Workplace Culture and Job Stability: What’s the Connection?
When the term Great Resignation started rumbling through the workplace, many pointed to employers’ inflexibility as the root cause. The phrase saturated business news after remote work became normalized during the pandemic. Journalists maintained that people liked the option of working from home so much that they’d leave their current jobs for the right to telecommute.
Yet even as many workers moved on during the past several years, new studies are finding that flexibility is no longer most employees’ primary concern. Instead, as the pandemic recedes and the working world resets, job stability and security are people’s priorities.
Job Security Vs. Job Stability
The basic definition of job security is when employees feel they are unlikely to be fired or laid off. It’s a topic increasingly on people’s minds in today’s volatile economy.
For example, a recent Lincoln Financial Survey found that 27 percent of adults worry about job security. And 52 percent of respondents in a study conducted by global communications agency BCW rated job security as the most important aspect of their work experience.
Job stability refers to the quality of an employee’s work experience in their current position. The extent to which people feel supported, valued, acknowledged, and respected directly corresponds to the level of stability they perceive in their job.
Job stability is rooted in an organization’s culture, and it’s what anchors people in their professional roles. Unsurprisingly, the BCW study found that 48 percent of workers consider company culture the most important aspect of their work experience.
The Impact of Job Security & Stability on Employees
The news about the economy is keeping many workers up at night. For example, Forbes reports that recent Conductor research shows “searches for ‘mass layoffs’ increased by 1,000 percent since last year while ‘company layoffs’ searches increased by 650 percent and ‘workforce reduction’ searches increased by 50 percent.”
Inflation and a potential recession are real concerns, and some companies are tightening their belts and reducing staff in response. But despite the dismal news, most qualified people aren’t likely to lose their jobs. That’s because organizations that want to prevail during an unsteady economy need seasoned and skilled workers now more than ever.
Correspondingly, employers must create a stable working environment for their people to perform at their best.
How Job Stability Impacts Employers
Workers who wonder if their jobs might be on the line or feel that their jobs are unstable are more likely to become Great Resignation statistics. And turnover is expensive. For example, the Society for Human Resources reports that the cost of replacing an employee can be as high as 50-60 percent of their annual salary.
Employees operating in an unstable environment may stay on board for reasons ranging from a steady income to fear of the unknown. But that doesn’t prevent them from quiet quitting, the term for performing well enough to earn a paycheck without making any discretionary effort.
People in this category usually have a weak engagement with their employer and can negatively influence those around them. As a result, overall morale, productivity, quality, and service can slide and negatively affect the bottom line.
How to Ensure Job Stability
Leaders of companies not anticipating clear-cutting layoffs may assume their staff feels secure and stable. But given the uncertainty of the past several years and a ceaseless negative news cycle, they shouldn’t take their employees’ wellbeing for granted. Those who intend for their organizations to succeed owe it to their stakeholders and team members to build a motivating, supportive work culture.
To achieve this goal, sociologist and author Tracy Brower suggests leaders focus on four primary actions in a recent Forbes article:
- Tune in
- Develop and empower
Mastering these areas will help leaders retain employees and create the conditions for their staff to feel invigorated and maximize their potential.
As basic as it may sound, many employers don’t really know what’s on their employees’ minds. But as Brower notes, leaders need to understand the people who work for them if they want to bring out their best. So while general data and extensive studies can give leaders useful perspectives, they should also get a more nuanced read on the individuals on their team.
Brower recommends seeking employee feedback in surveys, focus groups, interviews, and by observing them on the job. She notes: “Quantitative data like surveys can tell you what people think, but qualitative data like discussions can tell you why people are reacting as they are.”
She suggests leaders and tiered managers go beyond aggregated data to understand people as individuals. They can achieve this by asking employees questions, developing stronger relationships, showing empathy, and helping them align their work with purpose.
Every company has a work culture. But Brower echoes David J. Friedman’s mantra that effective cultures are created by design. The author and CultureWise CEO has written two books and spoken to thousands of business leaders about the importance of intentionally developing the organizational culture they want. The key to achieving this is identifying and defining the behaviors that will shape the culture and help employees flourish.
It’s also essential for leaders to help employees understand how their work helps the company achieve its mission and vision. For example, they should provide their team members with clarity about their roles and responsibilities and what they mean in the larger picture. The behaviors they outline will assist their staff to do their best work in this broader context and confidently confront challenges.
In addition, leaders must work to build trust among their people by making transparency a priority. Employees feel much more secure if they have a truthful boss who shares information and levels with them about the company’s challenges. And leaders who demonstrate integrity and openness foster similar behaviors in their staff, which helps everyone feel more grounded and comfortable at work.
DEVELOP & EMPOWER
Developing and empowering employees is a significant way to energize staff and strengthen an organization. Some leaders may think educating their employees is outside of their budget. But companies can still empower their people to grow even if they can’t afford expensive training programs or to subsidize additional education.
One of the most effective ways to help employees grow is having managers who understand their role in their team members’ development. Managing people is a skill beyond telling people what to do. Like a coach, a manager’s job is to encourage their team members and help them improve.
Critical skills for managers to master are being clear about expectations and setting up a system of positive accountability that helps their team members shine. Leaders who train their managers to be mentors and motivators will build employees’ self-esteem and make them feel more secure in their jobs.
Brower notes that work has changed over the past several years, so the work experience should also evolve. She recommends:
- Creating places where people want to show up and do their best
- Provide areas where they can focus, collaborate, learn, socialize, and rejuvenate
- Ensure processes are keeping up with shifting customer needs
- Upgrade technology to support new ways of working, such as remote or hybrid formats
As Brower explains, this complex era for workers and work experiences is ideal for resetting, reinventing, and reimagining work. It would be easy for leaders to succumb to the disruptions that continue to impact every industry. Instead, they should view today’s challenges as reasons to elevate their company culture and employee stability so their companies can succeed.