How to navigate The Great Resignation

Dec 16, 2021 · 8 min read · Leave a comment
Betsy Bula GitLab profile

The Great Resignation is upon us. Turnover rates in the U.S. continued to reach historic highs in October 2021, with more than 4.2 million people quitting their jobs that month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While this Great Resignation can be attributed to a number of factors, it’s clear that remote and flexible work is high on the list for knowledge workers globally. 

In fact, in GitLab’s 2021 Remote Work Report, 52% of remote workers said they would consider leaving their co-located company for a remote role. If remote work was suddenly no longer an option, one in three respondents would quit their job. 

Whether you’re a job seeker looking for your first remote role or an employer hoping to embrace remote work to attract and retain the most talented people in this new era of work, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Job seekers: What to look for when considering a remote job

Working at GitLab Commit London 2019 Working at GitLab Commit London 2019

In a job market that is stacked in your favor, you may find yourself comparing multiple offers to decide on your next move. While many companies now claim to support remote and flexible work, they are likely not all equal in terms of how their remote culture truly operates.

Each person has individual preferences and needs from their employer, but there are some factors that no job title or compensation package can offset. You’ll want to ask a few critical questions during the interview process to be sure the remote role you’re considering meets your expectations. 

1. Where do the leaders work?

There’s a dramatic difference between remote work being tolerated and it being truly ingrained into every process and norm within the organization. 

Where the company’s leaders (and your manager) spend most of their time is an excellent indicator of the level of commitment they have for remote or hybrid work. If you’re considering joining a hybrid organization where most senior leaders and even your manager primarily work in an office, you may want to ask more questions about how they ensure all team members have an equitable employee experience.

2. How does the team communicate?

In any hybrid or all-remote organization, communication practices are a foundational piece to team members feeling like they’re able to thrive. Ask about whether the company maintains a handbook, or single source of truth, that all team members can access. If not, how is information disseminated? 

It’s a good sign if there are asynchronous communication practices in place, and tools that allow teams to collaborate and share information regardless of the hours they work each day.

3. What does "flexibility" actually mean?

Many companies will use the word “flexibility” on their career site, but it can be hard to know what that actually means in practice.

Is the team expected to be online during certain hours? Will the company track your online hours? These are potential red flags to dig into more in the interview process. Keep in mind that an organization that truly believes in remote work will track your results, not your hours spent on your laptop.

Having true autonomy over your schedule means you’ll have the opportunity to work non-linear workdays, be there for family and friends when needed, and get work done during your peak productivity hours. This allows you to shape your work around your life, not the other way around.

4. Will you be set up for success?

When you’re starting out in a remote role, you need the right tools, training, and equipment to be productive and happy.

Find out whether you’ll be offered equipment, or be able to expense what you’ll need to create a healthy remote workspace. Some organizations will offer to cover expenses of joining a coworking space if you prefer not to work at home everyday.

Also be sure to ask what the onboarding process will look like and how your manager and team will support you through the first weeks and months. It’s important to have the resources you need as you learn the company’s culture and adopt new remote skills, especially if this is your first remote role.

Employers: Evolve your organization to keep talented people engaged

GitLab all-remote at scale illustration

The world of work has undergone a dramatic evolution since the start of the pandemic, putting the onus on business leaders and hiring managers to make sure their processes and cultures evolve too. What worked in the past to retain team members may simply not meet their needs today.

Despite the pressure to keep retention as high as possible, remember that some attrition is natural. You don’t want to prevent team members from pursuing the next step in their career, even if that means leaving the organization. It’s also important to recognize when someone is not aligned with your values, because this can cause your culture to erode over time.

1. Ask the right questions (and listen)

You’re probably already surveying your team regularly about their overall satisfaction with your company as an employer. But what are you doing with that information? If you’re asking team members about their work preferences but not using those results as a catalyst for change, your best employees are likely to start looking elsewhere.

Sharing a summary of the results transparently will also go a long way in helping to build trust, create accountability, and give everyone a better understanding of the breadth of needs within the team.

Managers also play a crucial role in the employee experience equation, especially in a remote or hybrid environment. They should be checking in with their team members regularly in 1:1 meetings to understand what’s going on in their lives, help them combat isolation and burnout, and to keep tabs on their overall engagement.

2. Don't try to replicate the in-office experience remotely

If you were once a colocated company that has recently adopted remote or hybrid work, this means rethinking your processes, norms, workflows, and even your culture. You may have been able to attract and keep talented people engaged in the past by offering stellar on-site perks, but what does your culture look like when the office is stripped away?

Instead of trying to force old habits to work in a dramatically different setting, take a look at your organizational design as a whole, and start evolving it. This includes how your team communicates, how you recognize and promote people, how you handle meetings, whether you track output or input, and so much more.

If possible, consider hiring a Head of Remote, or someone who is experienced in organizational design and remote practices.

3. Build a culture of trust, flexibility, and autonomy

There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to when and where a diverse team of people can do their best work. That’s why allowing your team to have full autonomy in shaping their workdays and weeks is the best way to boost productivity and build mutual trust within your organization.

For this to work, you’ll need to focus on measuring results, not input. Step away from the tracking devices. Instead, outline each team's and each individual's goals on a quarterly or monthly basis, and measure their success based on those goals, not on whether they were sitting in a chair during certain hours.

4. Create clarity through documentation

To provide a top-notch employee experience in a remote, hybrid, or even colocated setting, your goal should be to have no unwritten rules. This means you’ll need a handbook, or a single source of truth, where you document everything a team member needs to know about your company.

This high level of documentation extends to how you approach meetings as well. Every meeting should have an agenda attached to the invite ahead of time. During meetings, take copious notes so that there’s enough context around the discussion. Not only does this create shared clarity for those in attendance, it’s also more inclusive of those who are unable to attend.

With the dramatic rise in remote-friendly roles and organizations embracing borderless hiring, job seekers today have more options and opportunities than ever before. Organizations and leaders must begin to evolve and be more intentional about how they support their employees beyond the requisite compensation and benefits. Communicate openly, be willing to iterate, and extend empathy and grace to one another.

Looking for more resources and remote best practices? Check out GitLab’s Guide to Remote Work.

“Wondering how to navigate The Great Resignation? @gitlab shares tips for leaders and job seekers to embrace the future of work.” – Betsy Bula

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