• Edwin and George

Coming Soon? Or Already Started? – the Great (Australian) Resignation

EGM On A Mission: Let’s Build Better Companies


Ladies and gentlemen - welcome to the Great Resignation – Australia.


Coming soon to companies near you.


Prepare for lift-off…….



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Under-appreciated workers walking out on their jobs en masse.


Probability? As sure as the England cricket team will win the next ashes series.

(Apologies – this should read ‘as sure as the Australian cricket team will win the next ashes series’ – small typo there).


When? Quite often you'll see economists or market predictors tell you what will happen, and why...but you'll never hear "when". My view? February / March 2022.


To-do list:

  • Take 2021 annual leave allowance

  • Get Christmas bonus

  • Quit job

  • Get a better job / or just enjoy life (delete as appropriate).

The biggest movement of workers Australia has witnessed. (1)

  • Historically low unemployment

  • Record numbers of job vacancies

  • Skills shortages.

The most competitive ‘war for talent’ we’ve ever seen. (2)

‘A massive wake up call for Australian employers.’ (3)
  • The pandemic trend which has taken economists by surprise, has already turned the labour market upside down in the US - with 4.3 million Americans, or 2.9 per cent of the entire workforce, quitting their jobs in August alone

  • PWC believe that 65 per cent of Americans are looking, or are ready to look, for new jobs (4)

  • Research suggests similar trends in Australia – with 40 per cent of the workforce now actively considering a change of scenery. (5)

Everyone - high-flying executives, frontline workers, hospitality staff and all those in between - looking to shake things up in their career. Young people, starved of a gap year, ready to make time up – and see the world.

The Great Resignation isn’t a mad dash away from the office. It’s the culmination of a long march toward freedom. (6)

In the words of Escape magazine:

'People everywhere are saying enough of office work, enough of 9 to 5, enough of blow-drying strangers’ hair in the city they grew up in.

Tell your boss you want time off – paid, unpaid, sabbatical, whatever you can negotiate - see the world. Put your happiness first .And if they don’t come to the party? Quit. Don’t look back. It’s time to book a one-way ticket to wherever.

So, where does this leave companies – faced with empty cubicles, blank computer screens and unmanned hairdryers?

Not in a very good place. Especially as it’s unclear when travellers from overseas will start coming to Australia to take up the jobs vacated.’ (7)


In an article this weekend, ‘The Australian’ gives an opposing view.

Quoting research by the University of Melbourne, they say events in the US are short-term - a rebalancing in the work force following low levels of activity during the pandemic. They argue there won’t be an increase in job hopping in Australia – indicators aren’t flashing red. (8)

Whatever the answer, employers across Australia are deeply worried.

Are their best employees really about to pull up stumps and follow that long-held dream to open an artisan bakery in Castlemaine or a yoga studio in Sawtell?

The attitude shift began to take hold around July as Sydney and Melbourne were being plunged into lockdowns to control the spread of the Delta variant.

  • In the past a competitive salary and comfy office were more than enough to lock in staff

  • Today, employees don't want to be seen as workers. They want to be seen as individual human beings with rich, full lives

  • The pandemic has given people the opportunity to reflect on what's important to them - as their world largely shrunk to their immediate family, local area and home.

As part of that change, some workers are 'downsizing' their careers for something more flexible and with less stress.


Weighed down by endless Zoom meetings and constant micro-management - feeling exhausted and burnt out.


I vocalized my concerns, not just to my manager, but also the management above. But they didn’t take things seriously. And ultimately, I wasn’t heard or listened to - I went off to start my own small business.


It was incredibly hard to do. It was the best decision ever. What this has taught me is to have faith in myself. And it actually paid off.' (9)


One thing is clear:

The pendulum is well and truly swinging to the employee.
Companies are looking to grow.

‘If your boss is behaving like the last two years were just a bump in the road and is asking you to turn your attention to chasing down new targets and performance goals, you aren’t alone - 56 per cent of CEOs are gearing up for growth next year.

For many it will feel like reaching the finishing line of a marathon, then being asked to start a triathlon.’ (10)


Here lies the problem – where are the people coming from for these new opportunities?


‘For the foreseeable future, our capacity constraint is labour which is new and not welcome – shortages are affecting productivity and service levels – Amazon (11)

If a company is treating it’s employees badly it’s about to experience a scary time - but for some (smart) companies, there’s a huge opportunity.

Once in a generation (if that), we have the opportunity to reimagine how we work.

  • 2021 presents such an opportunity. The crisis provides the chance to create a new, more effective model - that works for companies and employees navigating a world of increasing uncertainty. (12)

Optimistic?


Reality:

  • Too many companies doing similar things – implementing the same old people practices that didn’t work in 1995 and don’t work now

  • Too many companies hurtling towards mediocrity

  • Too many companies driven on by ‘thought leaders, commentators, HR gurus and consultants - who don’t have the ‘real world’ experience to understand how their recommendations play out. (13)

Too many companies unprepared for what’s coming.


What can companies do?


Take a look at your people individually – ask who are the flight risks?

If you have people who are disengaged, who might be talking to other companies and who were previously good performers – ask what is it you can offer them individually?

  • Is it a development experience?

  • Is it an internal move – to another role in another department?

  • Is it a change in reporting lines? (People don’t leave companies – they leave managers)

  • Is it giving them more flexibility in the way they work?

  • Is it the support of a coach or a mentor?

  • Is it an increase in pay – or improvement in benefits?

But for goodness sake do something – so you’re not a victim of the Great (Australian) Resignation.




  1. The Great Resignation: Why Australians are looking to quit their jobs, abcnew.com, 25 October 2021

  2. See the great resignation global insights, You tube, PWC

  3. The great cancellation is coming, NZHerald.com, 28 October 2021

  4. See the great resignation global insights, You tube, PWC

  5. Thousands of Australians to quit their jobs, Daily Mail, 20 October 2021

  6. Adam Grant, Twitter

  7. The great vacation resignation is coming, Escape magazine, 26 October 2021

  8. Great Resignation’ is more likely to be a small reshuffle, The Australian, 30th October 2021

  9. The great cancellation is coming, NZHerald.com, 28 October 2021

  10. The Great Resignation: Why Australians are looking to quit their jobs, abcnew.com, 25 October 2021

  11. US companies struggle with staff shortages despite raising wages, Financial Times, 30th October 2021

  12. Leaders, time to reboot – a short exercise, EGM blog

  13. So, who do you trust at work? EGM blog

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