What has the pandemic done to us? The Labor Department just stated that 4.3 million people have quit their jobs in August ’21 alone. The healthcare, retail, and hospitality industries have been hit the hardest. Meanwhile, labor unions and employee strikes are stridently battling for higher pay, childcare, flexible hours and more benefits, successfully putting their demands front and center. With a grossly diminished workforce, their pleas are being heard. It’s been called “The Great Resignation” – for good reason. Brought on mostly by the pandemic, a marked shift in our daily routines, time allocations, and structural organizations have proven detrimental and downright devastating to our society as we knew it.
Working from Home
If we take a magnifying glass and look more closely into a day in the life of a female worker trying to make ends meet and master her job at home—please remember she’s a wife, she’s a mother, she’s a daughter, she’s a sister, and she’s an employee rolled into one—what do we see?
For starters, childcare/schooling has been essentially obsolete for the last year. Children are left at home creating overwhelming demands. Between virtual schooling, building a daily agenda of activities, myriad interruptions, noise, constant food requirements resulting in more messiness, proximity to the emotional highs and lows 24/7, all within a finite amount of square footage … well, you catch my drift. It’s mayhem.
This is the female worker’s new pandemic home/work environment.
Couple this with the unceasing demands of work, absent the 9-5 refuge, absent the time and space dedicated to accomplishing assignments, and absent the inherent support system, the water cooler conversation, the lunch break with a fellow associate, the stop-in from your boss. The requirements, the demands, the goals, the deadlines never changed just because employees started working from home.
These new circumstances call into question whether the Working Woman (I’m going to refer to her as “Wonder Woman”) is self-motivated. Is Wonder Woman a self-starter? Can she manage her time well? Is she working much longer hours because of all the interruptions? Do these changes culminate in frustration, anxiety, panic, fear, failure? No wonder America is experiencing burnout! Puh-leease.
Indeed, Liz Shuler, President of the AFL-CIO was quoted as saying, “all employees want is to be acknowledged and appreciated.”
What can employers do to be better connected in this virtual arrangement? And how can employers be more empathetic to the stresses that have been imposed on everyone? It’s a huge savings to keep employees in place, rather than to experience turnover and retraining. And it’s even more difficult to hire new employees to work virtually because they don’t know the company or the systems. So what’s an employer to do?
Try Project Based Mentoring®
If you established a structured mentorship model—whereby projects reside at the center of the mentoring relationship you could experience a win/win/win.
It’s a win for the employee who feels isolated and disconnected, but through mentorship now knows the company is investing in her growth and her success. She has regular touchpoints with a senior associate who can gently guide her, play devil’s advocate, answer her questions, help her stay on path, on deadline, and on point. And there is someone there to help her construct her oral presentation, her project results, her impact, and her findings. Most importantly, she walks away with learning how to lead a project, to take ownership, learn new skills, and have a greater sense of accomplishment.
It’s a win for the mentor, the senior associate, who learns how to be humble, to be a quiet leader, to listen, to give up authority, to be an educator, a role model, and someone who is looked up to. This is a win in teaching patience, listening, leadership, and management skills—all outcomes observed by Human Resource departments as results of mentorship. And I highly encourage a mentor orientation that shares best practices and expectations, so that mentors can have guidance.
It’s also a win for the company culture. Employees prefer working in an environment that supports growth, training, and learning—a work environment where questions are good, learning is a priority, and innovation and collaboration are paramount to survive. Employees want to stay and remain loyal to companies like this because the company has shown them they are cared about and a worthwhile investment.
In summary, if you want to keep your female employees engaged, motivated, and loyal, introduce project-based mentoring® into your workforce.
Written by Patty Alper.
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