The Great Rethink: Reembracing Purpose and Commitment at Work

Share This Post

Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

A hallmark of all crises are their silver linings. As the COVID-19 pandemic wore on through a second and into a third year, the discussion rightly shifted from “returning to normal” to finding a “new normal.” As the dust of pandemic upheaval begins to settle into a new normal, employers have an enormous opportunity to create jobs and organizations that work better than they did before the pandemic drove millions of workers to ask the question: “Why am I doing this job?”

From Great Resignation to “Great Rethink”
The Great Resignation was spurred by the stress and disruption the pandemic put on working life, but it was built upon problems that had been simmering long before office work went remote and service work became more stressful. The disruption gave workers enough distance from their normal routines to reassess the big picture – Beyond earning money, what is the meaning and purpose of work? Am I really reaching my full potential? (And most critically) How committed is my employer to me, and how committed am I to them?

In a recent LinkedIn post, the Duke psychology and behavioral economics professor Dan Ariely suggested that part of the reason so many people are leaving their jobs is because, upon reflection in the space created by the pandemic, workers are not seeing the commitment and long-term care from their employers that they’d like. Consequently, it’s pretty easy for workers to leave for greener pastures. In addition to better pay and work-life balance, these greener pastures might frequently include greater mutual commitment between worker and employer magnified through the factor of shared corporate and personal purpose.

Ariely suggests that organizations are failing to create long-term social contracts with their employees, in a social (as well as legal) version of at-will employment – you’re only here as long as it’s good for both of us. As soon as it’s not, it’s easy to break it off. This is a particular problem for big companies, those that hire a lot of contractors, and those bogged down with bureaucracy and what anthropologist David Graeber calls “BS jobs.” It’s a much more manageable problem for small businesses like Sugarwish—not just because it’s their business to help organizations take better care of their employees and customers, but also because they’re more agile, tuned in to their employees’ needs, and even more “tribal” (in a good way). Humans evolved to live and work in tribes, and feeling part of a tribe may be essential to employee satisfaction. Sugarwish’s success is no doubt partially attributable to helping their customers fulfill the need for tribal belonging—sharing food is a basic act of care. The pandemic’s remote work and high pressure has eroded belonging, and workers are feeling acutely the lack of concern for their long-term well being and are taking action.

The Gig Economy has become a reality of work, offering advantages including enormous flexibility. However, the attitude behind gig work—that it’s inherently temporary—has leaked into traditional spheres of employment as well, making it easier for workers to take jobs they’re not wholly committed to, knowing that the employer’s commitment to them is equally tenuous.

From Great Rethink to Great Retention
The path forward for organizations should be clear, but may be difficult. Creating a sense of purpose for employees and ensuring that everyone feels needed and fulfilled in their work is just a starting point. It is also important to recognize the current state of the economy. With a lot of money and jobs being poured into the market, there is high demand for talented people. Many workers are moving around in the job market simply because there is a new swath of jobs that can better suit their needs and expectations.

Opportunities opened up by remote work mean millions of workers can now access thousands of new roles previously geographically off-limits. Employers need to adapt their work models to best attract the top talent. This often means offering hybrid options and offering higher salaries. These are options for addressing the thoughts that people are having during their “Great Rethink,” and it is how businesses will move towards the “Great Retention.” After all, wellbeing is important, and the best way to have a successful business is to first focus on the long-term individual success of the people in your business.

Before the pandemic, it was easy for workers and employers alike to focus on the positives of gig work, but the Great Resignation and Great Rethink have reoriented us to the long-term downsides of seeing jobs as transient and temporary. If existing businesses want to find success in the new normal of work post pandemic, they’ll have to embrace this silver lining lesson.

Hear Sofia Roman, Vice Board Chair at WriterCoach Connection, and Anica Solis, Human Resources Manager at Expert Marketing Advisors, discuss strategies leaders can implement to move away from the Great Resignation and towards the Great Retention. In this webinar we will explore:

  • The internal and external factors driving employees to explore new opportunities
  • Actionable strategies to combat current trends and retain top talent
  • How to leverage company culture to enhance employee engagement and retention

More To Explore

Do You Want To Boost Your Business?

drop us a line and keep in touch