Leaders can Help Reclaim Purpose and Efficiency in the Workplace - Finance Silos

Leaders can Help Reclaim Purpose and Efficiency in the Workplace

The Great Resignation broke record after record throughout 2020 and 2021. In September, 2021 alone, 4.4 million people Americans quit their jobs! But the question is, why is this phenomenon still lingering 2 years after instability shook the market?

It’s not the pay, as skilled work and high paying jobs are feeling the brunt of unfilled job openings just about as much as anyone else. Nor is it benefits, as these have improved in accordance with the worker shortage. Working from home, or anywhere with internet access, has become a mainstream option and bonus for just about any job that can be done from a computer. But perhaps the dream of working in pajamas and having the fridge close by isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

Many people are actually craving their pre-pandemic routines, even with the downsides that came with it- namely time spent commuting, choosing presentable clothes everyday, and the guy who uses the office microwave to heat up tuna. While some enjoy and thrive in remote work, the fact that people are still quitting in record droves 2 years after the start of the pandemic says that there is still something missing.

In addition to the multitude of distractions in remote work, there is the sense of belonging, community, and culture that is sorely missed. A recent McKinsey survey found that a whopping 70% of American workers said their sense of purpose is largely defined by work! In addition, a 2021 Reuters survey showed that 90% of legal and tax professionals said their work provides them with a “significant sense of professional purpose”.

These same employees said that a big part of their sense of purpose comes from the ability to share knowledge with colleagues or from networking and with other professionals. These aspects are significantly harder to do in remote work . The problem that is driving so many to quit their jobs, or struggle to find their place, can be summed up in one word: purpose.

Solutions

There is no one quick fix to this, but finding solutions is critical in order to solve the skills gap and keep productivity and satisfaction high. Leaders need to think of a company-wide strategy that can build teamwork and community, all while catering to individual needs and evolving with new developments. The hard part is creating the sense of connection no matter what the situation is- in the office, virtual work, or a combination of the two.

Work makes up a major part of the day and energy, and employees are actively looking for leadership and a sense of work direction from those above them. Trust is a big part of this and the surprising numbers back it up. According to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, corporations are now the most trusted institutions in America, as a whopping 65% of respondents to the survey answered that my employer is the most trustworthy source of information! Surprisingly, (or unsurprisingly) this number was significantly higher than trusting the government or news media as sources of information- as close to half of all respondents (48% and 46% respectively) said that these organizations are divisive in society.

This survey shows that there is immense opportunity for executives and business leaders to take charge and improve aspects of the workplace. Although many employees are looking up to those above them for direction in things beyond the job, it starts with the workplace.

Transparency is the first step in trust and purpose, in which communication is key.

Examples of this are communicating with employees about the bigger picture, and holding transparent discussions about anything from day-to-day mundane tasks to the larger mission behind the scenes. It all starts with communication- meaning regular meetings, updates, and open discussions- whether in the office or virtually.

The next step is taking action by putting quantifiable actions behind the discussions about change and purpose. In the same survey, 76% of respondents said that they expect their company CEO’s to inform or shape conversations about jobs and the economy- meaning that they expect leaders to initiate it. Even small changes can help build a sense of connection that so many are yearning for, and once employees see that leadership is responsive, the connection and trust only grows.

In addition to open communication and showing trust, actively giving more responsibilities and providing a platform for growth is critical in employees finding a sense of purpose. Upskilling is one great way to show trust, as investing in-house and providing room for growth as a company initiative is one of the best ways to show appreciation.

Another way, specifically for CFOs and finance teams, is to implement FP&A automation. This frees up a tremendous amount of time that used to be spent on manual entries, that can now be used for utilizing hard skills and maximizing analysis, giving employees a bigger sense of purpose. Other automation platforms can help provide a sense of connection and leadership for businesses of all sizes and locations, in addition to providing value to employees by freeing up repetitive tasks.

Trust and purpose go hand in hand which means that this process will take time. The biggest challenge here is also the main catalyst for what feeds the problem- remote work. Business leaders will have to go through many iterations before finding what works for each organization- as there is no right or wrong answer. But with remote and hybrid work not going anywhere for the time being, leadership is more important than ever.

Those leaders who make an effort to improve their employee’s work by maximizing their skills and providing a sense of purpose, will reap the benefits of a more productive and connected workplace. This will simultaneously improve efficiency and help solve the skills shortage, all while providing an opportunity for growth and higher satisfaction, benefiting everyone in the long run.

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