The Great Resignation: An opportunity not a threat

2nd Feb 2022

The Great Resignation has now been with us for just over a year. Although it has been documented in more detail in the US, there has been a similar effect in many other countries, including here in the UK.

Anthony Klotz, a professor of management at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, was interviewed on Bloomberg news in May last year and it was his use of the term ‘Great Resignation’ that really summarised what was taking place - a wave of much higher than usual resignations taking place.

Many academic and business commentators have tried to explain the effect. There is certainly some truth in the theory that everyone who was considering a new job when the pandemic started - and was then prevented from leaving their current job - would quit as soon as they felt the jobs market was starting to normalise again. There was a lot of pent-up demand to move job.

But this only partially explains the level of resignations. A November 2021 survey of UK workers found that about a quarter are actively seeking a new job and plan to quit within the next few months. There is a lot of disaffection out there right now.

The most recent TTEC EMEA CX Pod Europe podcast featured the US-based industry analyst Stephen Loynd - the founder and principal analyst at TrendzOwl. Stephen has an interesting take on the great resignation. He sees it as a collection of ideas and employee expectations that have coalesced at the same time.

On the podcast Stephen said: "It's a network effect of ideas, one powerful idea is that people just don't have to take it anymore. They want to [change], they want work that rewards them, and they want it to be reasonable.” He added: “I was thinking about this question of whether the pandemic was just a catalyst for change or a trigger to change people's behaviour or whether there are some more fundamental underlying reasons. It's as if the pandemic was the bully who showed up on the playground.”

I also saw that Stephen wrote the foreword to a very recent book that looks at the great resignation and the effect on customer service and customer experience. Titled ‘Don’t Fear The Gig Worker: GigCX And The Employment Reboot’ the book explores how employers and employees alike will be searching for ways to make work more resilient and flexible after the pandemic.

In his introduction to the book, Stephen writes: “This book indicates that there is a wider societal shift taking place. Our expectation of employers has changed. Workers no longer believe that commuting should just be accepted as essential or that an employer can deny them the flexibility to leave work early when they have a family emergency. The great resignation of 2021 indicated that millions of people are not prepared to skew their work/life balance entirely in favour of work. We all need to work, we have bills to pay, but we don’t need to work in a way that destroys our physical and mental health.”

I think that Stephen is on to something in his statements here. Everyone has worked in a job they didn’t like, because we all need to pay our bills, but expectations are genuinely changing. The pandemic has forced company executives to rethink the resilience of their organisation - and this includes people.

Many workers experienced a sudden wave of flexibility during the pandemic. They were able to stop commuting, they were judged more on what they delivered, rather than how many hours they sat at a desk. There was a sense of greater flexibility being possible in a way that worked for both employees and employers.

This will be the lasting impact of Covid in the workplace - adjusted expectations of employers and managers. Our own TTEC EMEA HR leader Emma Crowe published a great article in the HR Director magazine last November suggesting that smart leaders will see this as an opportunity to attract the best talent.

That’s the message that I think executives need to take on board. You can’t ignore these changes and assume a return to 2019 standards will be here soon. Embrace the change and turn this into an opportunity to make your business an employer of choice that everyone wants to join.

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