50 Shades of Green

50 shades of green (or why the grass isn’t always greener on the other side)
…by Yvonne Ainsworth, Director, GDG

You know the saying ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ – it can refer both to our private lives (like finishing a relationship) or work (maybe a new job).
Since COVID, more staff are leaving businesses to seek different opportunities ‘on the other side’, and consequently staff retention is currently high on any geotechnical company’s SWOT analysis.
The lack of talent (Brexit / less students studying associated subjects / other opportunities for graduates with relevant degrees), combined with the current cost of living crisis, plus being able to speak confidentially with potential new employers whilst at home, have all made it really easy to look around for a new job.
Outside of work, local community and family were always everything and especially important – until the advent of social media and working from home, not to mention COVID, meant our social interactions became more limited. Since then, the importance of any face-to-face interaction at work has become even more important, meaning that some people now avoid any confrontation if at all possible. By avoiding a conversation when something isn’t quite right, there will be no possibility of confrontation, and this means a job interview – and ultimately a new job – with different conditions and colleagues, can actually seem easier…

However, if something is missing in your current role, then why not simply ask for it? Maybe have an open discussion with your line manager / director, along the lines of ‘I’d really like to be a xxx , can you help me my plan to path of how to get there?’, or ‘I see that the industry pays xxx for positions like mine, can we please discuss what I can do to achieve a similar salary?’.

Job interviews can be seen as less confrontational, because it’s easier to talk to someone you don’t know about what you expect, than to someone who you don’t fully trust: mutual trust is the foundation that can enable these conversations and in fact the building, establishment and maintenance of trust is key to staff retention. If these conversations are not taking place in the workplace, it often means that the trust between manager and employee is lacking. Building and maintaining trust takes time, something that managers are often lacking, due to the general skills shortage within the industry – but this isn’t the only reason. The lack of investment in the teaching of ‘human skills’, previously known as ‘soft’ skills, must certainly be considered a contributing factor, as should the increase in remote working since COVID – and subsequent lack of face to face interactions. This certainly has also limited the opportunities to teach / develop ‘human skills’.

As employers, we advertise what we do and what we can offer, discuss why we are different / better than our competitors, and we paint a picture of the new job that we hope the candidate will find interesting / attractive / inspiring, in much the same way as an advert on the radio or TV.

Looking back at my own career, there have been occasions where I have left my employer because the trust to have an open conversation just wasn’t there. Conversely, where trust was there, I’ve always had those difficult conversations – and mostly been able to change things with the help of my manager. This was never the easy option: it involved having those challenging conversations, listening to constructive criticism and implementing personal change; but this helped me grow and as such, it was absolutely worth going through.

So, in conclusion: yes, the grass on the other side may appear to be a more appealing shade of green. However, by tackling those difficult conversations and listening to advice on what changes need to be made to reach your goal, you can often turn your own patch of grass into any shade of green you wish. In the process you will learn important skills about keeping your patch of grass healthy and bright, and one that you never want to leave for pastures unknown, helping not just yourself but those around you.


Yvonne writes regular industry opinion pieces for Ground Engineering (GE) magazine, an extended version of this blog can be found here.


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