You may have heard about The Great Resignation in the news of late. Our Managing Director, Kate Prior, was interviewed on 30 September by ABC Radio’s Dan Boucher in Canberra on the topic, from both employer and employee perspectives, focusing on the ACT market.

Also on the program was behavioural scientist Aaron McEwan, from global research and advisory firm Gartner, who said The Great Resignation movement is another ramification of COVID-19, which is causing ripples that are difficult to predict.

The Great Resignation is fast expanding in Australia, says Kate. face2face recruiters are seeing it more and more in their daily recruitment activities.

Employers need to understand what The Great Resignation is and understand that it’s yet to hit its peak. Importantly, employers need to know what they can do when an employee wants to resign because they’ve had a deep think during the pandemic about their career and what they want out of life, including at work.

What is the Great Resignation?

The Great Resignation is a term covering a trend in the US. COVID-19 has led to millions of people, from all industries and at all levels, deciding to resign from their jobs. It’s not just a US issue. It’s a global issue and Australia is in the mix.

Aaron told the ABC that the movement of talent is ‘so significant and so sharp’ that it’s ‘different to probably anything we’ve seen in living memory’.

Why are employees resigning?

The reasons employees are resigning are as varied as the types of employees themselves. But make no mistake, the vast majority who resign already have another job lined up. Aaron told the ABC that today employees don’t want to be seen as ‘workers’. They want to be seen as ‘complex human beings with rich, full lives.’

Some employees are resigning:

  • to avoid long hours and stress and, instead, concentrate on wellbeing and flexibility
  • to spend their working life doing something completely different
  • to land a job they 100% enjoy doing, even if that means downsizing to fewer hours and less responsibility
  • because they now have experience working from home or remotely during lockdowns and like the benefits
  • because they want to be treated as humans with real needs, not just as workers getting paid to do a job.

What are the implications for employers?

Aaron says pandemics reshape society in many ways and at fundamental levels. COVID-19 is no exception. It has further shifted the balance of power from employers to employees. Indeed, Aaron says it has rewritten the psychological contract between both parties.

In Australia, this means that an already highly competitive market is going to get even more competitive. Employers need to pay attention. They need to think long, hard and creatively about how to:

  1. retain existing talent
  2. attract new talent.

What can employers do about it?

Kate says employers need to be real about what employees want. They need to understand that a massive percentage of jobseekers are seeking a hybrid model of working. Employers therefore need to change traditional approaches and the way they operate. Kate says employers who are fixed and offer no room for negotiation will continue to lose out on their amazing talent. The same applies to  employers who don’t genuinely listen to what their employees are saying about what they want from their jobs and careers.

Employers need to think laterally about possibilities and be flexible, including by:

  1. asking and listening carefully to what jobseekers are saying they want—benefits, ways of working and what they think is important, both professionally and personally
  2. talking to existing star employees about their intentions and working with them on a retention plan
  3. being creative about perks, with many employees wanting more than just money
  4. budgeting for reconfiguring work, including by providing the right equipment and systems needed so employees can operate at high efficiency levels no matter where they’re located
  5. budgeting for increased wages, acknowledging that paying a greater salary to keep a top employee may be more economical than losing them and having to recruit and train a replacement
  6. being honest with existing employees about The Great Resignation, having genuine discussions and negotiating a positive outcome before the resignation letter hits the desk.

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