The not-so-great resignation and the importance of strong processes

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. We all know it and just about everyone has said so in almost every conceivable way. Many also say that the pandemic will change work forever. A great deal of virtual ink has been spilled while everyone tries to figure out what “The Great Resignation” means. So, I am going to add to that. And I am going to be pessimistic.

There is a large distinction and a complexity inside the term “Great Resignation” that is hidden, so it’s essential to separate so-called knowledge workers (a label I really dislike) and service or retail ones. 

Service and retail workers make up a substantial part of the group of North Americans who are just plain tired of being treated poorly at their jobs while being underpaid and have quit in large numbers. This trend is likely about the economic flexibility created by government support made necessary by the pandemic and a genuine realization that people simply don’t want to do this undervalued work any longer. I genuinely hope that this trend will lead folks, particularly leaders south of the border, to recognize that they need to treat these workers better, pay them more, and finally bring this labour group into the twenty-first century. 

On the knowledge worker side of things, the Resignation is much more straight-forwardly about an overheated technology and tech services marketplace. Tech companies have been disproportionate beneficiaries of the massive capital that’s being injected into the economy. So much of the money that governments are printing is heading to these companies and inflating their need for staff and their abilities to pay them. 

Many have written that all these factors (and many many more, of course) are leading business leaders and owners to conclude that they have to be nicer to their workers. Knowledge workers need to receive an ever-increasing number of perks like extra days off, work-from-home stipends, and all sorts of other things. For all workers, there is talk of a four-day workweek to try and get people back into the workforce or to stay at otherwise less desirable workplaces.

On both ends, I must be honest: I am highly pessimistic. 

As with many other historical periods where workers have demanded additional rights, pay, or respect, management’s instinct will be to wait them out. And as COVID supports dwindle, at least on the service and retail side of things, they will likely be successful. 

I think something else will happen on the knowledge worker side of things. Like the COVID support removal impacting retail and service workers, the inevitable increases in interest rates and decrease in new money will restrain the ever-increasing tech company spending.

And then will come the failures. Many companies’ inefficiencies and screw-ups have been propped up by cheap credit or easy money these last couple of years. The ones that will weather the storm are those with strong processes and even stronger people practices.

We get to work with many different companies on their process and people concerns through our consulting. Almost always, we end up building a program to improve both – they are, after all, dependent on each other.

When the heat is let out a bit over the next few years, many companies are going to fall away as their processes and practices are exposed as insufficient. I mean, how many businesses in the technology or manufacturing space have focused their attention during the pandemic on process improvement and ensuring that their team members are connected to work in the most meaningful ways? Not enough.

But that’s why we do what we do. Contact us today at [email protected] to learn more about how we can solidify and develop your people and process practices.