There is no 'new normal', only the postnormal.
Quote of the Moment
We are in a liminal space, and it is here that old power structures get destabilized and old rules lose their potency. Where cultures and conversations come into contact with one another like rarely before. Where hybridity becomes possible, and emergence and newness become the gift. It is a space where the previously impossible and undreamed of find form. This is where we are, and it requires all of us to move together — and to treat one another with a little bit more gentleness as we do it.
| Jessica Orkin, Liminal Leadership
What’s driving ‘The Great Resignation’? Donald Sull, Charles Sull, and Ben Zweig look back to the start of 2021, when ‘more than 40% of all employees were thinking about leaving their jobs’1. The three researchers wanted to know what was driving this huge upheaval:
To better understand the sources of the Great Resignation and help leaders respond effectively, we analyzed 34 million online employee profiles to identify U.S. workers who left their employer for any reason (including quitting, retiring, or being laid off) between April and September 2021. The data, from Revelio Labs, where one of us (Ben) is the CEO, enabled us to estimate company-level attrition rates for the Culture 500, a sample of large, mainly for-profit companies that together employ nearly one-quarter of the private-sector workforce in the United States.
They found very different rates of attrition across industries, and within industries [emphasis mine].
Not surprisingly, companies with a reputation for a healthy culture, including Southwest Airlines, Johnson & Johnson, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and LinkedIn, experienced lower-than-average turnover during the first six months of the Great Resignation.
Although the sample is small, these pairs hint at another, more intriguing pattern. More-innovative companies, including SpaceX, Tesla, Nvidia, and Netflix, are experiencing higher attrition rates than their more staid competitors. The pattern is not limited to technology-intensive industries, since innovative companies like Goldman Sachs and Red Bull have suffered higher turnover as well.
To dig deeper into the drivers of intra-industry turnover, we calculated how each Culture 500 company’s attrition rate compared with the average of its industry as a whole. This measure, which we call industry-adjusted attrition, translates each company’s attrition rate into standard deviations above or below the average for its industry.
We also analyzed the free text of more than 1.4 million Glassdoor reviews, using the Natural Employee Language Understanding platform developed by CultureX, a company two of us (Donald and Charles) cofounded. For each Culture 500 company, we measured how frequently employees mentioned 172 topics and how positively they talked about each topic. We then analyzed which topics best predicted a company’s industry-adjusted attrition rate.
The bottom line? It’s not the money: it’s toxic corporate culture.
In general, corporate culture is a much more reliable predictor of industry-adjusted attrition than how employees assess their compensation. The figure below displays the five predictors of relative attrition. To give a sense of their relative importance, we’ve benchmarked each element relative to the predictive power of compensation. A toxic corporate culture, for example, is 10.4 times more powerful than compensation in predicting a company’s attrition rate compared with its industry.
Toxic corporate culture. A toxic corporate culture is by far the strongest predictor of industry-adjusted attrition and is 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover. Our analysis found that the leading elements contributing to toxic cultures include failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; workers feeling disrespected; and unethical behavior.
The authors promise additional research analysis on toxic corporate culture.
The takeaway is that there are ways to try to retain employees other than throwing money at them — for example, lateral career opportunities are 2.5 times more influential than compensation in retention — but there is no obvious way to counter toxic culture and its impact on employee departure.
work futures is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a paid subscriber.
IBM has apparently been sacking older workers in recent years, calling them ‘dinobabies’ in internal emails, and wanting to make them an ‘extinct species’. Additional animus was directed toward older women, a ‘dated maternal workforce’ because ‘they really don’t understand social or engagement. Not digital natives. A real threat for us.’
Nice. Real nice.
Elizabeth Dwoskin reports Meta’s announced its employees will now be called metamates:
At a virtual all-hands meeting Tuesday, Facebook escalated its attempts to not only rebrand itself but also manage its demoralized and often adversarial workforce with a new set of corporate values derived from a naval slogan.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who renamed the company Meta late last year, held up a slide deck showcasing new corporate values: Employees would be expected to first prioritize Meta, followed by a person’s team (metamates), followed by the individual (me). He said that the company’s corporate values would be “Live in the future” and “Be direct and respect your colleagues,” according to three people familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal matters. It was previously “Be open.”
Years ago, the company’s slogan of “Move fast and break things” was changed to just “Move fast.” On Tuesday, the company announced it would now be “Move fast together.”
No more breaking things, since they broke too much:
The company changed its name to Meta to help shift the focus to building hardware, a rebranding that followed revelations by a whistleblower that showed how much the company knew about its damage to society, including negatively affecting the body image of young women and allowing disinformation to spread.
And the stock is plummeting:
I wonder if the various name changes are actually slowing the collapse of employee morale? I doubt it.
Publishers Weekly saves us from reading Competing in the New World of Work: How Radical Adaptability Separates the Best from the Rest by Keith Ferrazzi, Kian Gohar, and Noel Weyrich.
Most of the advice, though, is fairly general and familiar, and wrapped thickly in jargon. There’s not much to separate this one from the pack of similar titles.
A very in-depth (long) story about Jaz Brisack, A Rhodes Scholar barista and the fight to unionize Starbucks, about the Starbucks union formation in Buffalo NY.
“The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work — Are We Ready?” Microsoft, March 22, 2021, www.microsoft.com.