The Great Recalibration – Four Million People Making the Same Decision for Four Million Different Reasons

The past two years have been a decidedly different world.  The Great Resignation and the Great Reflection that prompted it were only the beginning.  The bigger trend is the resulting Great Recalibration – an opportunity for people to rechart their course to find greater balance, purpose, or simply better working conditions.

The pandemic laid bare deeper feelings about who we are and the role that work and work relationships play in our lives.  It resulted in The Great Reflection – people thinking more significantly about what they wanted their lives to look like and the role work, among other things, would play in supporting that life.  For many, this Great Reflection led to The Great Resignation.  But the combination of these factors was simply the groundwork for what is the more meaningful trend behind reflection and resignation – The Great Recalibration.

The Great Recalibration is simultaneously massive and individualized.  As reflected in the staggering quit rates, millions of people are readjusting the course of their lives, yet each is doing it for very personal reasons.  

Why recalibrate?

Recalibration is about more than quitting a job or chasing a higher salary.  The choices folks are making are driven primarily by a desire to change their lives, not just their paychecks.  

People are changing their livelihoods and their lives – making an alteration to their compass.  It may mean further changes to where they live, how much time they dedicate to work, and when they get their work done.  

What Are People Recalibrating?

Individuals are leaving industries such as leisure and hospitality looking for safer and more stable work or to pursue their passion.  Some are opting out of their professional jobs to raise their children.  Baby Boomers are choosing an early retirement widening the already massive gap in talent.

But it’s not all about quitting a job.  In recalibrating, folks are making other changes and, in the process, altering the employer-employee relationship.  Some are shifting to an independent contractor status.  Many are abandoning their physical office space in favor of remote arrangements or a new geography.  Still others are altering their conventional work week opting for “odd hours” while still getting their work done.  

What they are not abandoning is their destination.  Why?  Because their destination is driven by their values and, by and large those values have not shifted – though they may have come into greater focus.  And it’s those core values, the combination of which looks different for each-and-every-individual, that doesn’t change.  What does change is the path folks are taking to satisfy those values.  The true trend is not in the resignation, but the recalibration.  

Leaders Will Need to Recalibrate Too

It’s critical for leaders to tune in to the “why” of an employee’s recalibration.  Don’t just listen to the words, listen to the subtext and what folks are saying they really want.  And while you might not be able to support every employee’s recalibration, you just might be able to reconfigure elements of a job to catch a few folks before they reach for the door.

Adjust your thinking and take the actions that support recalibration including:

  • Adopt a growth mindset.  Is there only one way, in your mind, for your folks to accomplish results?  Produce for you?  Can you explore other approaches to how your people get the job done?  Can you take the conversation away from time spent and more to results achieved and, in doing so, open new possibilities for how to get work done?  Get creative and lean into the recalibration with support.
  • Prioritizing the well-being of your employees.  Tune in to sources of fatigue or exhaustion and help adjust job parameters to allay concerns or challenges.  This might be modifications to when and how people get the job done to better flex with personal priorities.
  • Establishing clear goals and readjusting those goals as necessary.  Recalibrating isn’t about eliminating contributions to the organization – and employees aren’t asking for that.  But it may include getting focused on the highest priorities. And for some who may be near retirement age, it might mean transitioning to a consultative role or creating a knowledge transfer plan.
  • Understanding what your employees value.  While leaders can’t adopt the values of their employees, they can ask about them.  Draw out values with a simple question such as, “What were the high points of the week for you?  What were the lesser moments?” Perhaps there is an entrepreneurial spirit or an unmet creative personal goal that can be met through a rotational assignment or sabbatical opportunity.  You won’t know unless you ask.
  • Advocating for ways to recognize-and-reward.  While compensation is not always the primary driver, it would be short sighted not to acknowledge that compensation is important.  While not all employees are recalibrating because of a higher paycheck, increased compensation can’t be ignored.
  • Embracing virtual.  The great work-from-home experiment, two years in, is no longer a pilot.  Folks have proven they can get-it-done without a commute and with many personal advantages.  To be unwilling to embrace a work-from-home scenario is to simply be on the wrong-side-of-history

As the pandemic continues to put stress-and-strain on an already fatigued workforce, many individuals will reflect on whether they can remain physically and emotionally healthy in their current job conditions.  Some will resign.  But reflect and resign are not stand alone trends – they are plot points for the Great Recalibration – the course correction millions of employees are making to arrive at their true destination, satisfaction of their values.  That is the real trend that can’t be ignored.