How to reverse the 'great resignation' - opinion

When employers invest in building inclusive, diverse workplaces, employees are more likely to feel valued and important to the company.

Fellows at a Masa Career Development Event (photo credit: MASA ISRAEL JOURNEY)
Fellows at a Masa Career Development Event
(photo credit: MASA ISRAEL JOURNEY)

When the United States went into lockdown in March 2020, millions of Americans suddenly found themselves with more free time than they’d had in years. Some people took up cooking, others learned a new language, but recent findings from the Labor Department found that scores of Americans used last year’s pause for a vastly different purpose – to rethink their careers.

According to recent findings from the Labor Department, nearly 12 million Americans quit their jobs this spring, a phenomenon many economists have dubbed “the Great Resignation.” Some of this decrease in labor-force participation can be attributed to apprehensions over the coronavirus, changes in compensation structures and pandemic-induced burnout. But experts warn that this mass resignation may be driven by a larger condition – job dissatisfaction.

The pandemic hasn’t just forced Americans to change how they work, it’s also forced many to reconsider why and where they work. According to CNBC, only 7% of Americans report they have their dream job. With the pandemic offering a once-in-a-generation recalibration – and an opportunity to change course – many decided to take a leap into a new career.

Amid this great resignation, how can companies retain talented team members for the long-run? The answer involves more than offering generous salaries and benefits (although these are a good start). They should start by affirming their commitment to diversity and inclusivity. They should start by thinking about whether their employees bring a wide range of opinions and backgrounds to the table.

Recent surveys have found that nearly 80% of workers report that they want to work for a company that values diversity, inclusion and equity. Laura Wronski, a research science manager at SurveyMonkey, said that workers who are satisfied with their company’s commitment to these values are often happier with their jobs. “They are more likely than others to say that they have good opportunities to advance their careers, and they are more likely to feel like they are paid well for the work they do,” said Wronski.

An employee works at Internet data firm SimilarWeb at their offices in Tel Aviv, Israel July 4, 2016 (credit: REUTERS)An employee works at Internet data firm SimilarWeb at their offices in Tel Aviv, Israel July 4, 2016 (credit: REUTERS)

When employers invest in building inclusive, diverse workplaces, employees are more likely to feel valued and important to the company. And when employees feel like they have a stake in their organization, they’re more likely to stick around and bring their best effort to the office each day.

Emphasizing diversity, inclusion, and equity doesn’t just build happier, more motivated workforces, it also boosts your company’s bottom line. When companies operate within diverse market segments, having a pluralistic staff that reflects America’s different communities can help bring novel ideas and unique understandings to the table. This in turn helps to better develop and tailor products to target markets.

According to Harvard Business Review, diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets, as opposed to companies that do not emphasize diversity. A Bersin by Deloitte study found that diverse companies have a 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee over a three-year period.

At Masa Israel Journey, we’re deeply committed to living this value. Our staff includes people from all different backgrounds who interact and work with each other to advance our organization’s mission. On any given day in the office, you’ll see a haredi woman who doesn’t drive working alongside a secular Jew, or a vegan Israeli teaming up with a gay religious Jew. Our team is stronger, more efficient, better equipped, and – frankly – more enjoyable because of its diversity.

You’ll hear people speaking their native tongue, whether it’s Hebrew, English, Russian, Spanish or a plethora of other languages. They come to Israel from all around the world to experience what the Jewish homeland has to offer and inspire others to do the same.

This is very purposeful; we want a diverse group of people on our team. We ensure that our workplace is diverse and inclusive so that we can provide a better product to our target audience: young professionals who want an interesting and valuable experience in Israel.

Their varied backgrounds provide for a more productive conversation, raising the bar at the workplace. It also improves the softer side of work – the water cooler conversations where the ‘magic happens.’ It’s the place where colleagues from different backgrounds talk about their identities, their Judaism, Zionism and countless other important topics, whether or not it’s immediately relevant to our work. No topic is off the table. Throughout these conversations, our team is exposed to something different; they learn something new. The workplace becomes a place for personal growth.

In a sense, the Masa work environment mirrors the experience of a Masa fellow. It is a place for professional and personal growth. Our office is the Jewish peoplehood playground – bringing together people open to working hard and learning about Jewish identity.

The holiday season inspires us to reflect on the important people in our life. At Masa, people are everything – from the fellows we serve to the diverse coworkers we see in and out of the office. Through a season of thankfulness, we’re endlessly grateful for the inclusive, welcoming environment that has allowed this enriching company culture to thrive.

We must strive to incorporate this warm approach to the holidays into the workplace. Like a large extended family sitting at an endless dining table, everybody must feel welcomed and supported. And just as we discuss and argue during the holidays, we must allow space for an exchange of ideas that brings us closer together in mutual understanding. Diverse workplaces that reflect and prioritize different beliefs, perspectives, and outlooks are better situated to attract and retain talented staff and make inroads into new market segments.

At a time when many Americans are reevaluating their professional lives and resigning their positions in pursuit of opportunities that value and respect their input, embracing diversity and inclusion is a prudent move on behalf of employers. More importantly, though – as we’re reminded of during the holidays – it’s the decent and right thing to do.

The writer is Masa Israel Journey’s North American COO and lives in New Jersey with her family.