What the Great Resignation taught us about workplace experience—an EMBARC recap [Video]

"If your workplace experience is constantly outside the expectation margin, it's time to refresh your EVP"

Welcome to late autumn, which means our annual EMBARC HR Innovators Summit is over—or is it? We decided to divvy up one full conference into monthly bite-sized infusions of what’s new in talent acquisition/recruitment/HR to bring you our EMBARC Talent Talks. For the next five months CareerArc is hosting these streamable innovative talks for free. Karen Viera of Church’s Chicken, Shawn Scott of Vi Living, Nicole Parish of Qualtrics, and Nirali Matalia of Saama Technologies are just a few of the major innovators and practitioners poised to grace our virtual stage.

We invite you to take a seat and sample our October 20th talk, in which we had the pleasure of welcoming Bryan Adams from Ph.Creative to our inaugural table where he dished about what The Great Resignation has revealed about workplace experience (and how companies can shape it to their advantage).

Reframing the Great Resignation as the Great Epiphany

Companies tend to think of the Great Resignation primarily from their point of view, and who can blame them? After all, organizations have seen a record number of employees resigning over the past year. But according to Bryan Adams, understanding and effectively handling the phenomenon requires a little mental reframing and refocusing on your employer brand strategy.

The Great Resignation is actually the Great Epiphany. If we call it the Great Resignation, we’re thinking in the perspective of an organization and what is happening to our organization,” Bryan explained. “I always try to put myself in the shoes of the candidate or the employee, because essentially, they’re the most important stakeholder. What’s happened is there’s been a great epiphany. People are waking up all over the world and saying, ‘What? I don’t have to get in a car or ride a train for an hour there and back every day to sit in an arbitrary four walls to do my job? OMG, I have an epiphany: I’m not going to do that anymore.’ It’s an epiphany that organizations can’t do anything about. And the fact is, great people are leaving great companies, and if we try and control it we’ll lose our minds and we’ll lose the game. So I want us to reframe it.

“For everybody in talent acquisition, employer branding, recruiters, all of us in our HR and the people community, I also think that this is now the Great Awakening. From my clients and my client partners and my communities, what we’re seeing is organizations suddenly waking up to the fact that people are the most important thing in our organization. Imagine that!”

As an example of how you can portray this on social media, take this post from Panda Express.

“But it’s also the time of employer brand,” continues Bryan. “It’s time to get smart about employer brand strategy and what it can do as a competitive advantage to organizations, large or small.”

Workplace experience should be realistically set within “the happiness bracket of employer brands”

So just how does employer branding affect workplace experience, and how can it help stop people from resigning? According to Bryan, trying to attract candidates with a bland employer brand can actually be counterproductive when it comes to recruiting and retaining long-term talent.

“I call this the happiness bracket of employer brands,” Bryan said. “In times of uncertainty, volatility, change, and transition, your reputation will determine the staying power, the loyalty, and the willingness of your employees to support the business. Without the reputation reminding people why they’re there, if the employee experience is outside the realm of experience for too long, then people are going to leave. And we are seeing that across the world with the Great Resignation.

“Reputation influences tolerance. We can’t control our reputation; we can only influence it. But it can be heavily influenced and strategically built: it only matters what people think and feel, not what you say and do. So, the word influence is critical here and we have to be open-minded enough to accept that when people have a great epiphany, there’s not a damn thing you can do about it but we can prepare for it. And incidentally, I’m focusing on reputation, but I do want to stress, if your employee/workplace experience is constantly outside the expectation margin, it’s time to refresh your EVP. That’s a great indication that you’re not meeting expectations.”

So what’s the best way to set and meet expectations? Be clear in your EVP about what candidates are expected to contribute, and what they will receive in return. If your EVP is clear, it should be an easy decision for candidates to make one way or another. If it’s not an easy decision, then your EVP is not defined well enough. Think of it this way: if your organization was a person, having a reputation as a specialist (like a surgeon) comes with specific demands and benefits, whereas having a vague reputation as being a jack of all trades is much harder to define in terms of both expectations and potential drawbacks.

“The obstacle is the way”

As surprising as it may seem, ensuring your employer brand emphasizes both the positive and the negative about your workplace experience is a winning strategy. This upfront approach not only differentiates you from other organizations—it also tends to attract the type of devoted employees who tend to stay longer and grow with the organization.

And talking about devoted employees, here’s a great social media post Cedar Springs Meijer did about an employee who’d worked and grown within the company for over 50 years.

As Bryan explained, “There are going to be harsh realities and adversities in your employee experience that, if positioned correctly, can actually bring more value to the accomplishment, the appreciation, and the acknowledgement and achievement that you can see inside an organization. So, it’s not more about just being transparent and saying, ‘Look, we want to tell you that you’re going to find this is rubbish inside our organization.’ It’s the justification and the context. There’s a great book by Ryan Holiday that says The Obstacle is the Way. And it’s about stoicism. The message is, the big challenge, the big rock, that’s the whole deal. That’s what people want to know.”

Remember the surgeon vs. jack of all trades? With a specific reputation like a surgeon’s, it’s easy to detail the downsides: long hours, lots of problems and incredible responsibility, the difficulty of occasionally losing a patient. But those downsides provide context for what makes being a surgeon great: without the hard work and harsh realities, the reward of saving lives and being highly respected isn’t nearly as profound. The same thing goes for an organization’s reputation.

As Bryan says: “Be upfront with the harsh realities by design inside your organization, justify them, and tell the stories of how people have thrived, not despite them but because of them. You will find people who actually love the environment that you’re in. You can embrace these harsh realities to be a differentiator and to be something that compels a small proportion of your talent audience to want to know more and join. And those are the ones who will thrive, those are the ones who’ll stay, and they’ll be loyal, and they’ll be evangelists even when they leave.”

Save yourself a seat at our next session!

Next up: join us on November 17th for our talent talk about transforming your brand into a talent magnet!

EMBARC Table Talks

How to participate:

  • Attending. It’s completely free and you can earn SHRM recertification credits, so be sure to sign up soon.
  • Participating. Great content is just one component; there’s also lively discussion. You can literally pull up a virtual chair and participate in roundtable discussions, join in on speed networking with other attendees, and book 1:1 consultations to dive into your social recruiting strategy. Participate when and how you please.
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