The United States has been hit by the great resignation wave and the ripples of this tsunami are now being felt across Australia. What is it? How will it affect you? Is there anything we can do to outswim the wave as it comes our way?

In March 2020 as COVID-19 hit the world, employees and employers bunkered down. Employers focused their energy on safety policies, moving their workforce to remote working and, where necessary, restructuring teams and pivoting products and services. Employees kept their heads down, adjusted to working from home, juggled longer working hours, attended an endless stream of virtual meetings, and supervised at-home schooling.

It was a time of great change and uncertainty but, as the world endured weeks and months of lockdown, we all started to review and redefine what is important – health, family, financial security, career satisfaction and overall quality of life. Now, twenty months later, things have changed. There’s no more bunkering down and waiting out the pandemic; instead, we are seeing employees leaving their jobs literally in waves. The great resignation wave is here. But why?

The United States has been hit by the great resignation wave and the ripples of this tsunami are now being felt across Australia. What is it? How will it affect you? Is there anything we can do to outswim the wave as it comes our way?

In March 2020 as COVID-19 hit the world, employees and employers bunkered down. Employers focused their energy on safety policies, moving their workforce to remote working and, where necessary, restructuring teams and pivoting products and services. Employees kept their heads down, adjusted to working from home, juggled longer working hours, attended an endless stream of virtual meetings, and supervised at-home schooling.

It was a time of great change and uncertainty but, as the world endured weeks and months of lockdown, we all started to review and redefine what is important – health, family, financial security, career satisfaction and overall quality of life. Now, twenty months later, things have changed. There’s no more bunkering down and waiting out the pandemic; instead, we are seeing employees leaving their jobs literally in waves. The great resignation wave is here. But why?

  • 85% of employers agree that employees’ ideas about what a good job looks like have changed as a result of the pandemic, a figure that is even higher – 96% – in the hospitality and tourism industries
  • 86% of those surveyed believe that it’s essential for employers to take immediate action to stem the flow of departures
  • 76% of respondents noted that resignations can have a contagious effect, with the departure of one or two employees often leading to further resignations.

In a related finding, Microsoft’s Work Trend Study found that resignation rates are highest among mid-career employees. Employees between 30 and 45 years old have shown the greatest increase in resignation rates, with an average increase of more than 20% between 2020 and 2021. A separate Microsoft survey found that 41% of employees were considering changing jobs or professions, while research by HR company Personio found that 38% of employees in the UK and Ireland were planning to quit their job within the next 12 months. Executive search firm Korn Ferry records that 94% of retailers are currently struggling to fill open positions.

These facts are alarming. There is neither a single reason nor one solution for the great resignation wave. However, poor leadership, a poor relationship with one’s direct manager and a lack of trust in the leadership of the organisation continue to be key contributors to employee attrition.

Middle managers and emerging and developing leaders are the engine room of most businesses. These individuals turn strategy into action. Great middle managers inspire, motivate, manage and train their teams to execute the activities required to meet customer needs. And of course, poor middle managers have the opposite impact.

Middle managers are frequently promoted into their roles because of their previous strong performances as individual contributors. Often with minimal training, they are now responsible for a team of individuals and required to move from doing to coaching, training, facilitating and inspiring. This is a difficult transition in the best of times, but leading and inspiring in the virtual world with little or no training can be nearly impossible. Burnout, feelings of failure, lack of skills and experience, and having to deal with uncertainty and chaos are all contributing to the wave of resignations for both middle managers and those on their teams.

So what can you do? Can you outswim the wave? Here are some effective strategies for addressing this issue

  • Invest in developing the leadership and communication skills of all your employees, but especially those who lead and manage teams.
  • Support your employees to develop career plans that they are committed to and that are achievable. Encourage them to own and be accountable for their careers but offer them the tools and support to enable them to create those plans.
  • Constantly check in to make sure you understand the changing employment climate and what your employees are looking for. While money is always important, it is definitely not the most important factor in employees’ decision-making.
  • Make people take time off and turn off. Close the office for a day. Enforce time limits on meeting and sending emails. Give everyone a three-day weekend.
  • Create situations and events that your team can look forward to.
  • Be personal. As leaders, take the time to reach out to individual members of your team. Be present and genuine.
  • Read, and keep pace with, the marketplace. You may need to adjust your employee benefits, including salary, to keep up with the market. Salaries are increasing considerably, especially in the area of technology, and it will be beneficial to be proactive rather than reactive. The cost of replacing a talented employee will, most likely, be more than the remuneration increase you might have to offer.
  • Be flexible, with both current and future employees. Where and how people work is becoming a critical factor in their employment decisions.

Finally, how managers and organisations handle the very sensitive vaccination debate is critical in terms of an employee’s desire to stay with or leave an organisation. Having a clear and consistent message across your company, leaders and managers will give your employees an understanding of your policy and your stance on the health and safety of your team. This isn’t an area where you can afford to be wishy-washy.

The great resignation wave isn’t coming – in many industries it’s already here. How your employees, managers and organisation come out the other side is going to be determined by what you do now.

If you would like to find out more about how Peeplcoach is supporting organisations to stem the great resignation wave, please connect with one of the team here.

References

  1. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210629-the-great-resignation-how-employers-drove-workers-to-quit
  2. https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers/careers/the-great-resignation-wave-swamping-workplaces-around-the-world-20210629-p58560
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/hollycorbett/2021/07/28/the-great-resignation-why-employees-dont-want-to-go-back-to-the-office/
  4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2021/08/31/three-hard-truths-about-the-great-resignation-to-consider-before-its-too-late/
  5. https://hrexecutive.com/employers-agree-the-great-resignation-is-a-real-and-present-danger/
  6. https://hbr.org/2021/09/who-is-driving-the-great-resignation
  7. https://theforbesjournal.com/will-your-company-lose-people-to-the-great-resignation-the-secret-to-retaining-top-talent/
  8. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index
  9. https://hr.personio.de/hubfs/EN_Downloads/202104_HRStudy_UKI.pdf
  10. https://www.kornferry.com/about-us/press/korn-ferry-retail-survey-finds-a-very-slow-movement-to-include-dei-incentive
  11. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index

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