Surviving the Great Resignation

‘The Great Resignation’: a pandemic phenomenon that has countless employees walking away from their jobs in volumes we’ve never seen before. In fact, the most recent statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics state that at the end of February 2021, 1.8 million Australians left or lost their job. Of those that left their jobs, 10.5% were because of poor working hours or pay and 21.7% did so to get a better job or just wanted a change. LinkedIn shared figures that showed a 26% jump in workers changing employers in October 2021 compared with the same time in 2019.
Surviving the Great Resignation

Derek Thompson wrote in his article for The Atlantic: “this economy must feel like leaping from the frying pan of economic chaos, only to land in the fires of Manager hell,” he wrote. “Job openings are sky-high. Many positions are going unfilled for months. Meanwhile, supply chains are breaking down because of a hydra of bottlenecks. Running a company requires people and parts. With people quitting and parts missing, it must kinda suck to be a boss right now.”

While employees may simply roll their eyes at these expressions of sympathy directed to their senior leaders, from an executive perspective, Thompson simply highlighted an upcoming and common frustration - The Great Resignation is the latest recruitment, HR and organisational headache.

Microsoft research has found that more than 40% of employees globally considered quitting their jobs in 2021. Recruitment company Randstad conducted a late 2021 survey which further added to these findings. Almost 25% of employees in the United Kingdom were planning to resign in the next three to six months and around 70% of them were fully confident in their decision to consider alternate employment. In Australia, Employment Hero found 48% of employees were interested in looking for new work in the next 12 months.

So why is it that so many people are quitting their jobs? What has spurred this great resignation and how can organisations plan to survive it?

What caused “The Great Resignation”?

Anthony Klotz, a professor and psychologist, coined the term “The Great Resignation” after the global pandemic that inspired people to reconsider their work-life balance as a result of lockdowns, reimagining what they want their working lives to look like today. “From organisational research, we know that when human beings come into contact with death and illness in their lives, it causes them to take a step back and ask existential questions,” Klotz told Business Insider Australia. “Like, what gives me purpose and happiness in life and does that match up with how I’m spending my time right now? So, in many cases, those reflections will lead to life pivots.”

Yet, this ‘epiphany’ Klotz describes is not the only reason millions of people suddenly quit their jobs. There are other forces at play such as:

  • Burn-out: while the effects of the pandemic led to significant increases in unemployment rates due to lockdowns, there was another side to this coin. The countless others who were pushed to the brink of exhaustion having been forced to work longer hours and put in more effort into their jobs than ever before. Harvard Business Review did a study that found the highest resignation rates were in fields that experienced an extreme increase in demand during COVID-19. This included healthcare (3.6%), and technology (4.5%).

  • Resignation procrastination: Klotz mentioned that many people, at the start of the pandemic, decided to hang on to their jobs tightly for fear of being unemployed. Of these employees, some were considering resigning pre-COVID-19. Since things have calmed down and COVID-19 regulations have become a way of life, those who delayed quitting may now feel more comfortable to do so.

  • Mental health support: it’s no secret that many organisations have a far way to go when it comes to providing adequate emotional support services to their employees. And the pandemic pushed this realisation into the spotlight. From lockdowns and social gathering restrictions, employee wellbeing should be the focus, and employees who don’t feel this from their employers are starting to seek it elsewhere. In fact, a third of employees from Modern Health’s survey said they would consider changing companies for the sake of their mental health.

  • More flexibility: gone are the days that employees must be physically seen to be doing work for it to be considered productive in their managers eyes. Flexible work arrangements are in demand and the pandemic only fast-tracked remote working opportunities. This push has provided employees with evidence that they can deliver on deadlines without having to be in an office working a 9-5. Now that they have had a taste of what ‘less commuting = more family time’ means, many are reluctant to return to office work environments full time. The Beamery Talent Index showed 42% of U.S. and U.K. employees want flexible working to continue with more than 30% believing their work-life balance was better at the height of the pandemic.

Strategies to overcome The Great Resignation

A University of Scranton whitepaper stated that “nearly 70% of organisations report that staff turnover has a negative financial impact due to the cost of recruiting, hiring, and training a replacement employee and the overtime work of current employees that’s required until the organisation can fill the vacant position.” This clearly explains the need to develop and implement effective employee retention strategies within organisations to survive potential fallouts from events such as The Great Resignation. Here are four strategies to do just that:

  1. Foster a healthy work/life balance: having staff that are healthy, stress-free and well-rested are likely to perform better than those that are not; that’s common sense. Ensuring they have a strong work/life separation is crucial. Make sure to encourage your managers to monitor healthy working hours, or even consider implementing rewards such as extra time in lieu for all the additional hours employees may need to put in during busy periods.

  2. Reconsider wages: while the main reasons for The Great Resignation aren’t monetary, fair wages still play a huge factor in employee job satisfaction. Ensuring your teams are adequately compensated in regards to their work loads is a must.

  3. Nurture talent: take a long hard look at your organisation and its leaders. Do they have their ‘next me’ ready to go in case they are promoted or leave? If not, get them to identify talent and initiative within their teams to ensure that those who are putting in the work and are interested have professional development pathways ready to go. Think about whether you have enough additional training and education programs for your employees to feel valued and reduce the risk of them looking for companies that do.

  4. Enable higher-value work: time-consuming and repetitive tasks are known to decrease staff motivation. Most employees want tasks that make them feel like they are a part of something larger, that what they do matters and can see their results full circle. That’s what motivates them. While these sometimes tedious and mundane tasks are necessary for business operations, it might be better to consider moving these from your onshore staff to employees outside the business who thrive on completing such functions. Outsourcing or offshoring is a way organisations can send such tasks to teams overseas to complete, allowing their onshore or local teams more time to focus on nurturing client relationships, focusing on the development of business strategies or higher-value work. Not to mention the financial savings that come with this business venture; up to 70% on labour or operating costs.

Summary

The effects of this phenomenon aren't going anywhere. It may get better, it may get worse. But, it’s more about the lessons organisations can learn from The Great Resignation that matters. It’s allowed business leaders and employees to identify gaps in the employee-employer relationship and given them the opportunity to fix that. Whether you decide to act on these changes, it’s up to you, but being naive or brushing off these effects could lead to catastrophic employment and recruitment issues down the line. With many businesses facing the hardship of rising labour costs and talent shortages, offshore outsourced staffing allows your business to build dedicated teams without needing to worry about the likes of recruitment, training office facilities, IT, recruitment, HR and payroll.