What is the great resignation and why should employers know about it?
It is that time of year again, the start of a new year and millions of people worldwide have quit their jobs or are planning to. Employers are getting worried as it is common for people to want a fresh start in January, and there could be a struggle to fill gaps in their workforce. Annual resignation numbers are expected to be more severe following the pandemic lockdowns. For most individuals, 2020 was a time to keep their heads down and stay put at their jobs. The economic recovery has resulted in talent shortages in many sectors and new opportunities for restless employees.
Economists and analysts have named the post-pandemic surge of people quitting their jobs the ‘Great Resignation’. A recent study revealed that 38% of workers plan to quit their jobs in the next six months to a year. Of course, paying employees a competitive salary is one of the first and most obvious retention strategies, but employers are now expected to go beyond paying a fair wage. Back in 2017, Glassdoor surveyed 615,000 workers, which revealed that across all income brackets, the top predictor of workplace satisfaction included the culture and values of a company, career opportunities, and the quality of senior leadership.
Whether employers like it or not, they will need to go the extra mile to retain their best talent and encourage staff to bring their whole selves to work. Learn why employees are suddenly leaving en masse and what companies can do to counteract the great resignation.
Why are People Leaving Their Jobs?
It is unlikely that it is one thing that has caused the great resignation, and it is likely to be an accumulation of various factors – although many related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the months of uncertainty, more people than ever are suffering from burnout, isoloation or simply feel swamped by work and become more aware of how their employment impacts their work-life balance. The pandemic has also made people reassess their priorities in life, resulting in the choice to pursue a better work life balance.
An estimated 74% of employees expect remote work to become standard following the pandemic. For those working for employers that do not offer hybrid work as an option, they are more likely to look for jobs that provide flexibility. Others have decided to take a career break or simply feel ready for a change.
How to Keep Talented Employees
It is never a good time for a company’s best talent to leave, but now more than ever, employers are being pushed to their limits to try and retain their employees. Therefore, it is up to HR and management to think carefully and put into action how they can counteract resignations.
Here are a few approaches employers can implement to help reduce an exodus:
- Ask employees what they want – It is best not to presume what will make employees content to stay within an organisation. Instead, it is best to ask staff directly or with an internal survey. By asking questions and gathering data, employers will be able to make informed decisions about what can benefit the workforce. It will also allow the staff to have a part in shaping the organisation.
- Promote a Healthy Work-Life Balance – A significant trigger for people looking for a new job is current job apathy, so the impact of stress should not be ignored. Encouraging a healthy lifestyle and supporting wellbeing can make a huge difference in employee turnover. By checking in with employees and making sure they feel supported will help reduce burnout.
Some good ways to promote a healthy work-life balance include:
- Embrace/Welcome flexible working
- Ask your employees what they need from you to help them achieve a healthy work-life balance
- Train managers and supervisors to recognise burnout
- Educate and train employees about the benefits of a healthy work-life balance
- Implementing meeting-free hours during the week
- Encouraging regular breaks
- Encourage efficient working
- Being mindful of contacting staff outside of working hours
A lot of this will come from the working culture set by the senior managers in a company. Employees are unlikely to take advantage of a company’s recommendations if managers work regularly through lunch breaks and do not leave until late.
- Provide Development Opportunities – No one likes to feel stagnant in their positions, and one area which was massively disrupted by the pandemic is career progression. Many people were concerned about job security, which dropped career progression on the list of priorities. This has resulted in people wanting to switch jobs to try and make up for lost time.
It is worth talking to employees to find out how the company can support them and ensure they are feeling satisfied. For example, there could be an internal position that they may want to apply for, or there could be a particular project they want to work on. Communication is key and could stop a talented employee from leaving.
- Compare and Benchmark Benefits – Of course, employees will want to be happy in their day to day roles, but the rewards package can also have a significant impact on their overall satisfaction levels. In today’s competitive job market, both pay and benefits could prove to be the deciding factor for employee retention. A good place to begin is by looking at some competitor job postings to see what benefits they offer.
Many employees do not see after-work drinks or the occasional lunch out as perks. The benefits need to focus on what truly matters to them. For example, some workplaces may benefit from offering childcare support, a personal care allowance (for activities such as gym memberships), or additional funding in professional development.
- Review and Update Policies – The way most people work has changed over the past few years. For example, suppose an employer wishes to encourage staff back into the workplace during the times when the government guidelines state it is safe to do so. In that case, it is crucial to monitor how comfortable people feel about the decision. The company policies should reflect the company’s stance to ensure everyone is aware.
It is worth involving employees in the creation of policies to ensure people feel comfortable with what is being decided. For instance, being asked to come back into a busy office environment that may not be big enough for social distancing is enough to push employees into looking for a new job. Ultimately, employees need to feel that they are being heard and taken care of, so company policies should reflect this in a thoughtful and carefully considered way.
The last couple of years has been a rollercoaster for many people. Lockdowns have contributed to how many employees feel about their jobs. Employers must do what they can to empathise with staff by implementing policies, procedures and initiatives which help staff feel valued. If an employee does leave, the company can be safe if they know they have done the best they can to retain them.
Sometimes, the lure to a new role is so tempting that nothing can be done to convince an employee to stay. But, with any luck, the improved measures to retain the existing staff may help keep other employees happy and help attract new talent to the company.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who created the ‘Great Resignation’ term?
The ‘Great Resignation’ term was coined in late 2020 by Anthony Klotz at Texas A&M University. Anthony Koltz said it was in response to two developments he described as having collided like a perfect storm – growing quit rates and the burnout and rethinking of
work-life balance following the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Is the job resignation data accurate?
A lot of the coverage and data around the Great Resignation is actually focused on employees who are thinking about quitting their jobs, not those who have taken the leap. It is true that slightly more people are resigning than usual, but these figures were on the rise pre-COVID pandemic, so more longitudinal data is required to scale the extent of the Great Resignation.
How much notice is needed for a resignation?
If a staff member wants to leave their position, they must give the employer some warning – which is known as a notice period. The employment contract should clearly state the notice period required. In the absence of a contract of employment an employee who has worked for the employer for one month or more only has a statutory requirement to give one week’s notice. Further, without an effective contract of employment there can be no post termination restrictions to protect the business.
Can an employee refuse to work their notice period?
If an employee does not want to work their notice period, they have the right to try and agree on a shorter time frame with the employer. However, if an agreement is not reached to reduce the notice period or waive it entirely, the employee will be in breach of contract if they refuse to work the notice period required by the employment contract.
Does UK law demand exit interviews?
Exit interviews are not a legal requirement – it is a voluntary decision for both parties. However, they tend to be part of company policy if an employer encourages exit interviews. Employees may be informed of this protocol by including a provision in their employment contract.