Written by Kathy Fauble, M.Ed., Director, and Liz Swanson, Assistant Director, ICAHN Professional Education Services

You can add one more thing to your list of changes because of COVID: professional work goals. After the shut down and months of disruption, people of all ages have been re-evaluating what is most important to them. It’s been called different things, the great resignation, the anti-work movement, work-to-live. Whatever you call it, it’s about a shift in priorities.


I chatted with an interesting couple the other day who talked about their move from career driven to personal growth driven. Their story may be one you have heard before. The wife is a registered nurse, and her husband is a physical therapist. Both are quitting their long-time jobs at a local hospital, buying an RV, and hitting the road, with the wife taking on the job of a traveling nurse.

When I asked why they were making the decision, they said it was easy. Better pay, more flexibility, more freedom, and a chance to travel the country. I must admit, it does sound exciting. And with studies showing around 54% of workers re-examining their priorities, they aren’t the only ones. It’s time for employers to take notice.

There is a funny, familiar quote, “The definition of 'insanity' is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  As I talk with ICAHN hospitals, I hear how frustrating the hiring process is. It's time to ask, are you doing the same thing over and over or are you looking for what you can do differently? It takes some time, but it's important to know where your employees are coming from. That means understanding employees desires and goals.

Dorie Clark, writing in the Wall Street Journal, said, “To retain talent amid job-market tumult, leaders have to understand what motivates employees.” The pandemic disconnected us. A good place for an employer to start is to have some strategic conversations about how you can help people connect with each other and with the workplace. Begin by discussing how you can help new hires connect the dots between their personal mission and the mission of the hospital. Help them see the big picture. This is especially important for employees working remotely who can easily lose touch with your hospital culture and values.

I also hear a lot of labeling and judgment about job applicants. Comments like, “no one wants to work these days” or “everyone is so lazy” are unproductive. New hires don’t stand a chance when this is the opinion before they even start. Your attitude and expectations really set a standard that employees will strive to meet. If you expect the worst, you will get the worst.

Instead, look for ways you can build enthusiasm and joy within your staff. Some things you can try are combining personal and professional goal-setting, developing short-term action plans that are employee focused, providing social opportunities, leading by example, and coaching people to be their best.

Live to work may be the current catchphrase, but we must work to live. Spend some time talking about how your facility can help employees find the balance they crave.