All change – why it’s more complex than the Great Resignation

Anne Elliott writes:

A new phrase has taken hold – the Great Resignation. Apparently, record numbers are choosing to leave their jobs.

There’s so much behind this situation. I’m concerned it’s become labelled without sufficient thought about what’s happening.

Many risk being swept along with the hype, prompting career changes that shouldn’t happen.

Who coined the label?

Professor Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University first used the Great Resignation as a term. He predicted large numbers of people would leave their jobs as life returned to ‘normal’. Career re-evaluation would be the main reason, he said.

But whilst we’ve seen much job movement, I think there’s more to it than this.

In fact, many organisations feel the phrase gives the wrong impression. LinkedIn, for example, opted for the Great Reshuffle. Forbes put forward the Great Contemplation. Reinvention and reprioritisation have also been mentioned by others.

This is clearly a multi-dimensional and incredibly complex change. Employers must pay careful attention to it – now and going forward.

Rethinking what work’s about

Everyone has been affected by the (so far) two-year pandemic. Many have reflected on their life and career. Some have discovered remote working is better for them, whilst others crave creative chats by the water cooler again.

Little has remained the same.

Prior to COVID, most families were not part of the working day. We didn’t know what each other’s homes looked like or what dogs we had. Employers could expect their people to turn up in the office, ready to sink into the culture presented to them.

May leaders have found the move to hybrid working exhausting. Maintaining on and offline workplaces simultaneously, nurturing relationships using different techniques. It’s emotionally draining.

Whilst many people lost their jobs, others chose to stay put during the pandemic. Only now are they looking to make a change. For some in their 50s the pandemic has been the final straw. They’ve left the marketplace, taking valuable skills with them.

Everyone’s had time to think. The pandemic has challenged health and wellbeing and the cost of living is soaring. Some now feel they have to change roles to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, the workplace changed forever.

Digital transformation continued at pace, leading to both redundancies and new roles. Brexit happened, also creating change and opportunity in various sectors.

When the pandemic hit, many organisations decided to freeze their recruitment plans, assuming it would be difficult to find the right candidates. When the world opened again, that led to an upturn in recruitment.

You get constant ‘churn’ in employment anyway. Add pent-up demand due to lockdowns and widespread reflection, it’s not surprising many are considering new roles.

The Great Change?

Yes, the pandemic has changed the workplace. Irreversibly. Forever. But it’s one of many factors at play. And it’s not all about resignation. Even Anthony Klotz admits that:

“The causes of the Great Resignation are sort of multi-faceted and manifest themselves in different ways. It’s not that simple – and I think it’s only going to get more complex.”

For example, Management Today research highlights young people now have a hugely different experience. They’re less likely to shadow more senior colleagues, missing out on much of the teamwork buzz.

At ema, we’ve gained much insight too. People remember how they’ve been treated by their employer during the last couple of years. If you were supportive and in touch with their needs, you’ll be in a stronger position now. People want to work for organisations that support them, and they feel positive about.

With so many generations in the workplace today – from Baby Boomers to Generation Z – one way of working won’t suit everyone. The workplace future must be about flexibility. Your challenge is to manage continual change positively.

If we must have a label for this situation, I’d suggest the Great Change, or the Great Evolution is more appropriate.


Your company culture determines your future success

In such a dynamic world, it’s almost impossible for executives to dictate company culture anymore. Not if you want to keep your best team players.

Old school methods such as having everybody in one place to control their output are just that – old school. And it seems many people are far more productive remotely!

The last few years have changed work expectations and priorities. But not in the same way for everyone. Different age groups can have differing attitudes, as can introverts and extroverts, for example. Those with young families might welcome flexi-working, while others prefer the structure of office life.

Everyone has changed, but not in the same way.

As an employer, you must understand how your team works best. To ensure performance, your company culture must meet their wellbeing, whatever that looks like. Ideally, you’ll evolve your terms of employment to meet them where they’re happiest.

And if you don’t know, ask your employees what they value.

Some suggest carrying out ‘stay interviews’ to understand what keeps employees loyal, instead of exit interviews. Discovering why they’re leaving (as they leave) is, quite simply, too late to act.

By focusing on your soft leadership skills, you’ll have happier and more productive people.

Plus, when you look after your staff they look after your customers.

Importantly, you’ll hang on to your best people when there are ample vacancies elsewhere.

And for employees? They must not abuse your trust with this new, flexible way of working. Because it all comes down to trust and effective communication.

Don’t wait any longer

As an organisation, you might have significantly changed your culture and working practices already. Maybe you’re playing catch-up?

There’s no time to waste. The Great Change is upon us, and you must evolve with it to ensure your dream team and future success.

This isn’t temporary, it’s permanent. The future of things. And I’m certain there’ll be more change to come.

At ema, we help our clients look at the bigger picture. We help them keep great staff and find further team members aligned to their forward-thinking values and culture.

We’re perfectly in tune with your needs to help you become perfectly in tune with your employees’ needs.

In this way, you’ll strengthen your growth mindset and thrive, whatever changes the world chucks at us.


Anne Elliot EMA Consultancy

Anne Elliott

Managing Director

01926 887272