The Great Resignation is coming

Ready to say adios to your job? You’re not alone. “The great resignation is coming,” says Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University who’s studied the exits of hundreds of workers.


“When there’s uncertainty, people tend to stay put, so there are pent-up resignations that didn’t happen over the past year.”


The numbers are multiplied, he says, by the many pandemic-related epiphanies – about family time, remote work, commuting, passion projects, life and death, and what it all means – that can make people turn their back on the 9-to-5 office grind.


Now that there is a gradual normalization of conditions from what it was during the heyday of the COVID-19 crisis, one might think that things are going back to the way they were, and that employees are going back to their workplaces. However, that isn’t what is happening right now.


While 2020 hit everyone hard, whether individually or on the level of organizations, thinking that returning to how life was before the coronavirus pandemic hit is going to be a simple affair is a mistake. In fact, people learned a lot about themselves and their work during this crisis, and as such, they are actually now more prone to quitting their current jobs, and pursuing others that provide them with the flexibility and life balance they want.


But why does it matter so much that people are quitting their jobs? The story here is that it is not about “some” people only. In March 2021, Microsoft published its Work Trend Index report that surveyed 31,000 workers around the globe, with the study finding that 41% of the global workforce are considering handing their resignation and quitting their jobs. 54% of the total number of people surveyed stated that they are overworked, and 39% are exhausted. Now, 41% is not a small figure- it’s almost half of the current global workforce, and that’s huge.


This mass quitting was first discussed by Anthony Klotz, Professor of Management at Texas A&M University, who also coined the phrase “The Great Resignation” to refer to it- it’s since also been known as “The Great Quit.” According to Klotz, the current 2021 trend of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs is one of the main repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis on the workplace. After all, the 15+ months spent with the pandemic has allowed individuals to think through their careers and work-life balances, and discover better ways to handle the gaps missing in their lives.


This would thus serve as an explanation for why, as the world starts move toward a post COVID-19 era, there are so many people leaving their jobs. The Washington Post reported that millions of people are quitting their jobs at an alarming rate, and if those numbers reveal anything, they express the level of discomfort and discontent that the workforce is trying to overcome. Remember the time where applicants used to fight to win a role at a company? 2021 is shaping up as a candidate market instead, where organizations compete to win the best employees.


The writing on the wall is clear- employees no longer wish to work a 9-5 kind of job at the expense of their lives. The benefits, rewards, and packages companies can offer no longer lure candidates easily. Organizations are suffering to find shiny alternatives that would compel both new candidates to join and their existing employees to stay. In the meantime, this wave of mass resignations is not slow, and the avalanche that started in the US is moving rapidly to conquer other areas of the globe.


Strategies organizations could consider to stop the dread


Now that organizations are fully aware of the problem and understand the level of damage incurred, many of them are moving towards employee retention and employer branding strategies that would entice workers to stay. In order to tackle “The Great Resignation” issue, companies can make use of a number of different approaches to survive:


1. Let employees decide how they wish to work We all know that there is no going back from remote work- it is here to stay, and for long. Despite the disadvantages that might result from its implementation (such as decrease in social interactions with colleagues, direct communication, physical office presence, etc.), the benefits that it adds to the table outnumber anything else. Through remote work, companies understood that productivity can no longer be measured by how much an employee stays at the office to complete their work. Work is now more focused on deliverables, and agility and flexibility prove to be “kings” of the process. Therefore, if a company is to retain its employees and attract the best of talent, it should consider giving them the choice of how to work. Whether it’s remote work, in-office, or a hybrid format, it is the person’s call- no flipping a switch, no one-size-fits-all.


2. Train the managers better Another issue highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic is how isolated managers are from their teams. When employees were struggling with burnout and long working hours, managers reported that they were thriving in their zones. Managers should have a clearer understanding of how employees operate and the circumstances they are facing, and craft strategies to optimize productivity. Managerial styles and approaches must be altered to fit the work requirement, productivity, and efficiency, while keeping employee satisfaction in perspective. Train the mid-level management to reduce the “brain drain” as employees quit en masse.


3. Create equity by committing to transparency Is this easier said than done? True. But organizations have many ways to prove their commitment towards creating a more equitable workplace that retains employees. Small steps towards increasing transparency can be achieved by simply listening to employees, and taking actions based on their recommendations and requests. Nothing makes the employee feel appreciated more than being listened to. Other steps can revolve around achieving pay equity across all similar roles, regardless of gender, race, or other factors. The transparency that surrounds this practice makes the employee more at ease, and it also decreases the level of dysfunctional competition between peers.


4. Focus on stakeholder management We focused on employee freedom of choice, we discussed management-employee relations, and we also elaborated on employee satisfaction coinciding with productivity and improved workmanship. Now, stakeholders must feel at ease within the new norms that have been enforced upon our existing ways of operation. Managers must be equipped with the tools that would satisfy the considerations of stakeholders across the work chain, as well as within the various strata or hierarchies of the organization. Make no mistake, employees are among the most important stakeholders within any organization. Therefore, consider employee well-being and put it up, front, and center to every conversation in the organization.


The COVID-19 crisis had made employees learn aspects of their lives, many of which relate to career discovery and change, and if companies are to retain their talents, they should encourage changes within. Lateral moves, career development plans, and dual ladders will need to be the core focus of HR departments. Bringing a new hire and teaching them about the business and all its aspects will require a learning curve that will render extremely costly on organizations. Hence, investing in employees who are interested in shifting careers or development is key. Again, flexibility is crucial. Companies might want to consider freelance, part-time or full-time employees, especially if it’s in a niche market, if they want to continue thriving.


The “Great Resignation” is here, and managing it successfully requires a strategic growth mindset and patience. Keeping the above-mentioned four strategies in mind, companies can strive towards navigating through this tough period.


Written by: Jana Haounji: Recruiter, The Career Club.