The 'Great Resignation'

Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Smith

Published: May 30th, 2022

7 min read

2021 was the year deemed to be the 'Great Resignation' whereby employers witnessed mass resignations. Indeed, figures at the end of November 2021, evidenced that 4.5 million people had resigned from their positions, leading to the huge question as to why? Was this, as many espouse, a result of a great rethinking of priorities, in a Covid19 world?

As we are all aware, the country came to a pause in March 2020, when the first lockdown was announced. Gradually, depending on industries/sector, work began to resume and re-open and employers had to quickly transform the way they operated. In line with developing Government guidance, staff slowly returned to the workplace, with covid-19 measures in place. For a long time though, vast swathes of employees continued to work from home, with the Government advising that those who could successfully work from home, should continue to do so.

Why the trend in resignations?

Dr Anthony Klotz, who coined the 'Great Resignation' phrase, suggested that this was due to employee epiphanies on "family time, remote work, commuting, passion projects, life and death." According to Klotz, those people who had planned on leaving their jobs pre-pandemic but delayed this due to the instability caused by COVID-19, quickly resumed their job searches with a new-found energy and desire! After 18 months of working from their own homes, where they are in total control, doing their jobs in a way that works best for their lifestyle and enjoying the freedom to live their personal lives alongside their 9-5's, with companies quickly recalling home workers back to the office, some employees have simply voted with their feet and left to join companies with more flexible hybrid working models.

The trend of the unprecedented resignations was driven by both economic and psychological factors, however, some employers played a big role in this by failing to retain staff and treating them as replaceable entities.

Although the mass resignations have reduced in 2022, the lasting impact of the pandemic has certainly shifted how employers operate and manage staff. The onus has now seemingly been placed on employers to show why they are a great company to work for, so what can employers do to retain talent and prevent resignations?

The Great Prevention - tips

  • Review workplace culture
    Whether conducted in-house or externally, employers are encouraged to ask staff to complete an online survey anonymously, to initially ascertain whether or not they receive fulfilment and satisfaction in their role and in working for the company.

    Key questions to be considered are as follows:

    • Would they recommend the company to others as an employer?
    • Are the visions and values inspiring?
    • Is the existing benefits package appealing, what is missing/could be introduced?
    • Do they see a path for career advancement at the company?
    • Do they have any recommendations/suggestions that they would like the company to consider?

    Any such survey will help identify room for improvement and investment moving forward and the scope of employee engagement overall.

  • Empower management
    Providing regular and critically, the right level of training to your leaders is a great way to make sure that they properly showcase the company's ethos and values. The right training courses will help foster an authentic and empathetic culture and it is vital that this comes from the top.

  • Regular communication and 1-2-1 meetings
    Maintaining a transparent culture and providing regular updates is key to sustaining strong working relationships at all levels.

    As opposed to an annual appraisal, regular 1-2-1 meetings with your workforce can be an effective way to check on them, manage their workload and work/life balance. Issues can also be identified at the outset and addressed much earlier, avoiding staff becoming disgruntled.

    Where burnout is identified, employers should seek to address this immediately. For instance, staff should be encouraged to take their annual leave so that they do not reach breaking point. Signposting or reminding staff of support services to manage their mental health such as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) should also be done periodically.

Adopting a healthy workplace culture is absolutely critical when it comes to retaining talent and in turn, ensuring that employers flourish in meeting their objectives, remaining competitive and simply go from strength to strength. Although resignations are almost inevitable for one reason or another, the above are some general tips and guidance for employers to consider to prevent staff from resigning, on the basis that it is due to them and/or its culture.

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