Dwayne J. Clark is the founder, CEO and chairman of Aegis Living, a bestselling author and expert on longevity.
The Great Resignation has led to a flood of new entrepreneurs. In 2021 alone, the US saw 5.4 million new business applications. Many people were forced to pick up a side job due to job terminations or other pandemic pressures that inspired them to reassess their lives and careers. Before the pandemic, the risk of starting a sideline business was high, but when they didn’t have a job or limited options, I think many people saw the risk go away and were encouraged to take the plunge.
Looking at the employment landscape today, it is clear that they are not returning to their former jobs. These market makers also show their friends, family and former colleagues that they too can be successful in pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams.
For example, I recently met a woman who ran a mobile tanning salon. She had been a surgical technician, but with many elective and non-emergency surgeries canceled early in the pandemic, she started the mobile tanning salon to make ends meet. Now she runs it full time and told me she earns at least double what she earned before and on a more flexible schedule. Similarly, my hairdresser quit his job and started his own home service for people who didn’t want to be in crowded spaces at the height of the pandemic. His business is thriving and he has more time to spend with his partner. Another young woman I know had a corporate job and started walking dogs. This is now her full time gig and she makes more money and has more free time.
Many entrepreneurs who started a business during the pandemic have discovered a better quality of life where they make more money, have more flexibility and generally find more value in their jobs. Many today also have a secure and loyal customer base, a result of the market coming to them during the initial stages of the pandemic.
Now, a question remains for entrepreneurs: is there anything you can do to reclaim this workforce or prevent others from leaving the ship? I regularly meet a group of fellow leaders, all of whom run different companies in different sectors. Everyone is talking about this issue. I believe “forced entrepreneurship” is a big part of the equation. But we also wonder how we can solve the current workforce challenges. As leaders, we need to do business differently.
That’s where the social purpose comes in.
Social purposes can help organizations appeal to an employee’s social awareness and create a sense of community and fulfillment. From my perspective, employees are connected by who they are together as opposed to what they do, and they unite collectively for a higher purpose. This provides them with more fuel than the average benefits package. I call it ‘soul motivation’. Today, more people are craving companies that: align with their core values and their purpose on this planet.
The good news? Being a purpose-driven business doesn’t depend on the actual goods or services you provide. It is the heart of your business and how you feed the passions and souls of your employees. If you’re mission-oriented by default, you’ll have a huge advantage. But for those companies that aren’t, you can still find a way to give back and improve what you do to make the world a better place and drive purpose for your people.
1. Think about how you can give back to your community in a more meaningful way. What does your social purpose look like and how do you encourage purpose in the lives of others? Perhaps you can start small and focus on a few key philanthropic events each year that align with your organization’s values. Make sure your employees are part of these activities. You may be able to start a scholarship fund, or you may be able to donate a certain percentage of company sales each year to support a charity that is important to your business. Then let employees participate. Uniting around a common goal outside of the daily routine gives your company a soul, and people can connect with it.
2. Unite your employees. It’s no longer enough to host happy hours, secret Christmas gift exchanges, and free lunch on Fridays. Employees will thrive if they can unite as a community. Many people miss the human-to-human connection that the pandemic has suspended. That means creating physical spaces where people can be together without work commitments and without pretensions. For example, at my company, we host several employee retreats each year, and our last one was aimed at refueling the souls of our employees. An exercise called “step to the line” was particularly powerful. During the activity, we asked people questions such as, “If you battled an addiction or lost a loved one during the pandemic, go to the line.” People were honest and vulnerable; it was a cleansing of emotions. Employees left those two days more motivated and energetic than ever.
Many people won’t back down from the big crowds, but I believe social goals are leaders’ best chance of getting this workforce back and retaining others who might be tempted to leave. We also have the wildcard of a impending recession that could turn the tables again. For now, entrepreneurs can do their part to attract and retain the best and most loyal employees. Unlike the pandemic and the economy, we have this under control.