In Atomic Habits, James Clear shares stories about people who’s intuitive sense led to saving lives and predicting pregnancies. He says, the human brain is constantly taking in information and analyzing it for patterns. “We can’t always explain what it is we are learning, but learning is happening along the way, and your ability to notice the relevant cues in a given situation is the foundation for every habit you have” (p. 60-61).
Consider how much you do without thinking and how your instincts are formed. Your ability to get to work everyday, type emails, know the right kind of chit chat to use, know when it’s a good time to ask your boss for a raise, and know when it’s OK to pack up your things and go home is dependent on your body’s autopilot and your unconscious mind.
Consider how much of your organization’s daily operations are built on your employee’s learned unconscious. Their interactions with each other, insightful innovation, and the ability to catch errors are all products of the time it took to learn their jobs, your organization, and those you serve.
The pandemic has impacted employee retention in severe ways, wreaking havoc on organizations left trying to cover, hire, and train. Most of the focus has been on hiring employees, leaving out one unaccounted issue: the unconscious fabric woven between seasoned employees who know the organization, its customers, and each other. Organizations aren’t just left trying to fill holes, they are left trying to make up what has been unconsciously learned.
Retention matters far more than most organizations and HR departments acknowledge. And for the ferocious few who argue that people are replaceable, you’re missing the point that unconscious learning may be the black swan between your earnings four years ago and your earnings now. Not everything can be blamed on COVID – not even poor retention practices.
Clear, J. (2018). Atomic habits: An easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones. Penguin.