The Great Reidentification: 5 Ways Businesses Can Lead Authentically in Our New Working World
As technology companies grapple with worker job shifts and other seismic changes, there are some key themes they should clearly define and address.
As millions of Americans spent the past nearly two years working remotely due to the pandemic, a great many have reassessed what it means to live a good life. An integral and large part of this calculation is what role work plays in our day-to-day existence. Those in the technology sector, for example, have examined the value of overextended work hours, long commutes and unbearable superiors, and are increasingly using the pandemic as an opportunity to make a change.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from April 2021 to mid-January 2022, "33 million people left their positions…or over a fifth of the total U.S. workforce." And this so-called Great Resignation doesn't even include those sitting on the sidelines — deciding whether to postpone rejoining the workforce or move to early retirement.
With the increased number of resignations comes a parallel increase in the number of job vacancies (10.9 million at the end of December 2021, according to the BLS) — a perfect storm of sorts. As a result, the media describes workers as being "in the driver's seat," the winners of this unfolding, but the fact is that no one said that all of the 4.3 million who resigned just in December (again, BLS stats) aren't looking for any work; instead, most are looking for different work that better aligns with their life goals, aspirations and values, and are looking to their next company to be a partner in their pursuit.
The headline, therefore, is not really the Great Resignation, but the Great Reidentification — a rare opportunity for employees and companies alike to reexamine what it means to have a great career and to redefine themselves accordingly. Today's Great Reidentification presents a unique opportunity to better capture innovation and efficiency through a company's most powerful tool: its human capital. Those that do will be poised to win against competitors, and win big, while those that don't will be positioned to lose even more than before.
As technology companies grapple with this new reality, there are some themes they should address and clearly define.
1. Determine your "Why?"
It's vital to clearly define why someone would work at your company, including what makes you stand out. If an article featuring your business appeared in a high-profile publication tomorrow, what would its title be, and which media outlet would publish it? Would it be compelling enough for your target audience to read, and would it differentiate you from competitors? Would your current employee base be inspired to share it with their networks?
2. Understand your shortcomings
Any company will have faults, and this is where self-awareness comes in. If I were to ask what your company's detractors would say about it, the answers would be the first important things to know. The second would be what needs to be done to address those shortcomings, and the cost of doing so. This cost could be monetary, but it could also be the opportunity cost of prioritizing solutions over other investments and initiatives. The third task is implementing a plan to address them, with associated timelines and success measurements.
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3. Know your customer
Your employees are also your customers, arguably the most important ones. They are on the front lines, engaging daily with your buyers, suppliers and end customers. While the C-level manages big-picture items and serves as the face of companywide transactions, the employee is the frontline voice. Do you know who your employees are, and can you define why they have chosen to work for you? Figuring this out can help retain quality staff members, keep them away from your competitors and ultimately improve their customer experience.
4. Define your culture
Emphasis on a business's culture is perhaps greater now than it has ever been, even touted by Forbes in an August 2021 article as "key to retaining talent." But before a company can address the positives and negatives of its own culture, its leaders need to understand what that culture is. While its aspirations may be defined from the top down, they are made reality from the bottom up, and the leading companies of tomorrow will make the human capital and financial investments to embrace that reality. If major gaps exist between the company's idea of its culture and employees' reality, a larger project to address those organizational issues is likely in store.
5. Determine your "five-year upside"
If you were looking at your company through the eyes of an employee, what would the upside be to developing a career there versus other companies in your space. What would your five-year career growth plan look like? Companies today are challenged with the here and now — raising the next round of investment, making a sales quarter goal and expanding a product line. Employees, meanwhile, are increasingly thinking about their longer-term career and life trajectories, seeking to build foundations today that will ultimately align with the personal and professional lifestyles they want to live tomorrow. And while the goal for a company might be to one day have an exit, that doesn't necessarily provide the same incentive for a mid-level employee as it does a founder. It's important for leadership to put themselves in the shoes of their employees and be able to clearly articulate the value of choosing this opportunity as a longer-term one, and more valuable than others that will inevitably come their way.
While the pandemic inspired a shakeup of our working world, it's not the sole driver of the Great Reidentification. Employees were ready for a change beforehand, and Covid-19 became the catalyst for that change. And while the media has repeatedly touted today's workers as holding the winning hand, the truth is that it was never a zero-sum game between companies and employees to begin with. The employee-company relationship of the future is not a competition, but a partnership. The great organizations, the winners of tomorrow, realize this and are making the necessary investments today to ensure it.
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