The Great Resignation

40% of employees are looking to resign in the next 12 months

Coming out of the pandemic 40% of employees are looking to resign in the next 12 months

Positive economic growth and record highs on Wall Street are creating an increasingly optimistic sentiment in the job market. In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the US economy added 850,000 jobs last month. Hidden by this encouraging figure is the hint of an unusual trend: people are beginning to quit their jobs in extraordinary numbers – 4 million resignations in April alone – the highest rate seen since the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) began to collect this data in 2000.

According to a recent report from Microsoft, 41% of the global workforce is considering leaving their jobs. This isn’t limited to blue collar roles – it’s across industries from technology to financial services. To put that in context, if you’re the CEO of a 500 employee business in the technology sector you’re at risk of losing 200 staff in the next 12 months.

Market buoyancy and low household debt (US household debt went down in 2020 – only the second time in 35 years) may increase the appetite to take a risk and change careers. The number of new businesses registered in the United Kingdom in the third quarter of 2020 rose 30 percent compared with 2019, showing the largest increase seen since 2012. The pandemic was certainly a time for many to reflect on what matters in life and re-evaluate the work-life balance. For some, the realisation that they can work effectively from home was the catalyst for a lifestyle change – budding entrepreneurs across the country were starting their own business, or just having a “side hustle” (Cambridge Dictionary describes it as: a piece of work or a job that you get paid for doing in addition to your main job –

Employers have had a lot to deal with during the pandemic – according to McKinsey’s Global Survey of executives – companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain operations by three to four years. And the share of digital or digitally enabled products has accelerated by seven years. 

That’s a lot of change done quickly, and the toll on employees has been exacting. This high productivity and output is masking an exhausted workforce. In the last quarter of 2020, the average number of hours worked in the US rose by over 10% percent. 

One of the consequences of the shift to remote and the reliance on tech-based communications has been the phenomenon of digital burnout. I know I’ve certainly felt that at times. But a more subtle trend in Microsoft’s report is that the workforce has become more siloed. 

In the shift to remote working, much of the spontaneous sharing of ideas that can take place within a workplace was lost. The loss of in-person interaction means individual team members are more likely to only interact with their closest co-workers.

“At the onset of the pandemic, our analysis shows interactions with our close networks at work increased while interactions with our distant network diminished,” the report says. “This suggests that as we shifted into lockdown, we clung to our immediate teams for support and let our broader network fall to the wayside. Simply put, companies became more siloed than they were pre-pandemic.”

Employers are now adapting to these challenges, the Microsoft Work Trend Index: 2021 Annual Report says that two-thirds of leaders are redesigning offices space for hybrid work to increase opportunities for collaboration, and giving employees greater flexibility on when to come to the office. 

Employers should also be investing in their people. According to Personio – the HR software company – nearly half (45%) of HR decision makers saying they are worried that staff will leave once the job market improves. Yet, despite this, only a quarter (26%) of HR decision makers say that talent retention is a priority for their organisation over the next 12 months. Retaining staff by career development opportunities, addressing work-life challenges and supporting physical or mental wellbeing are all key areas to increase the chances of retaining good staff.

For employees who have an increasingly wide range of options, a strong employee value proposition which starts with a great sense of company culture – and collaboration is key. Retaining and attracting the best talent is a key element of any great company – a cornerstone of Jim Collins ‘Good to Great’ bestseller. With the increasing pace of change from digital transformation, now is the time to focus on investing in your people. With resignation rates set to increase, it’s never been as important.

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