What is driving the great resignation?
1 in 4 Americans quit their jobs in 2021, with a record breaking 4.4 million Americans quitting in September alone. Resignations are not happening solely in the US. Research from recruitment firm Randstad, found “almost a quarter of UK workers are actively planning to change jobs in the next few months.”
The impact from the pandemic is the most plausible explanation as to why people are resigning, and there are many factors that are at play:
For the first time since the Great Depression, which introduced the 40-hour workweek, office employees have been encouraged to adapt to flexible and remote working. This was previously a rarity and arguably a luxury, where flexibility was offered only to certain sectors and roles. Now that some organisations are asking staff to head back to the office, many employees are specifically looking for a job that prioritises working from home (WFH), giving them more autonomy in the way they schedule their lives.
Trust is a crucial element of any relationship, including the one with your employer/employees. Trust was put to the test when home working was introduced. For some staff, it became obvious that there was a lack of faith in their ability to work as effectively. Poor trust ignites uncertainty and fear, leading employees to feel less certain about their future at a company. Many managers actually felt more exposed because they had hidden behind the effectiveness of their direct reports.
Besides poor job confidence, there is the lingering fear of catching Covid. Employees anxious about the virus are not wanting to stay with companies asking for a return to the office.
Restrictions and lockdowns have had a significant effect on mental health. Workers want leaders who are understanding and supportive of their mental wellbeing. This means, not only taking the time to check-in and listen, but to ensure workloads and demands are not too restricting on work-life balance. Where employees feel too much pressure, they are looking for less stressful alternatives.
Change in priority
Employees have had more time to think and reflect on their priorities. With so many quitting and trying to find better, there is a confidence boost for others to do the same. In America particularly, employees likely know of colleagues who have left jobs to find better pay or more fulfilment.
So what can businesses do to retain valuable employees?
Define your culture consciously
Research reveals culture is one of the biggest deciding factors for whether an employee stays at their current job or looks for a new position. All organisations have a culture which means every leader should focus on what their culture says about their business.
Employees want a culture that offers them:
• A sense of belonging
Explain with good reasoning
To make employees feel valued and respected, fully explain decisions to them. If for example, WFH was not a viable option for your company, talk to your staff and explain why. Vague reasoning can lead to resentment and a sense that leaders do not prioritise employee wellbeing.
Simply asking for feedback and bringing ideas to employees first can strongly influence how valued they feel.
Allow managerial discretion
Within the aims and policies of your business, offering managerial discretion means managers are trusted and can prioritise individual needs. Employees have different parental, wellbeing and personal requirements – there is no one size fits all. Discreetly adapting when and where appropriate demonstrates a culture that supports employee experience.
At Serenity in Leadership, we practise Bohm dialogue. This is a non-judgmental, free-flowing conversation where everyone can express their perspective equally. Exploring different dialogue methods can help leaders find more effective ways to understand employee issues. Crucially, in dialogue sessions, leaders need to ensure they capture what is being said so they can then apply it thereafter. It makes a great deal of difference when people feel listened to.
Provide departmental mentoring
In large companies in particular, colleagues can work with other departments without ever forming strong relationships. Creating a mentor programme that works remotely lets team members share information, build personal skills and form stronger bonds. This could involve a programme in which an employee can spend some time shadowing in another department. The cross-fertilisation of ideas leads to more collaborative behaviour, creativity and understanding of the wider issues of the business.
Harness employee newsletters and social media
As Harvard Business Review shares, “Acknowledging when someone personally embodies your organizational purpose provides wonderful reinforcement and reminds others to be intentional about doing the same.” Newsletters and social media can highlight the great work an employee is doing in and outside their role, inspiring other team members in the process.
Analyse exit patterns
If an organisation has noticed an increase in resignations or a particular role needing repetitive recruitment, analysing exit patterns may help explain the reasons. There could be a pattern linking to workload, inclusion, limited career growth or poor management.
Overall, to help prevent valued employees from leaving your company, placing value on culture, supportive leadership and career goals (both personal and in relation to the business), will encourage people to stay.