An Open Letter to CHRO’s

Oct 19, 2021 | Political Agility

Dear HR Executive,

Few people outside your line of work can imagine the stress you’re under this year.  The headlines paint a picture that must keep you up at night.

The Great Resignation Is AcceleratingStrikes Sweeping Labor MarketWorkers Quitting These 4 Kinds of Jobs in Droves.

And now you have these budgets and projections for 2022 that must feel like “a shot in the dark” at some level.

Will you have the manpower to do the job?  Can you afford to be fully staffed with the payroll budget you have?  How many of your employees will make it through the entire year?

The picture isn’t as bleak as it appears at the moment.  But, it’s still not so bright, either.  Let’s start with some good news.



Worker Engagement Remains Unchanged

Gallup has tracked worker engagement for two decades.  Despite all the attention-grabbing stories about “The Big Quit,” American workers are no more or no less disengaged from their workplace than they were before the pandemic hit.

The results from a Sept. 27, 2021 Gallup survey reveal:

  • 36% Engaged – enthusiastic and committed to their jobs
  • 51% Not Engaged – psychologically unattached to their company
  • 13% Actively Disengaged – miserable and spreading negativity

By comparison, the number of actively disengaged respondents (despondents?) at the beginning of the Covid outbreak in March 2020 was 15%.

Granted, your organization may have been struggling with employee engagement before March 2020, but statistically speaking, this challenge is no worse than what you’ve already faced in the recent past.

You already know that disengaged employees are more absent/tardy, are outspoken in their criticism of the company, are more than twice as likely to resign, and don’t produce as much as their peers. Disengaged workers also create disengaged customers. Companies with low employee engagement fail to reach sales goals and suffer from lower consumer opinions of their brands.

One could speculate that the 2-point drop in the actively disengaged category is a result of millions of resignations pulling the highly dissatisfied workers out of the survey sample.



No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

You just came out of the crisis-that-was in 2020.  Maybe you took out a PPP loan to avoid laying off employees.  You invested in IT to create a virtual work environment when necessary.  You took extra precautions to protect essential workers. You did a yeoman’s effort to save your people’s jobs and livelihoods.  That’s to be applauded.


In some cases, you’ve set yourselves up for a rude awakening in the future.  In an attempt to be benevolent during tough times, some employees were given performance marks that they didn’t really earn.  Maybe their production numbers were rounded up to help them qualify for a bonus, and now your comp structure is bloated.

On top of it all, employees who have worked remotely for the past year are getting accustomed to no supervision, little accountability, and generous performance management.  It’s a perfect recipe for the wrong type of culture – one of entitlement.  People are being incentivized to remain loyal in various ways: salary, promotion, PTO, schedules. What’s next?

The challenge will come when adjustments are made next year to correct the aberrations in 2021, because these budgets you have to stick with are going to be tough.  Some employees’ compensation will likely be disproportionately affected – which could lead to further disengagement.



Be Selective, Be Engaging, Be Monitoring

The number of workers who are open to a job change is sobering.  However, it’s easier for talent to thrive by getting promoted internally, sometimes, than it is to find career advancement outside their organization. Schedule meaningful conversations with key players and ask, “What would it take to get you excited to stay?”

Leverage performance management to solidify the commitment of your engaged workers and those riding the fence whom you’d like to retain.  Allow them to declare their goals and develop a path to get them there.  Most importantly, communicate with them regularly to note progress.

Remote work and virtual teams revealed an unexpected virtue in the workplace.  Managers learned the work could be done outside their constant vigil.  Rules of engagement need to be redefined before this newfound trust is broken.

Trust, but verify.  Drive accountability.  Give the gift of feedback.

Rather than focusing on the outcomes – when it’s too late for coaching to make a difference – measure the metrics of leading indicators and coach for behaviors that drive results.

Fourth quarter is the perfect time to re-engage with your workforce to lay out exactly where you stand in relation to annual goals.  Ask for buy-in from everyone to strive for those goals before year-end.  If you have people who truly don’t want to give the effort, show them the door.  Get them out of the way of your teammates who are actually interested in being on the bus.  All you are losing is drag.

For those whose performance merit, promote them.  Encourage them.  Bonus them.  Bend over backward to retain them.  Greater employee engagement brings better company results.


Of course, you can’t do this alone.  It requires cooperation from players on many levels to manage change as your organization navigates this period.  Pour knowledge into your managers and secure their commitment to your plans to right the ship in 2022.

In our next blog, we’ll share suggestions on how to conduct a Q4 check-in as part of performance management.

Very truly yours,

We Build Exceptional Leaders.