The Great Resignation - Mass Exodus as Employees Re-Imagine What Life Should Look Like

The Year 2021 saw the coining of the term “Great Resignation”; an ongoing labour driven economic trend in which employees are voluntarily resigning from their jobs en masse. Exacerbated by the pandemic and the lessons learnt during the COVID-19 lockdowns, this wave of resignations has provoked turbulence in the market as employees are re-imagining what life should look like in a post pandemic era.

Therefore, the question remains, what should leaders be doing to retain and attract talent?

Hint hint...it’s not all about the money!

Building a Thoughtful and Meaningful Human-Centric Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

Addressing attrition requires that organisations humanise the Employee Value Proposition by moving away from a one-size-fits all approach to one that offers personalised tactics to working practices, enabling individual and asynchronous organisation of work.

“An employee value proposition (EVP) is part of an employer’s branding strategy that represents everything of value that the employer has to offer its employees.” - Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

Leaders willing to adapt to these evolving situations in the labour market must consider the drivers of employee productivity and quality of life. Collecting data on employee sentiment, their motivation and aspirations and using the data to understand what the different groups in the organisation need is the first step towards preventing resignations.

People are the backbone of any organisation and creating an environment that puts its employees front and centre requires the organisation to analyse the requirements of different demographic groups within the organisation, rather than just applying a one size fits all approach. As an example: breaking down the female workforce as a heterogeneous cohort that includes Mothers, Baby Boomers, Millennials, Gen Z’s, etc enables the organisation to build sustainable policies that target and mitigate resignation risk, allowing for greater insight into the groups that are a higher risk of exiting.

Flexibility

The modern employee now desires more autonomy and flexibility to accommodate their personal and work schedules in pursuit of the optimal work, life equilibrium. Organisations that have responded and adapted to embrace the new hybrid work operating model, have seen a marked improvement in staff productivity and mental well-being (CIPD, 2021). These organisations are now viewed as progressive and considered a far more attractive proposition, which can play a significant part in retaining and attracting new talent.

In a labour market that is unpredictable and volatile as the one we are experiencing now; it becomes increasingly important for organisations to find the most effective configuration of remote home and office based working arrangements to in order to create a more stable workforce. Adopting a “productivity over time in the office” philosophy in conjunction with a hiring strategy that focuses on recruiting committed, trustworthy, performance-oriented employees will see this transition to greater flexibility as a far smoother one. Moreover, it will signify the organisation’s adaptive nature and show employees, both current and prospective, that the organisation has the capabilities required to incorporate shifting trends without negatively impacting its operational stability.

The degree of remote work will largely depend upon how well organisations are able to both manage this transition and overcome the challenges of remote work, e.g., communication silos, adoption of technology etc. Moreover, it’s important to recognise that research on the performance of both remote and non-remote teams indicates (Mawson, 2020) that whilst both perform better where there is more clarity around roles, tasks, and the structure of work, such clarity is particularly important for the functioning of remote teams. The bottom line is that the transition to hybrid work, and its success, will only be as positive as the support it receives from the organisation and its leaders.

Humanity

Employees perceive the emotional value in being employed by an organisation when they feel the following: -

Strengthening Relationships with Direct Reports

Research has shown that great management has the potential to reduce turnover more effectively than any other role in the organisation. Studies cite that it takes a pay rise of approximately 20% to lure employees away from managers that regularly engage them and show appreciation of their contribution to the organisation’s success (Gallup, 2019).

Amid “The Great Resignation”, meaningful, purposeful, and consistent, two-way communication between managers/direct-reports and employees can be seen as a means to strengthen professional relationships. Namely, touch-base meetings or informal coffee catchups that delve into what the employee is working on and any issues/challenges they may be facing is seen as key to developing strong relationships and managing outcomes.

Moreover, managing at such close level and engaging with employees meaningfully, builds trust and provides for opportunities to share real-time feedback. Such feedback can prove critical in ensuring that employees are provided with the necessary support, reducing the likelihood of a disconnect between the employer and employee.

Fostering a Positive Workplace Culture

If leaders are to avoid and reduce the repercussions of significant attrition, it’s vital that they turn to the cultural practices and behaviours that engage employees. Workplace culture, albeit a longstanding source of competitive advantage, matters more so now in this fight against ‘The Great Resignation’ than ever before. Taking accountability of the culture of the organisation and making it personal practice to deliver meaningful and impactful change is therefore imperative if leaders are to bring these values to life.

