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What do employees want from leaders today? Don't guess

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What do employees want from leaders today? Don’t guess. Ask, listen and adapt to boost workplace respect.

The Great Resignation seems to be gaining strength. A record 4.4 million US workers voluntarily quit their jobs in September 2021. Nearly 24 million US workers have quit since April.

This situation won’t get better in the months to come.

A global McKinsey study found that 40% of respondents are likely to quit in the next three to six months.

This study says that senior executives must understand why employees are leaving and why too few candidates are taking open jobs.

When executives were asked why employees had quit, they said it’s due to compensation, work-life balance and poor physical and emotional health.

These things do matter to employees, but they’re not in employees’ top three reasons for quitting. The top three factors are:

  • 54% said they didn’t feel valued by their organizations
  • 52% said they didn’t feel valued by their managers
  • 51% didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work

It is no wonder that offers of higher pay, working from home, well-being programs, etc., are not causing employees to stay, nor are they causing candidates to join your company.

What can business leaders do to address these gaps?

First, embrace this mantra: Employees of all generations desire and deserve workplaces where they are respected and validated for their ideas, efforts and contributions, every day.

With that belief firmly in your hearts, stop assuming you know what your employees want. Instead, ask them. Your employees' top reasons for quitting may not match the top three from the McKinsey study. You need to learn what your employees need and want -- and adapt systems, procedures and behaviors to deliver.

Finally, start small. Fix things that are seen as unfair and unjust. By closing a few important gaps promptly, you’ll prove that you want the work culture to be respectful and validating for everyone.

For example, pay inequity is a huge frustration for many employees. You have the data. Analyze the gender pay gap and the people-of-color pay gap -- and fix them. Spend the money.

By tolerating pay gaps and enabling pay gaps, you’re telling your employees that you don’t respect them.

By closing those gaps, you’ll prove you do respect your employees. All of them.

S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author and executive consultant with The Purposeful Culture Group, where he is founder and CEO. He has authored or co-authored seven books, including "The Culture Engine.” His latest book, "Good Comes First,” recently published and was co-authored with Mark Babbitt. Edmonds' videos, posts and podcasts are available at DrivingResultsThroughCulture.com. Follow Edmonds on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Apple Podcasts.

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