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Why the 'Great Resignation’ was inevitable

Why the 'Great Resignation’ was inevitable

27 Oct by Deborah Wilson

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If you are anything like me, you have lost count of the number of reports you’ve heard and read about the ‘Great Resignation’ (aka an event in which a large number of people leave their jobs). In the September newsletter we called it the “War for Retention”. COVID-19 has made many people rethink their career and question the role of work in their life. We’ve all heard stories about people moving to the country, away from the city, and enjoying remote work. Or people seeking to incorporate remote work permanently into their roles. 

Australia is far from immune to the ‘Great Resignation’ that has and will continue to grip the globe. COVID-19 has changed the game for employers, a fact that has been reiterated by new data. Slack’s Future Forum Pulse survey shows that more than half of workers are considering a new role within the next 12 months. The data suggests that many people are prepared to leave their roles if hybrid work is not incorporated in the long-term. Commentary also indicates that the impact of the ‘Great Resignation’ is tipped to hit Australia in around March 2022. This is sobering news for employers.

So, how did we get here? In many ways, COVID-19 has consumed our lives. So much so that most businesses have retained the sole focus of simply getting through the pandemic. We’ve all been so busy ‘just doing’ things. In delivering outcomes. And for many businesses, holding on and weathering the storm. Meanwhile, employees have been experiencing circumstances that few had before COVID-19 such as the ability to work remotely. As leaders, we need to look beyond the surface and understand what is really going on for people. For example, remote working is about a lot more than not having to come into the office daily. Benefits include:

  • Not spending energy on the daily commute
  • Giving people the flexibility to live anywhere because they don’t have to commute to the office daily
  • Allowing people to structure their work hours in a way that suits their lifestyle, where reasonable

Over the last two years, I have noticed that some businesses have ceased investing in their people completely. They’ve dedicated no resource into areas such as career development and succession planning. From an employee’s perspective, opportunities have dried up. Generally speaking, wages are not increasing and people typically can’t see a future for themselves beyond the role they are currently performing.

It is when we are on the cusp of great change that modern leaders stand out from the pack. A business cannot prosper without reliable people. 

Even if your company is at the top of its game in terms of its bottom line now, if you’re not investing in your team, it’s time to think strategically and pivot now. 
What would a mass exodus of staff mean for your business?

Now is the time to lead with empathy and clearly communicate with those around you. Initiate the sometimes-difficult conversations with people and ask questions like:

How can we support you in performing at your best? 
Are there any training opportunities that we can provide?
Do you feel like you’re being given what you need to progress within your role and the company?
Is there anything you would like to address with us?

This doesn’t have to be a big, scary conversation. If you frame the discussion appropriately and let people know your intent is to check in with them, most of your team will thank you for initiating the discussion.  

Leadership styles evolve over time and leadership in 2010 looked very different to leadership in 2021 and beyond. Keeping the lines of communication open is critical to retaining your best people. Sure, turnover is a part of business, but a proactive and empathetic leadership style will go a long way to stemming the wave of people looking for a new beginning that doesn’t include your business.

Deborah Wilson is a Thought Leader and a Career Strategist. She takes a personalised approach to strategic career coaching and career transitions, mentoring and leadership development. Deborah provides expert guidance for individuals while supporting organisations through change and connecting people and purpose. Call Deborah on +61 403 779 746.