The idea of the Great Resignation originated in the United States and was proposed by Texas A&M Professor, Anthony Klotz. It proposed the observation of a phenomenon that is happening now with record numbers of people leaving their jobs as the COVID19 pandemic continues to unfold. Rough estimates suggest that 33 million Americans have quit their jobs since the spring of 2021.
Specific observations on the Great Resignation included the following:
There is greater demand for mid-level workers due to their experience. This gives mid-career types greater leverage in securing employment opportunities.
- The resignation seems to occur most among mid-career workers
Resignation rates among workers in these sectors are attributed to high demands and the experience of significant stress which have resulted in increased workloads and burnout.
- The highest rate of resignation is happening in technology and healthcare
Many workers have reached a breaking point after months of high workloads, hiring freezes, work pressures and the absence of proper work boundaries and respect for personal time. These factors have caused many to rethink their work and life goals. Many are opting for greater focus on their health and well-being.
What has it taught us?
- People are placing a priority on their health and well-being
What the pandemic has certainly taught us is that things are not expected to return to normal as people and organizations have been forced to rethink the very notion of work. It heralded Future of Work conversations in an unprecedented way. Hybrid, remote and working-from-home have all become permanent features of the New Normal. In fact, the phenomenon is still playing out as experts have yet to see the full extent of what a post pandemic workplace will look like. One thing is for sure – organizations will need to move away from any one-size-fits-all approach to managing the challenges of onboarding, developing and retaining talent in a post pandemic world in a far more novel way.
A clear outcome is that people have many choices now. Employees who are self-motivated and willing to assume greater agility and control over their careers have discovered that it was possible to do so at a much greater rate of participation than ever before. They look for opportunities which allow for that agility to be expressed in the way they desire, and more importantly, at their time and pace.
Conversely, the pandemic has also caused a significant mental toll. In a study by the American Psychological Association, “Stress in America
”, it found that 32% of adults were stressed by the pandemic and even to the point of dealing with daily routine decisions such as what to eat or wear.
What has it taught organizations?
The idea of centralized leadership is being challenged by a more fundamental shift towards self-leadership. In the war for talent, successful organizations have turned their focus on people in a big way. More than ever, they understand that the emphasis has to be on empowering workers, making permanent flexible work arrangements permanent, putting in place health and well-being programs, having blended workforce solutions, investments in technology and artificial intelligence, and last but not least, building a culture of trust. In essence, the key is “having work fit around personal lives and not personal lives around work
” (Anthony Klotz).
It is actually an opportunity to herald the Great Revival
In my survey of the vast literature out there on the topic, I have arrived at the following 4 Eureka moments:
- The Great Resignation is not mainly about compensation anymore. Virtual and remote work is here to stay and people are exercising greater control and flexibility over their lives.
- The strongest predictor of staff turnover is a toxic culture. Failure to demonstrate respect, promote diversity and inclusion, focus on equity and unethical behavior will further drive up the Great Resignation.
- Failure to recognize performance and value will drive your better performers to quit and seek greener pastures.
- Response to the pandemic and having a clear vision of the future which motivates and inspires. Leadership plays a critical role in setting the right tone in visibly demonstrating competence during a crisis, and at the same time, raising the bar when it comes to looking after their most prized assets – their human capital.