The Great Resignation

by Gertraud Eregger in — January 2022
When we first heard about the current workplace phenomenon ‘The Great Resignation’ or ‘Big Quit’ in the USA, we immediately had the picture of the Big Migration in Kenya in mind. Millions of wild beasts cross countries each summer and the movement is triggered by the dry season. In search of water and food, large amounts of animals start migrating to promising lands and exactly know where they need to go.

So, when we take this picture of millions of crossing wild beasts in our mind and see millions of employees resigning the corporate world and cross over to either another organization or consider corporate exit scenarios, what drives them to quit?

The Great Resignation, refers to a total of 4 million US Americans quitting their jobs in July 2021 and since then the numbers of employees leaving their jobs stayed very high. The country also faced a record high of open jobs of 10.9 million vacancies at the end of July. A recent article published by the Harvard Business Review asks the question what drives the current phenomenon.

As the article shares, the majority of employees leaving their roles had been at mid-level between 30 and 45 years old. Industries as the IT and the health care sector faced highest resignation rates. The current pandemic has also been seen as a breaking point for many employees re-shaping their goals of work and life. 2020 had been dominated by instant home office shifts and the highest level of uncertainty, and very complex scenarios of integrating private and corporate responsibilities at home. In 2021, we saw that markets flourished again, and organizations found their way again to push through the ‘new norm’ and ongoing pressured markets.

The Dry Season for Employees

When we do see the numbers of millions of employees quitting their current roles, we immediately ask, what are they looking for? What did they miss within their organization? Where do they migrate to?

As reasons to quit your job are different and personal, we do see trends and ongoing themes in the last year coming up over and over again in interviews. At the core, we hear statements as ‘missing purpose, impact and vision’ within the organization. We hear and know that pressure to deliver got mixed with very shaken markets, and employees are asked to combine uncertainty at the workplace with uncertainty of lockdown scenarios impacting family responsibilities.

The pandemic had been a crash test for the strategy and value-world of organizations. The space and cuts created at the early stages of the pandemic, set the stage for the rising pressure and upwards trends in 2021. Among personal reasons, employees were looking for…

  • A strong set of corporate values and leadership as well as a common understanding of the vision of the company going forward vs. short term approaches and very high uncertainty of month after month
  • Close communication to employees during all stages of the pandemic. The importance of feeling seen and heard and valued, especially when the last months incorporated a high level of pressure and deliverables.
  • Flexibility and open-ness to discuss workplace scenarios
  • Impact of work to the community and contributing to a larger purpose.

The Dry Season for Organizations

Organizations had been experiencing the most challenging times in centuries during the last two years. Juggling daily complex operations while working on a solid long-term strategy that endures pandemics and other global challenges took all energy.

The Great Resignation might serve as a wake-up call for many organizations to re-assess their attractivity as employer and explore strategies to connect with their key talent and workforce.

Here are some steps when starting to look deeper into your most important resource – your people:

  • Analyze your retention and turnover rates and reasons. While you might hear shallow answers when an employee is leaving, you need to create trust in your communication culture, so you truly understand why employees are leaving your ship.
  • See trends and themes among your leaving employees and create a long-term strategy combined with immediate actions to address them
  • Go deep and ask for the story behind the story while employees are leaving you and who stays and believes in your mission
  • Inspire to even create your offboarding in a personal and trusted way so you create ambassadors when someone leaves the ship. Read more on how to create an offboarding strategy in this Talentor article.
  • Do your strategic homework. No shortcuts on working on your strategy, your purpose and corporate values are allowed in those volatile times. How you lead, communicate, work and create value is the most important resource for your people to stay and work with you.

We’ve also asked Talentor Partners around the world on their experience and insights of what is happening right now in the markets. Stay tuned, and read about the findings of our partners in the next blog post coming up.