The Great Resignation or a Re-Establishment of Our Values?

There’s been much talk around lately about whether or not Australia will experience The Great Resignation. The United States experienced theirs following the return to work, post lockdown.

The term was coined by Anthony Klotz, a professor of management at Mays Business School Texas A&M University. He noticed that in April 2021 there were a record number of 4 million resignations. Prior to then, the COVID-19 pandemic had allowed workers to rethink their careers, work conditions, and long-term goals.

Klotz found that as workers had the time to step back and re-evaluate their lives, they realised they were spending more time doing other things and were questioning the value of what they were doing at work.

As many workplaces attempted to bring their employees back to the office, workers desired the freedom to work from home that was afforded them during the pandemic. Telecommuting gave workers flexibility, as the 9-5 routine, and not to mention the commute to work, was replaced with the quintessential work-life balance.

Much has been written about whether or not we will experience the Great Resignation in Australia. If it occurs it will likely be at the end of February or March. Workers will hold on until the Christmas holiday period is over, but will consider their position on the return to work.

However, if the focus becomes work-life balance, flexibility, freedom, and choice then perhaps there won’t be resignations on masse but a re-thinking of an employee’s current environment and circumstances.

For some workers, as they consider the return to their offices, cubicles, or venues, memories of the stress and burnout may come flooding back and days spent with their pooch at their feet soon to be a thing of the past. Prior to the lockdown, the daily habits of commute, work, and then home became ingrained, but the onset of lockdown has allowed for reconsideration of values and the formation of new habits that are in alignment with these values.

We have turned a corner.

We now consider what is important to us and it is these intrinsic factors that will determine whether or not an employee will consider quitting their job.

So what can an employer do to ensure that they keep their best workers?

  • · Focus on the End Result

Ask yourself if you really need to be eye-balling your employees every day in order for the work to be completed. Review the key indicators of your business during the lockdown period in order to determine productivity levels, then assess these against the pre-lockdown period and compare the results.

  • · Leadership

Hiring and keeping the best workers requires an employer to show high levels of leadership. As a leader, not only do you need to gain the trust of your team in order to lead them, you also need to trust your employees if you want them to trust you in return. This then comes back to your reason for wanting your employees back in the office. Is it an issue of trust? If so, there are greater issues at play here and simply getting employees back to the office is not going to solve anything.

  • · Health Matters

Mental health has been of primary concern during lockdowns. While a return to the office is welcomed by some employees, the thought of returning to their workplace can have a negative impact on the mental health of others. Employers who take into account the concerns of their employees will see the need to adopt mental health strategies as part of their general occupational health and safety measures.

  • · Be Pro-active

Rather than waiting for an employee to ask for a change in their working environment or circumstances, be proactive and start the conversation. Consider the work environment that you are providing for your employees and look at the possibility of providing flexible work arrangements, remote options, and shorter workdays based on output and performance.

Finally, a reminder. Employment is a two-way street. Workers employ the organisation that pays them as much as the organisation employs the workers. So rather than questioning whether or not the Great Resignation will eventuate in Australia, perhaps we should change our focus and look at why employees would be considering resigning in the first place.