The Great Resignation, The Great Re-Think, or The Great Retirement?
By Colin Taylor
We are now into the fourth quarter of the year. Retail and ecommerce firms are gearing up for the holiday season, which means more staff. But where are they going to find more staff? It is hard to find new staff. We can blame the Great Resignation if we like, but where did all of the workers go? Have all of the frontline agents found new rewarding and well-paying jobs? Certainly, some have, but I think many people have decided to take a pause. Sure, some are opening a shop, trying their hands at gig work, changing careers, and certainly some have shifted completely out of the workforce.
Many in fact have exited the workforce, including those who deferred their retirement during Covid and are now looking to retire. That could mean 3 years of retirements occurring in a single year. Is there any doubt that this has helped to fuel low unemployment and the shortage of workers. What happens if we don’t have enough staff to deliver the services in the manner and with the proficiency that we wish? With our current and former staff members are considering their options — maybe even quitting or retiring — that is a sad commentary on us as employers. What does it say about the roles and the work these folks have done in our call and contact centers that leaving seems like a good idea?
We know that working in a front-line role and dealing with customers is challenging. In COVID and post-COVID environments, it can be even more of a challenge as it can be exacerbated by staff shortages.
Perhaps the Great Resignation is really the great Re-Think; our staff are rethinking their careers and asking themselves, “is this really how I want to spend the rest of my career?” We as employers need to look at ourselves and ask a number of questions as well:
- Are we providing the employment we promised?
- Are our front-line staff given the training and tools needed to succeed?
- Do we share and help them transit through a career path?
- Do we treat them with respect and appreciation for the work they do?
- Do we pay them appropriately and competitively?
Some organizations may be able to say yes, but for many the answer is, to quote the comic strip Pogo, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”
It is us. We are the barriers to progress, and we are the problem. As employers, we need to Re-think the employer/employee relationship and strive to make it more fair and equitable. Of course, this will not be easy; few things that are worthwhile ever are; and this will be complicated by a lack of trust (or maybe just a healthy dose of skepticism regarding corporate messaging…the staff has likely heard it before). Nonetheless, we can begin to revisit our role and obligations to our employees to equip them to do the job, respect the work they do, help them advance in and enjoy their careers, and pay them fairly.
Demographics tell us that this scarcity of staff is the new normal as older, more numerous generations of workers retire, staff scarcity will continue. Organizations will certainly respond by applying technology (think AI) to reduce the need for staff. Will that be enough? I don’t know. But clearly if we treat our staff better and re-examine the employer/employee compact will retain more of them long term. There is no better time to start to re-think your hiring, career path and staffing plans than today.
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