December 13, 2021

The Great Resignation: What your business can do to keep good employees

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted almost everything, including the workplace. And, in some countries, one unforeseen consequence has been an increased number of employees quitting their jobs or changing careers. It’s a phenomenon that’s become known as the Great Resignation.  

So, if you’re worried about struggling to retain employees in a post-pandemic world, read on.

What is the Great Resignation?

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have caused many people to reassess their lives and, it seems many have decided that their employment needs to go. The Economist reports that in September 2021, a record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs and that 400,000 Britons did the same thing in the third quarter of this year. This led psychologist and professor, Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University to dub the trend the Great Resignation. 

While we haven’t yet experienced the same phenomenon here in Australia, some believe the Great Resignation will soon hit our shores too. A recent PWC Australia study called ‘What Workers Want’ found that as many as 38% of the nation’s workers plan to leave their employer over the next 12 month.

While some level of turnover may be healthy for an organisation, losing employees on this scale can cause real cost and disruption. In fact, in cases such as professional services where employees hold special skills or knowledge, a mass resignation could be very difficult to recover from.

With that in mind, here’s what we think every employer should be doing to avoid the potential fallout.

Feeling valued the key factor

The PWC Australia study found that feeling undervalued was one of the most significant factors driving employees to consider leaving their employers. While many believed that this could be solved by more remuneration (get set for rising wages), a substantial portion (22%) also said their employer’s lack of concern for their wellbeing was the main reason they felt undervalued. 

The good news is that there is a lot you can do as an employer to help satisfy employees on this front. And fostering a culture that encourages employees to have a life outside of the office is chief among these. 

The best way to do this is to work with your employees to develop shared values – ones that encourage working productively during hours but also taking a break from work. 

You also need to lead by example, monitoring your own hours to make sure you set the right tone. If you’re in the office at all hours, chances are your employees will feel they need to do the same. Put value on output rather than presenteeism.

Support employees’ mental health 

As an employer, there are many ways you can support your employees’ mental health. This could include having an open culture where mental health is openly discussed, as well as appointing mental champions among your senior team members. 

Many employers are now also adopting a formal mental health strategy, which provides employees with guidance on mental wellbeing and provides them with the right support. You should continue doing the same.

Be realistic about workloads

Taking on too much work and then under-resourcing it is one of the most severe stressors employers place on their employees.  In some sectors, such as professional services, many employers have a long history of doing just this – overburdening junior staff with too much work and then failing to provide the structures and support they need. 

If you’re at risk of falling into this boat you need to be upfront with clients, as well as with your staff. Agree with your employees what’s reasonable and don’t over-promise to your clients. Those organisations that are upfront and honest about fees, budgets and timeframes tend to be happier places to work – the kind employees want to hang around at.

Use your office but take advantage of technology

One reason many employees around the world have decided this is time for a change has simply been the lack of office interaction. After all, while working from home (WFH) has its benefits, it can also increase our sense of isolation and make work a lot less, well, fun.

As COVID restrictions lift, I’d encourage employers to reintroduce the workplace and everything that’s great about it

That doesn’t mean we should abandon WFH. But it does mean that we should encourage face-to-face interactions as part of a flexible approach, where employees work from the office sometimes but have the freedom to practice WFH when it suits them. This can work wonders for wellbeing and productivity.  

Just be sure to provide the right support, including technology. 

Get feedback

One of the easiest ways to gauge the mood of the office, and make sure people are satisfied with their careers, is simply to ask. Conduct a survey to find out how people are feeling, what their wellbeing is like and what you can do to improve their situation. You’re likely to find you have several easy wins and that you can make your staff a lot more satisfied and less likely to leave, without having to do too much.

Just be sure to keep things professional and anonymous, and be sure to word things appropriately. Don’t be afraid to bring in the professionals if you need help.

Keep refining what you do 

While the Great Resignation may be a single phenomenon, it’s likely to have a lasting effect. The pandemic has made a lot of people assess what they want from life and, for many, it seems that the grind isn’t part of it. Many employers may find that they need to be more mindful of creating an environment that puts their employees first.

For that reason, it’s important to track your progress against any wellbeing initiatives and to keep refining and improving what you do. Doing so could keep you ahead of the game, make you an employer of choice and help you attract and retain the employees that will drive your business forward.

Want more on how to manage the Great Resignation? 

If you’d like to know more about what your organisation can do to help stave off the Great Resignation, get in touch.

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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