What to Do When the Changes Just Keep Coming

By Eric Mosley September 21, 2022

​The Human Workplace Index just published its one-year report. There's good news for executives in the findings, and also a big message of caution to those who want to return to the "normal" routine of 2019. 

Can you feel the change fatigue? It's been another year of turbulence. The Great Resignation…supply chain problems…inflation…new virus variants…surprise shortages of everything from Sriracha sauce to garage doors. Employers are squeezed between rising costs and rising wages (and wages aren't keeping up with inflation). The uncertain economy might explain why employees are less ready to jump ship: 37% said they might quit in the next year, down from 61% last summer. 

Employees haven't forgotten what they learned about both work and themselves since 2020. They coped with unprecedented disruptions. They pivoted to remote work, and then hybrid work. They changed and coped and still remained productive. Executives, HR leaders, and managers also innovated, re-thinking the workplace to be more agile and interdependent – and more responsive to human needs. 

The changes keep coming at us fast and furiously. Unexpected changes call for continuous innovation. For example: Rising energy prices make commuting more expensive, but many people miss the social cohesion of the pre-pandemic workplace. No wonder people are tired! 

I'm taking away three critical lessons from the report that guide companies toward greater resilience:  

  • There's a lot of anxiety about fairness in the workplace. 
  • Employees will work hard for organizations that give financial and emotional support. 
  • Employers need to focus on building resilience into work.  

Fairness Is a Big Issue 

Many companies committed greater resources to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the past two years. The data show DE&I is a deal breaker (or deal maker) for almost half of employees, and most of those employees have reported seeing noticeable progress in the last year. 

The notable exception is the one-quarter of employees who say women are still not treated equally in the workplace. Respondents (male and female) thin k women are acknowledged, compensated, and promoted less than men. When you look at female respondents those results are troubling: In the last six months, the percentage of women who said women were acknowledged, paid, and promoted less often than men surged. Only about 10% of women felt they were acknowledged or promoted more. 

People Want to Work—for the Right Employer 

Lately some commentary has appeared suggesting that because employee expectations changed during the pandemic, they're no longer willing to work hard. "Nobody wants to work anymore," is a complaint going back a century, and I don't buy it. People will put in great performance for employers where fair pay is a given, and where respect, trust, fair pay, and recognition are part of the culture – a human workplace. 

There are three options in a turbulent economy like this: Attract and keep talent with a compensation arms race; rely on fear of unemployment to create loyalty; or join management and employees in an all-hands effort to create and grow a human workplace. 

Only the third option works. The consensus from the Human Workplace Index is that employees want to feel financially secure and emotionally supported. When employees have the power to support each other, they are loyal to each other and feel ownership of their workday. 

A workplace is human if it has key elements of community, agility, and empathy, and if it supports human values as much as values like shareholder return and growth. Leaders of a human workplace hear of a new crisis and first think, "How will this affect our people?" and then, "How will this impact our business?" The two are inseparable. 

Resilience Is the Remedy for Change 

How can leaders respond to change fatigue? Most factors causing change aren't under their control or the control of workers. Because you can't control change, the answer is to adapt to change – in a word, resilience. 

At a recent Workhuman Live breakout session, ADP's Sreeni Kutam said the best leaders do "three things from a leadership standpoint. Number one is, are your people doing meaningful work? Number two, do they have good support systems? Number three, do they know what their opportunities for growth are?" 

The second factor is good support systems and it's a critical factor for resilience. A workforce that provides support to everyone has the capacity to change and then recover quickly. Support means understanding, and also cultivating trust, gratitude, and recognizing each person's unique contributions. Celebrating what's most human – our whole diverse, emotional, intellectual, talented, messy selves – builds community as well. In the most resilient organizations, support comes from everywhere.  

This article was written by Eric Mosley from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.


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