by Sara Johnson, director, executive education, clinical associate professor

The world of work is changing — and so are workers’ expectations. The call to leaders is clear: Adapt now or risk the organization’s future.

Adaptability is one of the keys to effective leadership. Those who adapt well know how to adjust their style when the situation calls for it. Another key is continual learning — being willing to find new ways to do things that will help you lead others and your organization while also improving worker satisfaction and organizational outcomes.

These elements of effective leadership are especially necessary in our current work environment. As employees around the world return to offices and worksites, leaders must recognize and act upon the reality of our new world of work. Not doing so means potentially losing good workers and watching organizations fail as a result. The price of this turnover can have a ripple effect on our communities and society, including economic impacts, hiring challenges, and an increased competition for quality workers.

Evidence of a workforce shift already is mounting. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 11.5 million workers quit their jobs between April and June of 2021. People are rethinking what is important to them and … well … it’s no longer “business as usual.”

According to Shahar Erez, CEO of the freelance talent platform Stoke, “The Great Resignation is propelled by three forces: the changing generation, the economic crisis, and the realization among employees that they can have a different social contract — spending more time with family when they work remote and skip the commute.”

In addition to those factors, workers say personal safety also is a consideration during the ongoing pandemic. As new strains of COVID-19 spread, working in a collective environment doesn’t feel safe to some.