Flexibility Wins the Battle for Talent

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Lisa Dawson dropped her son off at school and then headed to work. That used to mean a 30-mile drive to downtown Phoenix from deep in the suburbs. Now, it means turning around and heading back home.

“I didn’t realize how much I valued being able to drop him off and pick him up every day,” Dawson said. “I will never commute again. No job is worth that to me.”

Dawson isn’t alone. Millions of employees have changed their priorities in the last 18 months.

“You can’t send home 70 percent of the workforce for an extended period of time and not expect it to have an impact. Your employees have changed. The question is whether the way you lead has changed as well,” Russ Hill said.

Hill and Jared Jones wrote the book on The Great Resignation. Literally. Their new book is titled “The Great Resignation: Why Millions Are Leaving Their Jobs and Who Will Win the Battle for Talent.”

“Every executive we work with says the biggest challenge they face right now is finding and retaining talent. It was such a universal struggle that we decided our team needed to dig into the data and see what’s causing it,” Jones said.

Hill and Jones co-own Lone Rock Consulting and coach executives of some of the world’s biggest companies. According to their firm’s research, the labor shortage is due to a higher number of vacant jobs than available workers and greater willingness among employees to change jobs and companies.

“The second chapter of our book is called ‘The Rise of The Individual.’ Yes, companies are getting bigger but they no longer hold all the power. Today’s employee has all the leverage. They used to tolerate bad bosses, toxic cultures, and a lack of development. That just isn’t the case any more,” Hill said.

Record Breaking Job Quits

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a record-breaking 4.3 million U.S. workers quit their jobs in August – the last month for which data is available. That brings the total to 30 million for just over half the year. The highest number on record was 2019 when 42 million workers voluntarily quit over the total 12 months.

Dawson quit her job in downtown Phoenix when the company demanded workers return to the office. “I tried to convince them to let me work from home but they wanted everyone back at least three days a week,” Dawson said.

The pandemic has made flexibility a huge priority of employees across most industries. That’s why Apple, Amazon, and Google have all bended to concerns about returning to the office too soon– or at all. These companies are pushing down the decision of where to work to the team or individual level. Other corporations seem to be ignoring the demand for flexibility and issuing corporate-wide mandates for when and where employees should work.

The Era of Adult Day Care Is Over

“Some people bristle when we say it, but the era of adult daycare is over,” Jones said. “Think about it for a moment. The model is completely broken. Why should every employee in an entire company be required to be at their desk at 8 AM and stay there until 5 PM? It just doesn’t make sense. If some of your people do their best work at night, why do you care if they’re at the gym or even at the mall at 1 PM?”

“The Great Resignation” book they wrote quotes Silicon Valley visionary Naval Ravikant in an interview he did with Joe Rogan. “I don’t care how rich you are. I don’t care whether you’re a top Wall Street banker. If someone can tell you when to be at work and what to wear and how to behave, you’re not a free person. You’re not actually rich,” Ravikant said according to the book.

“Far too many executives are ignoring how significant a shift is happening right now in the workforce. Look, we don’t blame them because they’re dealing with supply chain shortages, massive swings in customer expectations, vaccine mandates, and concerns about their own family’s emotional and physical health,” Hill said. “The executives we coach have more on their plates than at any other moment in the two decades we’ve been working with them.”

The solution to attracting and retaining talent isn’t that complicated according to Hill and Jones. It begins by creating greater flexibility in how people work. Focus more on what people need to deliver and less on how, when, or where they do it.

The executive consultants said there is a silver lining to all of the shifts happening in the labor force. “Think about the market value of a leader who is in tune with how employees want to work now. Their value is skyrocketing faster than the stock market,” Jones said. 

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