Is Executive-Employee Disconnect Fuelling Mass Resignations?

Execs want to get back to the office as quickly as possible, where as employees feel left out of the process.
Aaron Drapkin

A global survey published by business communications platform Slack has suggested that disconnect between executives and employees could be driving the “great resignation.”

Whilst executives are keen to get back to the office and overwhelmingly see themselves as transparent leaders, “their overly rosy view of in-office work” could be exacerbating turnover.

The report strongly indicates that flexible working situations are more inclusive, fair, and ultimately preferred by the majority of employees — which means equipping your staff team with web conferencing software so they can easily work from anywhere is now paramount.

Employees Have Plans to Resign; Many Have Already Left

In what will make for difficult reading for executives already nervous about a company-wide brain drain, Slack’s 10,000-person Future Forum study found that 63% of employees in the US say they’re open to looking for a new job in the new year.

This tacked closely to figures from other countries like the UK (59%) and Australia (60%), suggesting the phenomenon is global in scale — just like the virus that kickstarted it.

New jobs grpahic

The statistics about the percentage of employees looking for jobs is hardly surprising considering April of this year saw a then-record 4 million people resign, whilst another 3.9 million did the same in June.  This September then saw the record beaten again, with 4.4 million resignations.

Executives Are Out of Step with Their Employees

Interestingly, the apparent eagerness of employees to find a new job is set against a backdrop of a disconnect between what executives think and feel and what employees do.

For instance, executives, on the whole, are happier than employees (no shock there), and male executives had the best wellbeing scores. 85% say their sense of belonging is good or very good, whereas those outside the boardroom (67%) are less likely to agree.

Daily events like commuting were put down by more than a quarter of non-executives as the main reason they liked remote working — much less than half (11%) of executives thought the same. Overall, executives were 114% happier than the people working for them.

“Sixty-six percent of executives report that post-pandemic planning conversations are happening mostly at the executive level, with little to no direct input from employees.”

Two-thirds of executives feel they’re being transparent about their remote or hybrid working strategy, whereas only 42% of employees thought the same.

Flexible Working Makes People Feel More Included – yet Disparities Persist.

Slack’s survey found that, regardless of their race or gender, there is overwhelming support for flexible working situations.

However, groups that are often marginalized in the workplace — such as members of ethnic minority communities or women — are more likely to want flexible work arrangements.

87% of Asian Employees, 81% of black employees, and 78% of Hispanic employees surveyed, for example, said they preferred flexible employment situations, compared with 75% of white employees. Women (85%) were also more likely than men (79%) to desire flexible employment.

The percentage of Black knowledge workers who value their relationship with their coworkers (76%, up from 48%) and their management is supportive (75%, up from 43%) has risen sharply since August 2020.

According to the survey, the disparities between Black and Asian employees on a number of well-being metrics have also shrunk.

Crucially, however, it must be said that whilst women and members of ethnic minority communities have reported improvements in their work experience, white male employees still scored much higher scores in key well-being indicators. This goes some way to explain why more black (66%) and Asian employees (64%) are considering new jobs than white employees (56%).

Overall, male parents score significantly higher than female parents when on various experience metrics.

This suggests that, although more flexible working arrangements have improved things, there’s much, much more work to be done to achieve a truly fair and inclusive workplace. Hopefully, executives will look at these kinds of reports and soften their positions with regard to moving back to the office, for the good of their employees and companies.

Should we be cutting C-suite some slack?

Rarely are their singular factors behind any phenomena, and the employees resigning en masse is no different. The disconnect between employees and executives is certainly a critical factor. However, there are other effects of the “new normal” that are out of executive hands.

Professionals have more power

Knowledge workers, all in all, have a lot more power to find companies that match their preferences than before the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, most knowledge workers would previously have been confined to finding a job in the city they live in. There's also a significant skills shortage, which gives professionals that do have the now scarcer skills.

Professionals are choosing more carefully

The great “resignation” may in fact be a great reshuffle. The pandemic has created a shift in how people think about their work lives, and for many people working remotely, the lines between work and non-work time became blurry.

The changes brought on by the pandemic have made millions of workers take a look at their lives and their jobs and made them realize there are actually many more possibilities and eventualities out there than existed before COVID-19 struck.

“There’s now a greater ability for people to fit work into their lives, instead of having lives that squeeze into their work.” – Anthony Klotz, Associate Professor of Management at Texas A&M University.

Along with the increased power professionals have in these volatile jobs market, the motivation to do something different or “start again” is motivating individuals to exploit the newfound leverage they have, and hunt down pay raises.

The New Normal is Here to Stay

With flexible working situations so popular amongst employees, it's unlikely that there will be a mass movement back to offices any time soon.

With the shortage of professionals with the required skills to do certain jobs, employees have the power to turn their back on companies with working arrangements that don't fit their lives. Now, bosses must weigh up the benefits of hiring a more talented person who wants to work remotely rather than someone living locally who can make it into the offices.

Surveys like the one featured in this article are vitally important to understanding why phenomena like “the great resignation” are arising — and they'll make executives everywhere sit up and take note.

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Aaron Drapkin is a Senior Writer at Tech.co. He has been researching and writing about technology, politics, and society in print and online publications since graduating with a Philosophy degree from the University of Bristol three years ago. As a writer, Aaron takes a special interest in VPNs and project management software. He has been quoted in the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, The Daily Mail, Computer Weekly, and the Silicon Republic speaking on various privacy and cybersecurity issues, and has articles published in Wired, Vice, Metro, The Week, and Politics.co.uk covering a wide range of topics.

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