Staffing Shortages and Groundhog Day!

employee experience
staffing shortages and groundhog day

Yesterday was Groundhog Day, and I received a wonderful email message from my friend, coach, facilitator, and speaker Cheri Honeycutt. The article she wrote inspired me so much that I asked her if I could repurpose it. 

Here are Cheri's words: 

A movie that faithfully gets watched year after year is Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray. It's about a cynical weatherman named Phil Connors sent to Pennsylvania to report whether Punxsutawney Phil, the predicting groundhog, will see his shadow. In a quirky turn of events, Phil (the human) is forced to live the same day over and over and over again.

No matter what he does, he can't change his circumstances. Every day it's the same thing; being awakened by Sonny and Cher singing "I Got You, Babe," the same annoying insurance salesman, stepping in the same slush-filled pothole, and on and on it goes.

When he discovers he's in this do-loop of the never-ending day, he goes mad! No matter what he does, he keeps waking up to the same day. He lets his gluttonous, dare-devil side take the wheel, but nothing changes. No matter what he does, nothing changes for poor Phil.

Nothing changes . . . until it does.

And now I'm back with my take on it. 

It changes because.....he changes. 

He gets honest and vulnerable and tells the object of his affection (played by Andie McDowell) about his circumstances, and she responds with empathy. She advises him that perhaps his plight is a gift in disguise. Then he begins to try new things. Piano lessons. Ice Sculptures. He performs random acts of kindness like helping a homeless man and changing the tire of an older woman. He even saves the life of a choking victim. 

At first, nothing changes, but eventually, it does as he becomes a different person. 

He becomes kinder, more caring, willing to make the best of his situation and use it to approach life differently. With these changes, he finally wakes up to a new day...and gets the girl! 

This brings me to your staffing shortages.


Do you feel like you're living in Groundhog Day? Every day waking up to more resignations, new hire ghosting, and stressed-out, overwhelmed staff? 

I know to say this is challenging is an understatement. No wonder so many baby boomers have decided to retire sooner. It's madness. 

And... it's also an opportunity. 

It's a signal that the way we've been working is not working. People in management positions are not to blame. You've been doing the best you can while having way more on your plate than any human being can handle. 

Why do you think so many people are retiring, starting their own businesses, or demanding to work remotely? One reason is that they want to live life on their terms. They're tired of the constant pressure of "doing more with less." (Remember that term? How's that working?) They want a vocation that serves their life rather than one that becomes their life. 

Does this mean they're lazy? No. It means they've gone through a values readjustment and decided what matters. 

We're still figuring out how this will all pan out. However, this I know for sure. We'll continue to live in Groundhog Day until we start seeing this as an opportunity. 

What if we stopped blaming the government, the younger (or older) generations, or the politics of vaccinations. What if, instead, we got vulnerable and honest and started asking ourselves more profound questions? 

Here are a few to get us started: 

1. Is it time to prioritize? What could we take off everyone's plate? 

2. Are we really listening to our employees? They are for sure speaking up. Are you open enough to listen and try something different? (virtual work, self-scheduling, etc.)

3. Are we doing the deep work to build more empathetic leaders? To help people get more curious and learn to communicate with respect and compassion? (This takes more than just a one-time "training" program.)

4. Are we truly showing people that they are valued, or are we giving that responsibility to the HR department, the recognition "programs" and, monthly pizza parties? Remember, what people want most is to be SEEN and HEARD. Are you seeing the potential in everyone who works with you? 

5. Are you indeed an inclusive organization? Or are you giving lip service to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion? Want to know for sure? Start by looking at your website, the language in your written documents, and who is speaking up at meetings. Take a look at your leadership team and pay equity across gender and race. 

6. Are you creating a safe space for people to speak up, share ideas, and even make mistakes? Or are they afraid to take the initiative because they'll be punished in some way if they get it wrong? 

7. What have we done to make work easier for families? What can we do? (Hint: Start asking the question, and you'll get the answers.)

These aren't easy questions, but they're the questions we have to start asking ourselves. Then, like Phil Connors in the movie Groundhog Day, we have to be willing to make the significant and minor changes needed to create a better employee experience. 

People will come back when they have a workplace they WANT to come back to. 

Does this mean everything we've been doing is wrong? No. Not at all. It means the world is different and what people want is different. So it's time to take a breath, be compassionate with ourselves and others, go within, lead with your heart, and, especially, start listening. Listen and then co-collaborate with people at every level of your organization to design a workplace that works for everyone. 

 Donna Cutting is the author of Employees First! Inspire, Engage, and Focus on the HEART of Your Organization, to be released in April 2022. Thanks to Cheri Honeycutt for the article that inspired this blog post.

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