DOUGLAS, Isle of Man, Sept. 23, 2022. A globally-recognised thinker management thinker and author of fifteen books (including Becoming a Better Boss and Rethinking Management), Professor Birkinshaw was speaking on the Conversations on Climate podcast on the subject of leadership for disruptive times. Following a wide-ranging conversation on climate change, management failure and advice for future MBA cohorts, he was asked about post-pandemic leadership across the generation gap.
‘Don’t steal other people’s decisions – give them the opportunity to learn and grow and make mistakes, give them the freedom to create,’ Birkinshaw replied. By contrast, he noted that too many experienced managers are ‘controlling’ and don’t offer their employees opportunities which excite them at work – which has only fuelled the Big Quit.
Younger workers leading resignation figures
The ‘Great Resignation’ is the term applied to the global phenomenon of increasing voluntary quit rates amongst employees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 4m people a month have resigned from their jobs since mid-2021 in the United States, the highest rates this century. Whilst the phenomenon has been most closely studied in Western economies, similar trends have been noted in developing economies, such as the rise of the ‘lying flat’ [tang ping] movement in China.
Millennial and Gen-Z cohorts have led the great resignation, with quit rates amongst older generations actually declining in many areas. Resignations have also varied by gender and identity, reflecting the differentiated, and unequal, experiences of the pandemic and labour market across the workforce.
‘Lack of Developmental Opportunities’
Whilst issues of pay, job fit, childcare struggles, and the rise of long COVID have all been suggested as key causes of higher quit rates, Professor Birkinshaw highlighted that for most workers, ‘number one was essentially a lack of developmental opportunities…to grow and develop with their organisations.’
Workers who have taken jobs are communicating to a hiring manager that, ‘they want to do some of your job for you,’ he pointed out, and ‘they want to be told here is an opportunity which can be enlarged into.’
The podcast host, United Renewables CEO Chris Caldwell, agreed that ‘at heart, we’re all micromanagers.’ Despite admitting that, ‘I need to take this advice myself,’ Birkinshaw was adamant that ‘the biggest single thing we can do is give people interesting work to do,’ and so empower them to be more autonomous and creative in their roles.
‘They will more likely stay in that role, and fingers crossed, they will also then reflect that down on their own teams.’
Conversations on Climate brings world-leading thinkers from business and academia together to share their expertise on the subject of climate change. Previous guests include Sir Andrew Likierman, Julio Dal Poz, and Professor Jean-Pierre Benoît.
All previous episodes can be found here.
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