Summary: The balance of power has shifted from employers to employees. Kevin G. Campbell shares how this disruptive shift will endanger some organizations and create unmatched opportunities for others.
Gallup’s former lead workplace consultant and Culture Amp’s former enterprise people scientist for Silicon Valley says “The Great Resignation” may actually be a “golden opportunity” for both shrewd employees and forward-thinking employers.
Following the height of the pandemic, there’s been an increase in the number of employees leaving their jobs: they’re quitting now more than ever and the trend seems to be growing. In response, many organizations are spending money on programs to gather feedback from employees and investing in improving the employee experience.
The truth is, there are a lot of companies offering to help employers retain top talent. However, as an organizational psychologist focused on creating great workplaces, Kevin G. Campbell wants to let leaders in on the truth: “Most of these programs don’t really do anything to improve the experience of work for most employees.”
If you’ve had the same thought, Kevin’s here to confirm that your suspicions are far from unfounded. So why does he insist on using employee listening and employee experience programs to help retain employees?
When he says that employee listening programs don’t improve the employee experience, he’s not saying that listening isn’t a crucial component of making improvements. “The problem with most employee listening programs is an overemphasis on measurement over improvement and development. On the other end, there are firms that make the opposite mistake: they launch employee retention programs without using any employee feedback data to inform them. In 2020, the experience management firm Qualtrics revealed that 89% of companies regularly conduct employee surveys, but only 7% of employees say their companies are very good at acting on their feedback.”
When asked why he sees this gap as an opportunity, Kevin responded that companies and employees ultimately want the same thing. Simply put, “people want to do what they do best every day and employers want people who are great at what they do.”
“Back when I was with Gallup our polls consistently showed that people would change their jobs for an opportunity to use their strengths more often. Unfortunately, 90% of the time they would have to leave their current employer in order to do so,” recounted Kevin.
The good news for informed employers is that there’s likely untapped talent hiding within their current employee-base. According to Kevin, one of his recent consulting clients, a large Bay Area cybersecurity company, found that internal mobility—an employee moving within their company from one role into another—gave just as much of a boost to employee retention as a promotion or increase in pay.
In an upcoming presentation for the International Coach Federation, Kevin shares why this issue is not just about science or business for him:
“I was ten years old when I got the call that something happened to my mom. She was a single mother working 12-16 hours a day to support my three-year-old sister and me. She was great at what she did, but at some point, it just got to be too much and she had a nervous breakdown. On her last day at that job, she crawled out on her hands and knees, dripping in tears and sweat from emotional, psychological, and physical exhaustion.
A short time later she fell into a deep depression which led to a series of events that led to us losing our home. From that day forward I vowed to make the world of work better for people like my mother, because I know that better workplaces not only mean stronger businesses, but it also means stronger families, healthier children, and more prosperous communities.”
While his mother’s experience sounds like a far cry from the free lunches, ping pong tables, and lavish perks showered on the employees of Kevin’s Bay Area clients, he sees a similar thread. “When I did some work with Google back in 2012, I expected everyone to walk around in a state of perpetual bliss. But the truth is, there was still significant variance in terms of how engaged people were. My job now is to find the source of that variance and empower leaders to take action to reduce it.”
According to Kevin, the companies and people that learn how to take action on those gaps are tapping into “an extraordinary source of competitive advantage.” As Kevin puts it, “the people and ideas that were successful in the past may not do so well in this era. This also means that the kind of inclusive workplaces and engaging careers that seemed impossible in the past might become necessary to remain viable in the future.”