The Great Resignation is Here, How Are You Going to Handle It?

If we have learned anything during the pandemic, it is that it’s unpredictable in more ways than one. Over the past 18 months, as a society, we pinned our hopes on measures such as lockdown; innovations like the vaccine; goals like herd immunity and much more — tools that, while improving our situation, haven’t been the magic bullet that ends COVID once and for all. Therefore, as time passes, two buzzwords have become essential for workplace culture designers: adaptation and resilience.

The work environment is not exempt from these seismic changes. The year and a half since March 2020 has brought more —and faster— change for corporations than five decades of sustained development and technological transformation. These adjustments have been vertiginous and implemented without much planning, if any at all, something that has generated uncertainty for the employees of a company—especially, regarding the future of their careers.

Being resilient and adaptable hasn’t been an initiative from employees—it’s mostly being imposed on them to keep their jobs! That’s why, to the surprise of very few, in April 2021 —one year and a month after the start of the first large-scale confinement— the sky opened up, and despite the fact that the horizon showed a modest economic and labor improvement thanks to the application of vaccines and the relative decrease in positive COVID cases, we began to see a phenomenon that, over the weeks, Professor Anthony Klotz began to call “The Great Resignation,” but that others have called the Turnover Tsunami.

Why? For starters, more than 4 million Americans resigned in a single month, while almost 10 million vacancies were posted in the same period. How long has it been since the worker had the leverage and bargaining power in the negotiating table?

This is why people began to quit their jobs en masse. And unlike other waves of resignations in the near past, this time the demographics agree that it is happening pretty evenly: people of all ages and seniorities; of all ranks, industries and backgrounds.

While it is true that young people are willing to make sudden decisions especially now that they have a bit more cash to burn (such is the basis for the growing mindset of the YOLO Economy), many multigenerational employees are generally changing careers to cope with the uncertainty of the future — while many others are only looking for a company that offers them, in simple words, what they got during the pandemic: flexibility.

Those of us who are dedicated to trying to understand the workspace began to analyze ways to counteract the phenomenon, but before that we wanted to understand it: as every good leader knows, what cannot be measured cannot be improved.

According to a Microsoft study, up to 41% of the global workforce intends to quit their job in the following year, while in QuestionPro’s own survey found out that up to 76% of workers are willing to quit, and 58% are looking, whether actively or passively.

For this reason, at QuestionPro Workforce —we present you 3 ways to handle The Great Resignation, so you can better retain your talent:

1. Find out how the needs of all your workers have evolved

The great remote work experiment reordered the lives of all your employees: some were impacted more and some less so, but there is certainly a before and after work-from-home (or work-from-anywhere, like us here at QuestionPro). We all began to rethink our relationship with work, and its place on the priority scale alongside our family, friends, and personal needs. Therefore, if you’re in charge of HR for your company… yep, you have to give a serious review to your work environment and satisfaction surveys from before the pandemic!

The rules of the game have changed, and now that the return to the office is approaching little by little, not everyone is going to want to return to the “old normal.” This is why effectively surveying your people, and really listening to them, is more important than ever. Many are motivated to change jobs in search of what you may not be giving them. In many cases COVID revealed the true colors of a company: those that already had a good culture knew how to adapt. Companies that didn’t likely translated their toxic environment into the remote work areas. 

Each employee experienced the pandemic in different ways. Some have tried flexibility and yearn for a return to the office, or an efficient hybrid model; some feel like they’re navigating blindly at work because they haven’t had a performance review with their manager in a year and a half; and, many others will never want to go back to the four walls of the office building because their most productive time is 4 in the morning. Be clear about the expectations that are established for the new work modalities and about what the future career plan holds for each person based on the changes brought about by the pandemic.

2. Lead with empathy, feedback, creativity and interest

A modern manager doesn’t just delegate and drive strategy. Quite the contrary: they begin by shaping the culture of their team. For that reason, a leader who is accessible, vulnerable and in touch with their emotions will transmit the same to their team, and there is no better time to put this into practice than now, when burnout levels have joined The Great Resignation to create a perfect staff turnover storm.

Several studies have concluded that talking to your employees about their workload, in addition to their passions, aspirations and dreams, increases productivity and belonging to a workplace, and opens the possibility of integrating those hobbies or aspirations into their day to day at work. This bonding method helps employees feel more engaged and satisfied with their work, which in turn increases productivity.

In addition to asking these questions in the meetings that you will gradually schedule to inquire more about your staff, you can also create surveys on their interests, in addition to the usual ones you already conduct on work climate and culture. You never know when this will enhance the skills and talents of your team, creating a direct benefit to the company and employee, while reducing burnout that could lead to resignation.

3. Reinvent the way your team works based on knowledge and not intuition

As a leader, your obligation from now on will be to create intelligence-based work models that benefit the mental health and well-being of your team, while encouraging interaction, collaboration, and the spark of creativity. In a manager role, those that don’t ask the right questions will never be able to improve their staff—so stick with them, ask the hard questions, collect the data, and adapt your strategy to encourage retention. Create work hubs dedicated to solving problems or doing specific tasks and reinvent the most important topic of contention: who should go back to the office, how many days a week and why, according to the different collaboration patterns that occur in your company. And don’t make this decision once and never re-visit it. After you determine a new work model, make sure to ask your employees for feedback on continual basis about how it’s really working out, so you can continue to fine-tune and adapt your strategy. 

This way, you can have the best of both worlds for your staff. According to research, what post-COVID employees value most —regardless of whether they are for or against returning to the office— is the flexibility to decide on the way they work—that is, how much of their time should be devoted to actual work, how much to improve their lifestyle and how much is allocated for their family, partner, or friends. A happy, motivated employee is a productive employee, and that’s one who won’t quit even in the middle of the Great Resignation!

Remember that every resignation, recruiting, and onboarding process costs your company real money: this wave of resignations could add up to costing over $23 billion across organizations, so plan ahead by doing the right things at the right time. What worked before will not necessarily work now, so intuition must be replaced by concrete data and insights to make more informed decisions, and make your company thrive even in the hardest times.

Learn more about how to get ongoing feedback from your employees and start taking action to make a positive impact in your organization with QuestionPro Workforce.