The “Great Resignation” and How to Avoid It


Over the past year plus, many people who had plans to change jobs ended up staying put due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. The “Great Resignation”, coined by Anthony Lotz of Texas A&M University during an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, predicts that those employees are now ready to make their move. In fact, a recent study by Microsoft found that 41% of the global workforce would be open to leaving their current job within the next year.

These are some scary statistics from a business owner and a  human resources perspective. So why the discontent? What’s propelling the Great Resignation? And can it be avoided or prepared for?

It’s important to understand why it’s happening.  It comes down to three factors: generational shift, economic crisis, and a trend in how people want to work.

Generational Shift – Many millennials who were forced to work from home realized that they like working from home. With offices reopening and employees being asked to return, employees are reassessing their work-life balance and many want to remain working remote. If this isn’t an option, they will look elsewhere. The Baby Boomer generation is more eager to return to the office as they felt a loss of connection to the workplace, with fewer daily interactions and even fewer quality interactions – they feel less seen, recognized, and appreciated. If a remote or hybrid option is now the norm, they may jump ship to find work that is 100% in-person.

Economic Crisis – Many employees found themselves in uncomfortable situations during the pandemic, feeling like they didn’t have any job security. They didn’t know if they would be let go tomorrow and they had no idea how to job hunt during the current market. This led to many employees starting to put feelers out just in case… and now that things are returning to normal, that job hunt is in full swing or they are being head-hunted.

How People Want to Work – It’s not just about working remotely or working in the office. With much more time spent at home over the past year, many people had plenty of time to assess their career, their passions, and what they really want to do with their lives. This has led many people to realize that they want to make a major career shift and do something that has meaning and purpose to them.  It requires them leaving their current job and even possibly working for themselves.

It’s not all doom and gloom for employers though; there are things you can do now to help prevent a mass exodus.

  • Offer Flexible Working Arrangements. Companies who demand all employees work a certain way are at greater risk of losing them. Employees were asked to work remotely for a year, some want to continue working that way, others want a hybrid, and the rest want to be back in the office full time. Provide employees with choices to select the work environment that gives them the best support for both their work and personal life. Many employees don’t want to leave their current employer if given the opportunity to have more flexibility.
  • Develop Your Management Team. You’ve heard the phrase that employees don’t quit companies, they quit managers/bosses. Senior leaders need to take a close look at their frontline management team who spend the most time interacting with employees. Your employees are the ones who help you reach your organization’s goals and objectives – and your management team can directly affect how well your team performs. Invest in your management team with training.
  • Culture Connection. Your company should have a vision, mission, and/or values statement. It’s important for employees to understand how they fit into your culture. Share with them how they make a difference and how they contribute to the bigger picture. Employees understand that a job is trading time for money in the most simplistic terms, however when they understand the bigger outcomes, it becomes less about a paycheck and more about making a difference in the world.

If you aren’t able to prevent employees from leaving, there is something you can do until you can fill that role with the right person. Utilizing freelance talent is a great way to fill the gaps. The days of keeping employees happy with pizza parties and casual  Fridays have gone by the wayside – the landscape has changed. Many employees now want to be their own bosses, and freelance talent is booming.

Having a mix of employees and independent contractors could be a win-win. You may even be able to retain some of your top talent as independent contractors. Contractors can work as many hours as they want or on a per project basis, but a mix of talent could be the perfect solution.

Organizations that support their employees and their work/life integration post-pandemic will be in a better position to retain their workforce. Keep in mind that most employees have had to completely merge their work and personal lives, and many aren’t willing to completely separate them again. Employers have the opportunity to reconfigure company culture, how employees work, and restructure their management team to best support all employees. In return, they can grow their organizations to be bigger, better, more efficient, and thereby delivering an enhanced customer experience.  Happy Employees = Happy Customers = Happy Shareholders.