Since early 2021, employees have been leaving their jobs in record numbers, and businesses around the globe experiencing this ‘Great Resignation’ have struggled to survive. As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to improve and life slowly gets back to normal, a record number of job openings threaten a range of industries, which don’t have enough skilled employees to fill those roles.
A recent study of 9,000,000 global employees from 4,000 businesses revealed two key insights into which employees are leaving and why:
- Resignation rates are highest among mid-career employees. With long careers ahead of them and the experience to know their worth, these employees are in strong positions to create the careers they want. This has created a demand for change: rejection of burnout culture, new standards for how they spend their valuable time and effort, and a hunger for meaning — leading in-demand talent to go freelance, change careers, return to school, or invest in long-term goals and wellbeing.
- Resignations are highest in the tech and healthcare industries. This makes sense for health workers, who have been under pressure during this pandemic that is unprecedented in our lifetimes. But the tech side shows another story: COVID-19 provided massive disruption in the way we work in tech, including less in-office bonding, more flexibility in working conditions, and greater autonomy over our time. Employers’ already-huge demand for talent was magnified to survive the accelerated digital transformation, making more lucrative opportunities available to tech talent.
These trends reflect that COVID’s global wakeup call has led to a massive reprioritization in what matters and how we get meaning from our days. Texas A&M professor Anthony Klotz, who originally coined the term “Great Resignation”, emphasizes the life-shifting nature of the pandemic: “From organizational research, we know that when human beings come into contact with death and illness in their lives, it causes them to take a step back and ask existential questions,” Klotz said. “Like, what gives me purpose and happiness in life, and does that match up with how I’m spending my right now? So, in many cases, those reflections will lead to life pivots.”
This question hints at the silver lining of this period, the promise it provides to employers who want to go from struggling to fill roles and make ends meet to thriving in the new world of work.
The Great Realignment / Great Reflection
As talent takes this moment in time to reflect on their needs, they are driving a Great Realignment in the way we work and live. This is a marketplace correction to realign employees with employers who share their values and cultures where they actually want to be long-term — and employers will net out with new, meaning-driven employee loyalty.
The key to surviving this massive reset is providing value-aligned talent with the growth opportunities they seek to meet their business goals. Are you doing all you can to seize the benefits from the Great Resignation? Here are the top 4 things that will have the greatest impact.
1. Don’t just backfill — modernize.
If you’re in a position with many open roles, celebrate: your business has the opportunity to reinvent your org chart — and with it, your efficiency. So many of today’s businesses have retrofitted modern, digital processes into traditional org models and cultures. But in a world where companies that focus on creating agile, digital culture are 5x more likely to achieve breakthrough results than companies that don’t, now may be the perfect time to reset for success.
Instead of simply backfilling roles, businesses should think about what structures they need to reach digital transformation goals, then design a digital organization that aligns closely with how they expect to capture value from their digital strategy. This includes recognizing antiquated roles and skilling workers into new tech roles within the org, both modernizing the org chart and the employee themselves — an investment that leads to an incredible boost in employee engagement and loyalty for the business.
2. Invest in your most valuable resource: your committed employees.
The truth is, if employees want to leave your organization, they’re going to. But not all employees want to leave. Retention is key during this period, so it’s important to keep investing in your valuable employees — the ones who, by staying through The Great Realignment — have demonstrated that they actually want to be there. This is where career and skill development is more crucial than ever. Employees want to work for businesses who are providing opportunities for them to upskill or reskill, to prepare for the future of work.
3. Make good on your DEI promises.
In this Great Realignment, workers are searching for work with businesses that are making the world a better place – and that includes making good on their DEI promises: Deloitte research found that 80% of employees consider inclusion important when choosing an employer. ” In 2020 businesses pledged to make a change, but few actually did. Often, this is because they don’t do much beyond trying to expand diversity in their hiring. But while diversity is often the entry-point for businesses to improve DEI, inclusion is the factor that may reap the best long-term benefits.
Businesses who invest in building inclusion with their org are outperforming their peers, and with good reason. Structural inequities that sustain homogenous workforces mean that employees hired in pursuit of diversity of representation often do not want to stay, because the underlying issues of equity in employee treatment and inclusion within the work culture are not addressed. (Can your leadership accurately describe the three pillars of diversity, equity and inclusion?)
Those businesses who are using The Great Resignation to rethink their hiring practices, focus on skills-based hiring vs. antiquated measures of success (such as 4-year degrees), and invest in learning across their organizations will gain a competitive advantage.
4. Create cultures of meaning.
Especially during this Great Realignment, workers want to join businesses that have a clear mission and plan to get there — both now, and post-pandemic. It sounds obvious, but leaders forget this golden rule all the time. As valuable as this North Star might be, 40 percent of employees say they’ve yet to hear about any post-pandemic vision from their organizations, and another 28 percent say that what they’ve heard remains vague. As well as a clear vision for what post-pandemic work will look like.
To create meaningful community that drives employee engagement and loyalty, you must clearly communicate your mission, goals, and how your people will get you there. How, you ask, during the ‘Great Resignation’? As you rebuild your business, don’t wait to bring employees into the fold. Address the elephant in the room: yes, people are leaving. However, there should still be reasons to be excited about working at your business. If you’ve started thinking about modernizing your org chart, providing career growth opportunities to your employees and are looking at real tangible ways to improve DEI at your business, you’ve got plenty to talk about.
The bottom line: If your business isn’t already reevaluating, you’re already behind
The Great Resignation should be considered the Great Realignment for businesses. Yes, losing valuable employees is hard, but you have the opportunity to reinvent your business and your culture. Companies who take this time to reinvent themselves will win.
GA can help. Get in touch to find out how GA can help your organization reinvent your relationship to your talent in this new era.