Leadership   //   May 11, 2022

Bosses hurt, too: Unhappy managers are also contributing to the Great Resignation

The Great Resignation is being fed not just by the rank and file but by disaffected management as well. 

The outsourcing and consulting firm KellyOCG, part of the global staffing service Kelly, surveyed 1,000 senior executives across 12 countries and found that even the most senior leaders plan to leave their jobs soon, with nearly three-quarters (72%) indicating they intend to seek greener pastures in the next two years.

Expressing a lack of confidence in their organizations’ ability to retain talent and meet the changing expectations of employees, 66% thought their companies would get an unfavorable grade for how they treated their people during the thick of the pandemic. 

The results were featured in KellyOCG’s Global Workforce Report 2022, which shines a light on the disconnect between evolving employee needs and the support their companies provide. It also spotlights the actions an elite group of companies, which it calls the Vanguards, are taking to attract and retain the talent they need to grow their businesses.

“Our research signals there is significant talent demand for a life-work shift,” said Tammy Browning, president of KellyOCG. “Even senior leaders are experiencing it and acknowledge that employers could be doing more. A shift in workplace culture is needed and organizations must evolve to remain competitive, profitable, and attractive to top talent.”

Among other findings of the study, leaders are struggling to make hybrid work a success. Just two in 10 companies believe that hybrid work is positively impacting organizational culture, and almost one-third (28%) expect the complexity of managing a hybrid workforce will eventually require a return to the office for most employees. While 66% say their firms are redefining their culture to fit a hybrid working world, only one-third believe they provide employees with an avenue to share feedback on hybrid work policies.

The report also revealed that employers are not going far or fast enough to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion or to support employees’ mental health needs. Approximately one-third have implemented innovative initiatives to improve DE&I, such as advocacy groups and support programs, while only 19% provide DE&I training for leaders. 

"A shift in workplace culture is needed and organizations must evolve to remain competitive, profitable, and attractive to top talent.”
Tammy Browning, president of KellyOCG.

Meanwhile, even though more than 25% report an increase in employee absences due to poor mental health, 70% do not foster a workplace culture where it’s acceptable to disclose mental health challenges as a reason for taking time off.

When it comes to adopting the latest tech tools for workforce development, companies are also woefully behind, according to KellyOCG’s findings. Nearly two-thirds of executives said their companies do not yet have data analytics tools that enable them to capture trends around employee retention and productivity — this, even though 76% of employers that have adopted such tools say they have been positively received by employees. Meanwhile, 64% report a lack of knowledge-sharing tools that foster stronger collaboration among hybrid, remote and in-office employees.

On the topic of bosses, another study, this one by the workforce management platform Humu, underscored the key role business leaders play in their people’s happiness. 

Employees with a manager who makes an effort to help them combat burnout are 13 times more likely to be satisfied with that boss and more than three times less likely to feel exhausted or overwhelmed, according to Humu’s poll of 240 full-time workers in the U.S. Meanwhile, employees who notice their managers taking action are 16% happier than their peers. 

In the survey, 58% said the biggest contributor to burnout was having a bad manager, while nearly all those surveyed — 95% — said a bad manager makes for a worse work experience. 

“The past two-plus years have shifted employee priorities and leaders that are out of touch with the realities and challenges their employees face today stand to lose,” said Laura Sapp, vp of talent at media group IAC, whose properties include Care.com and Angi. “Now more than ever before, managers and business leaders must listen to their employees, acknowledge the feedback and in many cases, adjust.”

Noting that the top desire of employees now is flexibility, Sapp suggested that employers should make every effort to support their people while also setting up the business for success.  

“Leaders must refocus, rethink and rearchitect the work by being outcome-oriented, cutting unnecessary tasks, and leveraging new technologies to optimize current roles.”
Steve Hatfield, global future of work leader at Deloitte.

“Business leaders today need to think outside of the four walls of their offices and give employees opportunities for connection and growth,” said Sapp. She advised hosting town hall meetings with senior leadership, bringing in guest speakers to touch on topics that are relevant to the workforce, and planning events like dinner cruises, themed happy hours or lunch gatherings for employees across departments. 

More importantly, however, she said managers must supply employees with the resources, training and opportunities for growth and the development of new skills.

Her company is among those that have chosen to do regular “pulse checks” with employees to gauge how they are doing, something that’s shaped IAC’s approach to hybrid work and employee events and experiences. 

“Employees want to be heard and feel supported, and on a more personal level, it goes a long way when you carve out time for individual check-ins,” Sapp stressed. “Ask how your employees are doing and really listen to what they say — the question can elicit many different responses these days.”

Steve Hatfield, global future of work leader at Deloitte, agreed that times have changed for the rank and file — as well as management. 

“Leaders must refocus, rethink and rearchitect the work by being outcome-oriented, cutting unnecessary tasks, and leveraging new technologies to optimize current roles,” he said.

Hatfield called the Great Resignation an opportunity for organizations to reconsider how work gets done across the organization, adding, “Those who can effectively reimagine their workforce and workplace will suffer less from the current labor shortage and will reap greater benefits in the long run.”