Leadership in Action – Labor Shortage? A Wake-Up Call for Better Cultures

two men laughing white sitting on chairs

As we work through the hybrid workplace, potential shortage of workers and an increased demand for goods and services, we, as leaders, need to realize we just got a wake-up call. Culture matters more than ever.

While McDonald’s is offering up to $500 sign-on bonuses, their competitors with better cultures are not having to offer these. Just days before Jeff Bezos announced he is stepping down, Amazon added two new values to their code, including, “Strive to be the earth’s best employer.” While there are many reasons for Amazon’s changes, as well as the potential workers shortage, it is worth exploring the demand for better cultures.

Prior to COVID, many, but not all, organizations strove to be the “Best Place to Work.” These organizations understood that a healthy culture was a great recruiting tool. Other organizations, that did not worry about their culture as much, had a work force that generally believed they were stuck. They did not have a choice, so they stayed in their place of work because for them it was a “have to.” In the past, we have seen an economic cost for unhealthy cultures in terms of higher turnover and the need to pay slightly higher rates to retain employees. However, it was not nearly as vivid as it is now.

When COVID came, the assumptions around “have to” were immediately challenged, as people realized that they could survive and maybe even thrive on less. Coming out of COVID, people have placed a higher economic value on a great place to work. They have realized that they do not “have to” be stuck. They can choose to work where they will be valued for their efforts.

As leaders, we create culture in every interaction we have with our staff. So, are we engaging them, or constraining them? Do we help them to see that their efforts do make a difference, and they are valued for their contribution? Even in workplaces that have succeeded in a “Best Place to Work” process, individual leaders still make a difference. It appears that employees join organizations, but they leave leaders.

As a leader, be sure that you are Connecting the Dots, Energizing Action and Nurturing Growth. Not only engage your team to great performance, but establish the culture that will sustain that performance.