The Great Resignation: Advice for Business Leaders Worried About Gaps in the Workforce

Kirsty McFarlane

It’s often a major event or trauma that leads us to re-evaluate what we want from our lives. These major events don’t tend to happen to lots of people at the same time, but when we are faced with a pandemic, suddenly millions of people are left with the same feelings and asking themselves the same questions.

The pandemic separated us all from many of the things we love – travel, friends, family. Those also happen to be the things that may mask any dissatisfaction we feel with our work. Collectively, people in the UK and all over the world have gone through (and are still going through) what is, ultimately, a traumatic experience. It has flicked a switch in our minds to think about where we are and what we want – leading many to question their current job.

In the UK, the number of open vacancies surpassed one million for the first time ever in August 2021. There are several reasons why employees are walking away – poor working conditions, fears of contracting Covid-19 and existential epiphanies among them – and researchers are discovering more as they continue to collect and mine data.

Now, as the economy rebounds, it’s not perfectly clear whether pandemic-related changes are the primary driver of continuing resignations, or if higher quit rates are more linked to an increasingly stabilising economy. A historical parallel is the 2008 Great Recession – once the economy strengthened throughout the next decade, resignation rates went up then, too.

A  study by Personio has found that almost two in five UK employees are considering quitting their job … So is now the time for businesses to start preparing for the great resignation?

For businesses, recovery is key to growing out of the pandemic, yet plans could be hampered if key talent decide to look elsewhere.

Based on feedback from candidates across the professions, here are some factors that employers should be taking into account when considering their talent retention strategy heading into 2022.

Culture

If employees are brought into the collective purpose of the business, they are much more likely to be loyal and happy. Of course, there are many factors that can influence when someone is thinking about finding a new opportunity, but it’s not just about pay rises and perks. Culture is so important, and businesses have a real challenge right now in understanding how the pandemic has impacted their own culture.

Once business leaders understand their culture, they can leverage that to help people feel connected to a collective company purpose as well as to each other – creating an enjoyable day-to-day experience. It’s about a sense of fulfillment and many people just aren’t feeling fulfilled at work, whether that’s down to a lack of appreciation, poor management, a disconnect with the culture or a mix of all these things. People want to be passionate about their work.

Flexibility

Be flexible (don’t just say you are). While flexible working can seem like an impossible challenge to get right, the key thing is to ensure that employees have a certain level of choice and autonomy over how, when and where they spend their working day.

Perks and benefits
For businesses to set themselves apart as an employer of choice in a candidate-driven market, perks need to factor in completely remote, hybrid and fully in-office staff, while also appreciating different personality types, situations and lifestyles of individuals.

People want more than subsidised sandwiches and meditation classes. They want meaningful perks that will make a material and emotional difference to their day to day lives.

Consider adding soft perks to your benefits suite – offer these as a natural happiness booster – and don’t underestimate their power. For example:

  • Prizes and monetary incentives
  • Team building and away days
  • Late start, early finish
  • Spontaneous gifting
  • Subscription-based perks (e.g. music, wellness, fitness subscriptions)
  • Dinner and Drinks with Directors

As perks get bigger, they venture into benefits, which together all form the complete package of a desirable place to work. In a post-pandemic world, increased annual leave entitlements, enhanced maternity and paternity packages, childcare benefits, medical and life insurances, official wellbeing programmes, and so on are the practical and emotive perks that future employees will be looking for.

Career development
Career development – especially in for the long term – is another crucial area for businesses to invest in over the coming months so that they are in a position to retain their talent. Increased training and development opportunities are a significant factor in employees being more likely to stay with their current employer.

Mapping this out for the individual, in tandem with robust company-wide development frameworks, is a great way to secure engagement, and remind employees of their journey within a business. Regular and consistent evaluation is key, along with providing clear goals and targets, and transparency around expectations.

If there is anything that the Legal recruitment team at HRC can do to support you with talent acquisition, retention or future business planning, please get in touch and we would be very happy to hear from you.

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