Is The Great Resignation The Next New Thing?

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he COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably turned the table around for society: while people had to move from the offices to their homes and were obliged to embrace new changes, technologies, and ideas, the ongoing restrictions left the survival of many businesses hanging by a thread. Still, if you thought that the tough road was over, think again. As we move into the post-pandemic era and the great opening is becoming a reality, new disruptive changes are just about to hit and put organizations’ survival and endurance skills to the ultimate test.

The provocative prediction “The great resignation is coming” of Anthony Klotz (Associate Professor of Management at Mays Business School, Texas A&M University) in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek is causing considerable concern in the HR industry. Klotz argued that workers are starting to leave their jobs and will continue to do so as the pandemic approaches an end. If his hypothesis ends up being true, up to 40% of U.S.-based employees (that is, more than a quarter) may quit their current jobs, leaving businesses in dire straits. It is time for organizations to roll up their sleeves and get battle-ready. The war for talent is on!

How The Pandemic Has Taken A Toll On Employee Well-being

Remote working, poor or no financial support, an unhealthy work-life balance menaced by the new “always-on” mentality and never-ending zoom meetings, overtime working hours, unappreciation, and even disregard have led employees to develop worrying symptoms: high levels of stress, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Yet, with no Plan B in sight, many of us had no other option than suck it up and take shelter in our jobs, unable to make that desired move. While it is true that many people were lucky to keep their jobs during the COVID-19 crisis, many will not forgive companies who wronged them at the moment they were economically, socially, and mentally fragile and needed their support most.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,

people will forget what you did, but people will never forget

how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou

During the pandemic, companies were more interested in addressing basic employee needs such as safety, stability, and security than carrying out a comprehensive assessment to identify the real organizational challenges and determine their root causes to set priorities for future action. And their neglect has not only impacted employee satisfaction, engagement, and well-being; now, companies are starting to pay for having ignored people’s reality.

As the economy recovers, workers that decided not to resign from their jobs due to the uncertainty of the economy, despite feeling overwhelmed and stuck, are now reassessing their relationship to work and finding ways to achieve a healthier work-life balance by building meaningful careers. Moreover, according to the WSJ, employee resignation is on the rise at levels never seen in the last 20 years in the U.S. With such a strong comeback, people are indeed turning positions, regaining the power they once lost to organizations. Yet, the world of work never seemed so promising: a better, inclusive, and diverse post-pandemic workplace with more equality, hope, and fewer shallow hierarchies. The way it should have always been.

Why Post-Pandemic Talent Flight Should Be A Major Concern

While talent flight is nothing new, talent flight risk in tough times such as these certainly is. In April, Prudential Vice-Chair Rob Falzon stated the only thing that kept him up at night was the talent flight risk, urging businesses to care more about their talent and give them opportunities to grow in remote environments. After all, acquiring a new employee is more expensive than retaining an existing one.

Still, organizations keep thinking that alluring perks and employee platforms will keep everyone happy and engaged. I’m sorry to pop the bubble: such benefits will be of no use to retain existing employees nor attract new ones. On the contrary, people will end up feeling used, unappreciated, and overwhelmed. Yet, the good news is that great strategies can increase retention in the long term: from paying people well for their skills, treating employees respectfully and with kindness, developing and sustaining high-performance work teams, establishing healthy environments where employees can grow and develop their skills and capacities, recruiting people that meet these characteristics, to allowing people to have ownership of the place they want to work in (either in the office, working remotely, or in a hybrid model), among many others. With such strategies, companies will not only be able to prevent mass protests from upset employees that may unravel internal wars for talent but also create thriving environments that empower people to find meaning in their work and use it to make a difference in the world. By doing their bit for society, businesses can reap multiple benefits that will set them for success.

Employer Branding, A Strategy That Benefits All

Whereas employee engagement is essential to attract and retain talent, it is more a result of best practices rather than a strategy on its own. Now, with job offers on the rise and many new career opportunities at a distance of a click, the most effective way of attracting high-quality candidates and keeping employees engaged is through world-class employer branding. Setting up such a transformational process can help to turn organizations into thriving and exciting environments where employees are properly nurtured, cared for, and have a voice at work.

Furthermore, if employees are treated with respect and provided with decent salaries, tools, and resources to carry out their work, they will be recommending their companies to friends and acquaintances. With all the free buzz and publicity, organizations will increase their brand visibility and employee retention. People will then follow.

Besides, keeping former employees onboard can also play an important role in talent attraction and retention strategies. Who could better recommend organizations than people who have already worked there and know how they do business and treat their workers? Bear in mind that when searching for new job positions, candidates tend to watch out for common red flags as, for example, negative reviews so that they do not end up joining toxic and dysfunctional cultures.

Doing Business The Right Way Pays Off

Before the pandemic, the majority of workers were already unhappy with their jobs. Nonetheless, the COVID-19 crisis brought a new societal shift in thinking, changing everything we did, believed, and expected from life: a wake-up call that reminded us that life is too short, nature can be as generous as unforgiving, being physically and mentally healthy is crucial, savings can save us big time, jobs are only a temporary status, and work sucks and lacks purpose, making us realize how important it is to have jobs that keep us motivated and happy when we wake up in the morning.

Despite the many challenges life might present us, in the end, only two things matter: persistence and determination. Besides, organizations that do the right thing will ultimately bring the right people to their businesses and succeed faster. There is no way they can go wrong here.

While it is clear that in the post-pandemic world only the fittest organizations will thrive, those who refuse to compromise with the greater good of a harmonious society are running out of time. Doubt not: tackling talent attraction and employee retention will be the only way of avoiding a recurrent “Thank you, next!

Do you hate your job? You're not alone: 85% of people do. It’s time to reimagine the way we work. The future is now!