Epoch of the Great Resignation: What Is the Way Forward?

Despite the devastating effects of the pandemic on the economy, business and social life, many people found the chance to identify and redefine what truly matters to them. As a result, many employees no longer feel compelled to remain in unsatisfying jobs or toxic corporate cultures.  

Being indoors for several months made people rethink what work means to them, what it means to feel recognised and how they add value to their environment.  

With the reopening of organisations and businesses, millions of employees worldwide are ‘taking the leap’ and deciding to leave their jobs. This never-seen-before trend has led to a surge in attrition rates and, ultimately, the coining of the buzzword “The Great Resignation”.  

Organisations must now navigate the effects of the pandemic to stay relevant and retain talent. Employees who previously were on edge and willing to do anything to keep their jobs now appear to wield power over the leaders.   

As a business leader, it’s time to see this challenge as an opportunity to innovate, transform the work environment and build a culture that will ensure everyone wins in building a better future of work.  

We look at the unwanted “Great Resignation”, why it is not over yet, and most importantly, what the way forward is.  

The Great Resignation

The buzzword remains on the lips of everyone in discussions about employment and the job market in recent years. However, despite the recession’s rumours, signs show that the Great Resignation trend will be with us for a long time.  

But what exactly is the Great Resignation?

The Great Resignation refers to the economic trend in which many employees resign. While some experts say the conditions that brought about the phenomenon started before the pandemic, the changes in the post-pandemic scope of work have certainly made it worse.  

Research in the US noted that almost four million people left their jobs each month in 2021 and the trend increased by at least 500,000 in February 2022. Indeed, a key finding from one of the largest-ever surveys of the global workforce shows that resignations will continue apace over the next 12 months, with at least 20% of people set to resign before the year is over 

So why is the Great Resignation not over?

Employees continue to leave their jobs for several reasons; while some existed before the pandemic, most have come as a result. Organisations are struggling to find how to improve retention, and this will likely continue because they don’t understand why their employees are leaving.  

Unfortunately, many organisations jump to provide short-term fixes rather than take the time to investigate the root causes of increased resignation. For example, they increase remunerations and add bonuses without doing anything to improve their interpersonal relationships with their people. As a result, employees develop a sense of transaction rather than feeling valued.  

Many employers do not realise that their employees want a renewed sense of purpose in their work. They want interpersonal relationships with their leaders and colleagues and want to experience a sense of shared identity. Of course, financial benefits and perks count, but more than that, your employees want to be recognised and feel valued by the organisation.  

You put your organisation at risk by failing to understand your employee from their-there, what they’re running from, and what attracts them.  

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If your organisation can make deliberate efforts to understand why employees are leaving and take adequate measures on how to improve retention, the “Great Resignation” could become the “Great Attraction”. By taking advantage of this opportunity, your organisation can stand tall in the war to attract, develop and retain the talent you need to build a thriving organisation.  

What is the way forward?

Now that we know the issues that will likely continue to drive the Great Resignation, what is the way forward? How can you turn resignation into continued loyalty?  

The reality of the situation is such that it won’t be easy. First, it requires you and your organisation to understand your employees truly. It also requires a deeper understanding of what your employees are going through and combining that with a desire to act and make changes. Only then will your organisation be able to thoroughly re-evaluate the needs of employees and provide the flexibility, connectivity, sense of togetherness, and purpose they crave.  

While many employers are trying just about anything to stem the tide – including providing extra perks – the fact that employees continue to leave for different reasons means that organisations need to consider new incentives. 

How to Combat the Great Resignation and Improve Retention

Putting these five (5) tips into action will present you with the most effective ways to improve retention amidst the Great Resignation.

Flexibility needs to take a central role

The last two years’ events have shaped employees’ minds; they now value an excellent work-life balance, so you have to take responsibility for helping with this. For example, a survey by Flexjob noted that 65% of employees would continue working remotely rather than commute to work, another 58% would look for new remote jobs if they cannot continue remote roles, and the rest would retire if remote employment were no longer an option.  

Flexible working means different things to different organisations. While some business models rely on employees being on-site, others may be able to offer a work-from-home alternative. Your organisation should search for ways to provide flexibility and let employees work hours that suit their lifestyle.

Strengthen your employer-employee connection

Many employers mistake prioritising salary over their work culture instead of the other way around. It will better serve you to have a clear and consistent employee engagement strategy, as this can go a long way toward developing your work culture. However, your leaders shouldn’t be the only ones doing the recognition. Find a way for your employees to recognise each other too.  

In addition to rewarding hard work, there are many other opportunities to celebrate your employees during a busy week. Examples include work anniversaries and celebrating personal milestones like birthdays and engagements.  

Open channels for career advancement

The best employers don’t just offer jobs — they provide opportunities for career advancement. To prevent your employees from looking for more responsibility with the competition, take proactive steps to provide clear paths for their career growth.   

You can help your employees remain with the organisation by listening carefully to their personal needs and charting a specific course of action for their development.  

One approach to this is to introduce a career growth framework. Your employees can then discover where their current skills are lacking and where they can improve. This may include setting up a mentoring programme, peer-to-peer feedback and having constructive reviews with management 

Better manage financial well-being

While money remains a crucial factor for your employees, it’s not just about offering competitive salaries. Review your overall benefits package and how well it supports employees’ financial well-being goals.  

You can also provide financial education or money-management services that will give your employees the know-how and tools to help them use their money better. This can reduce stress and make them happier and more productive in their jobs.  

Generally, today’s employees are more attentive to the benefits of their jobs. Therefore, ensure you constantly analyse industry rates and try to offer as much as possible.  

Adapt to the presence of different generations

The millennial presence in the workplace is growing, with the prediction that Gen Z will make up roughly one-third of the workforce within the next decade.   

These younger employees are already effecting changes worldwide, and their value systems are notably different from previous generations. They’re quick to talk about workplace issues on social media and what a ‘fast-paced environment’ means.  

Although it can be difficult for a corporate leader to consider these trends and changes, you must be sensitive to their strengths and challenges to avoid mismanaged expectations.  

Key Takeaway

Key Takeaway

The Great Resignation is no longer a buzzword and isn’t going away soon. Organisations will likely continue to see more employees quit for several reasons. Carrying on with the same approach will not help your employee retention.  

By putting your employees’ needs first and tweaking your offering, you wield power to keep hold of your talent. 

Olasunkanmi Adenuga

Olasunkanmi Adenuga

Director, Workforce Learning