity:

It was the biggest unofficial solution architect team – EVER.

Now, we’re stabilising to the level that these same good people are finally feeling secure again after a pandemic of insecurity. With budding confidence to action all those dreams and plans they’ve been carefully cultivating between zoom calls: the Discovery Phase is indeed coming to an end.

Next, the sensation of finally being able to step out into a new world will be an absolute wave of relief, bringing new opportunity to unleash all those pent-up aspirations. An entire band of smart people – refreshed, energised, motivated, invigorated – an absolutely epic social movement of talent, buzzing and excited about doing things differently:

It’s far more inspiring, than it is scary.

The Great Resignation doesn’t mean the talent is suddenly disappearing: it just means they have taken the time to reimagine what they want and this includes a refresh around how they engage with industry. They still need to work, want to be challenged and fulfilled.

So are old retention strategies to bend them back into the existing fold really the best way to harness this movement? Isn’t this an incredible opportunity to re-invent, rather than just retain?

‘The Great Resignation’ term is a pessimistic reduction of what is really The Great Rejuvenation. It could have easily been coined The Great Re-engagement, The Great Revival, The Great Renewal or The Great Rebuild.

Yes, Covid changed the landscape, but talent has long been inching towards new ways of working that worked better for THEM. Covid can only take the credit for speeding up those existing shifts.

So people may well resign, but they are still talent, just now transformed through rejuvenation:

A huge section of the workforce is about to become a brand-new talent pool: an untapped, primed, motivated, invigorated talent movement.

They are refreshed, re-energised, rejuvenated and they are ready for (new ways of) business.

So sure: be scared of The Great Resignation if your processes are too rigid, or agility too restricted by pre-covid procurement and engagement models. The reason many of your old recruitment and people methods won’t work for you in future, is because they weren’t working for the workers. And now, the workers are speaking (well, writing mass resignations…)

However, the companies who look beyond squishing new attitudes into old moulds will be the ones to cope best in this braver newer world: Adapting to the imminent reality of more fluid resource movements, planning for skills and capability rather than headcount, enabling agile talent engagements, acknowledging new talent sources and really looking at what is going to work for the workers.

Beyond just perks to retain the old ways, industry could really grab this opportunity to build innovative new ones.

Rejuvenate, or stagnate.

It’s actually pretty exciting.

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