In assessing and improving organisational culture, and therefore engaging and retaining employees at all times, it’s important that leaders review the cultural drivers of engagement: -

  1. Vision – Does the organisation have defined values that are authentic, shared, and meaningful to everyone in the organisation? Does the organisation have an enticing vision for the future and is this communicated to create excitement and motivation among employees?
  2. Empowerment – Does the organisation empower employees through the sharing of information and its rationale behind important decision-making? Does the organisation provide employees with a clear context of their work? Does the organisation encourage employees to involve themselves in business planning?
  3. Team Orientation – Does the organisation reinforce the notion that teamwork is the source of success and not hierarchy? Does the organisation encourage collaboration across all roles within the business? Are teams organised such that each team member sees their contribution to the overall outcome?
  4. Implementation – Does the organisation see the core values defined brought to life? Do leaders practice what they preach and is there is there a clear ethos guiding what is right and wrong for employees? Are people held accountable for violating core values?

In order to foster a positive workplace culture, it’s also important that the organisation hires people that align to their core values and ethos since long-lasting, mutually beneficial hires are typically seen where there is a strong cultural fit. In doing so, the organisation ultimately builds a team that can collaborate with each other and brings together a collective of individuals that share the same values with the company they work for. This creates a positive workplace experience for employees and increases the likelihood that they will stay with the organisation.

Career & Professional Development Opportunities

Having data-driven career path discussions with employees is seen as an impactful way to guide them towards their next move internally and ensuring that they are kept interested in up-skilling and growing with the organisation, as opposed to looking for opportunities elsewhere.

Investing in employee growth and advancement through personalised development opportunities and career development coaching has been found to be effective in empowering employees and showing them, they are valued and supported. Moreover, enhancing employee value within the organisation as well as their own career marketability will in turn boost their confidence and make their work more rewarding, which ultimately means greater job satisfaction.

The Beginning of the End for Bad Jobs

In addressing the labour shortage conundrum, it becomes imperative that leaders take meaningful action to retain and attract the best talent.

What this gradual but steady mass exodus has shown is that this is the beginning of the end for bad jobs. Employees are operating with a greater sense of personal agency. The workforce philosophy on work-life integration has transitioned into one where personal and individual needs outweigh work realities.

Now’s the time for leaders to ask themselves: -

Does the organisation, in its current state, foster an accommodating and flexible work environment? Is it equipped with the appropriate change capabilities and managerial thought leadership such that it can direct the organisation to a state that is fit for the future? Is employee experience transformation and experimentation rooted within the organisation’s vision?

How TORI Can Help

We have deep expertise in strategic change, a profound understanding of organisational culture and a track record of success. We will engage meaningfully and intelligently across your organisation, using clear definitions and practical, proven approaches that are firmly rooted in organisational psychology and research. We will work in ways that ensure the deepest levels of engagement and support from people at all levels in your firm.

  • Reinventing Your Organisation - when your business needs to transform, we will help you to:
    • Frame your challenges and determine what you need to do to succeed in a disrupted world
    • Formulate your core purpose, values, and strategic goals, and incorporate them into your vision for the future in a clear, engaging way that takes people with you
    • Translate your vision into your target operating model and a roadmap for change
    • Support you and your team so that you can lead the transformation effectively
  • Building a Strong Culture - Strong values have long been recognised as a source of competitive advantage, and now culture is also high on the regulator’s agenda. Yet so many companies struggle not only to define culture, but also to make any impactful change. We will work with you to:
    • Define values that are authentic, shared, and meaningful to everyone in your organisation
    • Clearly set out what living up to your values means in terms of day-to-day behaviour
    • Bring values to life through a comprehensive programme of communication, engagement, behavioural and organisational change
    • Deliver interventions that target specific cultural and behavioural changes, whether these are driven by the regulator, such as SMCR, or by your unique business needs
  • Leadership and Organisational Development - We are trusted advisers to leaders as they tackle complex ‘people’ issues and change. We help build people and change skills and capabilities among leaders and their teams.
    • 1-1 consulting and practical support to C-level executives in change leadership, communications, and engagement
    • Training, toolkits, and support for business leaders and change agents
    • Reshaping HR processes to align with strategy and values
    • Leadership and personal development

References

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, CIPD (2021). Flexible working – lessons from the pandemic. 

Mawson, A. (n.d.). The Science Behind Managing Virtual Teams. Forbes. 

Inc, G. (2019). Heard of the U.S. Quit Rate? Win the War for Talent Now. Gallup.com.

Top