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Outlook 2022: Culture and Employee Happiness

Dec. 23, 2021
The Great Resignation can be a net positive as it moves people into jobs they want to perform, as long as companies offer the requisite training.

Editor’s note: Given the remarkable changes in the industrial world during our two years of COVID-19, IndustryWeek’s editors asked contributors and business leaders to share how their outlooks have been changed by the ongoing challenges. John Dyer’s comments are the first in several Outlook 2022 stories that we’ll be running for the next several days.

“I quit!” A friend has already changed jobs twice in the past year. He quit a job he had been in for over 10 years to take one that offered more pay and better benefits. After only a few weeks, he realized he was miserable and ended up taking another job with less pay but one that was in an organization with a collaborative culture and in a field that was more suited to his interests. He is now happier than ever in this new career. 

In October 2021, 4 million people quit their job and there are currently 11 million jobs available to fill. “The Great Resignation” seems to be occurring at all levels and in most industries.  There are many reasons that this is happening (safety concerns, work from home debates, burnout, etc.), but we may look back in 10 years and realize that this was a good step toward improving company cultures and overall employee happiness. Due to the Great Resignation, my outlook on how cultures in organizations will evolve has changed in a couple of ways.

As the focus continues to shift from an employer- to employee-centric environment, I have become more optimistic that people will make the move to find a career that better fits their passions, skill sets, hopes and dreams. This will lead to a more enthusiastic and productive workforce. Organizations will need to take it upon themselves to begin massive training and apprentice programs in order to help people reach their full potential in the areas that best fit their interests.

For example, a company I work with launched a three-year machinist development program. They had over 250 people apply, including several who already work in the factory (even though it meant a return to an entry-level pay amount). I believe that a trend we will see in the 2020s is that those companies with strong people-development investments will significantly outperform their peers and will have a much better chance to reach full employment.

A change I hope will happen due to the great resignation is a shift to leadership that embraces a culture of teamwork, collaboration, improvement and overall empathy. Organizations in all industries are soon going to come to the realization that people are willing to quit and join a company that embraces these values. 

In the past few years, I have noticed that many of the winners of IndustyWeek’s Best Plants competition are also winners of various “best place to work” awards. There is a strong correlation between performance and happiness of the employees. Everyone wants to be involved, have a say in how their process is designed, and be part of a winning team. Soon, companies that have embraced these values will be overflowing with job candidates and those who do not… well, they may not survive the great resignation.

IndustryWeek contributor John Dyer is president of the JD&A – Process Innovation Co. and has 32 years of experience in the field of improving processes.

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