The Great Resignation – or the Great Reset?

26th July 2021

There has been a lot of focus recently on the Great Resignation, a belief that there are a significant percentage of employees who have pent-up frustration with their current role and are planning to ‘vote with their feet’ as the economy opens up. It’s being painted as a crisis for organisations everywhere, but is this really the case?

To quote John F. Kennedy, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity.”

Rather than the scaremongering of The Great Resignation, what we see is quite the opposite. Forward-looking organisations are turning the situation to their advantage: as much as individuals have had the chance to review what their ideal future looks like, so have organisations – and this is why.

Firstly, they have been thoughtful and purposeful in identifying what they need to achieve in the post-pandemic landscape. Is it about fostering more innovation; increasing diversity and inclusion to better understand their customer-base; offering a superior customer service; pivoting their operational model to be less reliant on face-to-face interactions?

Whatever it is, they start with the business objectives and then ask what sort of people must we employ to deliver this; what people are nice to haves; and therefore, who would be a non-regretted loss. It sounds harsh, but by addressing this issue early it avoids all sorts of performance and morale issues later. (Very few genuinely engaged people resign – our loyalty and engagement segmentation shows this sits in single digit numbers. Why would you want to retain those who are disengaged with your organisation?)

We’ve seen this first-hand, most recently with a global fintech that has leveraged the pandemic to reset its strategy. The organisation is now entirely focused on client centricity and has been retaining, developing and recruiting the talent needed to deliver this.

Secondly, they listen to their employees and use data to help them make decisions about what talented individuals they need and how to retain and nurture them, or alternatively source them externally. This allows a two-way dialogue from an employee perspective. Employees, teams, managers and leaders are empowered towards a common purpose, with employee values aligned to organisational goals.

Thirdly, they understand and accept that resignations are not always a bad thing. It is much better to work in an organisation that is driven by talent who believe in the success of the organisation. It becomes a leaner, more dynamic, more engaged place to work. There is also the opportunity to employ fresh talent, often the great people who have resigned from other organisations.

Again, our experience has proven this approach time and time again. It’s been exemplified by a global media brand that has adjusted its business model in light of the pandemic, equipping its business with the talent needed to support a move to a primarily streaming-led approach to content.

Our evidence shows that companies who’ve listened to their people and used people analytics to drive change through and beyond the pandemic, and to show humanity and empathy, are the ones who will thrive.

Critically, what they don’t do is purely focus on tactical actions to address this. Simply conducting a survey (without identifying what they want to achieve), offering flexible working options, detailing return to office plans and focussing on other aspects of the employee experience will, at best, provide short-term dividends. Yes, they all need to be done, but organisations who succeed will have first answered the strategic questions about what their future looks like.

This approach echoes the ENGAGE philosophy of ‘starting with the end in mind’ (to quote Stephen Covey). We advocate future thinking: Where do you want to be? What do you need to get there?

In a world of negativity, it’s easy to get drawn into a downward spiral. Rather than looking at mitigation, look proactively at what opportunities this affords you and turn the Great Resignation into the Great Reset.