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  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

The Great Resignation

Updated: Aug 9, 2021

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Global jobs markets are acting in odd ways.

While some employees are staying put in roles and playing it safe, others are taking a chance and trying something new.

In what is being called the great resignation, surveys show that 1 in 3 workers in the U.S are considering leaving their jobs - 60% are rethinking their career options. (1)

  • A record 3.6 million people quit their jobs in the U.S in May

  • At the same time, the opportunities for job seekers grew — with 9.2 million job openings in May and job placement site Indeed estimating 9.8 million job openings as of mid-July. (2)

  • A new Gallup survey finds that 38% of America's working population is actively job searching or watching for opportunities (3)

The trends are global:

According to Microsoft, more than 40% of the global workforce are considering leaving their jobs this year.

Businesses are facing a staggeringly high quit rate - workers in all job categories, from customer-facing service roles to highly professional positions, are actively or passively job hunting at roughly the same rate.’ (4)

Time will tell if a similar pattern plays out in Australia.

At EGM, we are noticing that while many people are choosing to stay put (or being offered incentives to stay) there are clearly more opportunities than quality candidates.

Low levels of worker engagement are a driving factor.

Engagement reflects your enthusiasm for your work and workplace:

  • Your work has a purpose

  • You have high involvement and energy

  • You trust your leaders and colleagues

  • You have confidence in your company and the future

  • You bring your ‘whole self’ to work. (5)

Gallup's State of the Global Workplace 2021 research found that only 20% of workers globally are fully engaged – the figure for Australia is 19%.

Considering engagement levels, new hires are liable to land in a less-than-engaging team – with predictable results on their motivation to stay at the company.

That's a self-defeating cycle.

Why is all this happening?

In the past, leaders have been measured on output and profit margin. Whatever it took to succeed was acceptable as long as the goals were achieved. The classic ‘finite mindset.’ (6)

But leaders have different challenges today.

Many factors are driving the exodus:

  • Workers are fatigued from the pandemic – lockdowns, home schooling, caring responsibilities

  • They’ve had time and space to think about what really matters - there are plenty of options - it’s no surprise resignation rates are through the roof

  • There’s a realization that life is too short to put up with a dreary job, bad boss and non-inclusive workplace

  • Workers won’t give up flexibility – what their company is offering in terms of office/remote/hybrid working has increased in importance

  • Generational expectations about what makes a good job are changing

  • There’s a much greater focus on wellbeing – people are seeking out a better work-life balance - with shorter commutes and mental health support

  • People are no longer willing to compromise on finding an employer that aligns with their lifestyles – and their unique requirements

  • There are too many jobs that are demanding, low paid, and provide few prospects for advancement.

The pandemic is a kind of litmus test during which companies reveal their true natures.

Those companies genuinely committed to their employees' well-being stepped up their efforts and dug deep - while companies with a toxic culture became even harder to work for.

Toxic cultures persist in remote settings.

Companies that treat employees well during the toughest of times, however, will attract talent - even when the war for talent heats up.

These companies have gone out of their way to demonstrate concern for the whole employee - not just the on-the-job employee.

Their leaders realized as many employees have this past year, it’s impossible to be at your best professionally when other aspects of your life are stressed. The best companies have responded to the pandemic by partnering with employees to address difficult challenges like caregiving and mental health.

In April, Fortune magazine published its latest list of the 100 best companies to work for. Some clear patterns emerge amongst the highest rated companies:

  • They show tangible concern for the non-work aspects of employees' lives

  • Trust runs deep

  • Feedback is a two-way street

  • Flexibility and employee autonomy are valued

  • Even during shelter at home, these companies made sure employees had sufficient paid time off. (7)

Companies pride themselves on the speed and agility with which they respond to changing customer needs. The best companies and their leaders have learnt they need to bring that same spirit of innovation to serving their employees.

‘If it wasn't clear before, the pandemic has highlighted work life balance, well-being, flexibility, and extra time to rest and refuel as essential building blocks for long-term employee engagement. The best workplaces have met the crisis by listening to their people, reimagining what supportive benefits and perks could look like and rapidly pivoting to provide them.’ (8)

The Great Resignation shows that workers have new insights into what truly matters.

Companies must do the same – moving forward with a strategy that sees employee well-being and engagement as inextricably linked. Companies who realize there is a shift taking place and act will be the ones who develop a competitive edge and are best able to attract and retain the people they need.

  1. More workers plan to quit as better job opportunities open up, CNBC, 4 August 2021

  2. More workers plan to quit as better job opportunities open up, CMBC, 4 August 2021

  3. The great resignation' is really the 'great discontent, Gallup, 22cnd July 2021

  4. The great resignation, Forbes magazine, 21st July 2021

  5. Where do you stand on the ladder? A short exercise, EGM blog

  6. See, the infinite game, Simon Sinek

  7. See, will your company lose people to the great resignation? The secret to retaining top talent, Forbes magazine, 6th August 2021

  8. Will your company lose people to the great resignation? The secret to retaining top talent, Forbes magazine, 6th August 2021

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