The Great Resignation – The Workforce is Speaking, Are You Listening?

The Covid-19 pandemic has completely changed the way people view the world. Today, more than ever, employees, from senior executives to frontline workers, are now quitting or changing their jobs and reimagining their careers.

The onset of a global pandemic created a time of great uncertainty. Many of us transitioned to remote working out of necessity due to lockdowns. Students attended virtual classes. Parents were suddenly thrown into home-schooling their children. Throughout multiple industries, businesses large and small had to reduce their workforce and lay off staff.

The world today is different because of Covid-19. This experience has allowed people to reflect on what's important to them as their world essentially shrunk to their immediate family, local area, and home. One of the effects of this is a growing trend dubbed 'The Great Resignation' - a phenomenon, particularly in the US, that has seen record numbers of people leave or change their jobs in nearly every industry.

Quitting is the new form of self-care

People are aware burnout is caused by work, and many are walking out of their current roles searching for stability, flexibility, and a more satisfying work/life balance to counteract the stress of burnout.

However, it's not just a question of quitting their jobs but redefining success. Today, what people want are:

  • to feel a sense of purpose
  • to belong
  • to feel valued
  • flexibility

The pandemic gave us all a taste of what is possible. However, when businesses said, "time to return to normal", many employees said no.

Studies have revealed that nearly one-fifth of Australia's essential workers are considering leaving their jobs in education, healthcare, and emergency services because of the pandemic.

The pandemic has changed people, yet business seems determined to keep going as usual and wants to return workers to the way things were.

However, this is unrealistic. Instead, companies and business leaders need to make sure the case for returning is not only flexible but that they listen to their staff to understand their concerns and needs.

Five leadership questions you should be asking yourself:

  1. Do you have a listening strategy in place for you to assess how your employees are feeling and if they are thinking of leaving?
  2. What process is in place to strategically and creatively explore how to meet the emerging needs of your employees at this moment in time?
  3. Do all your managers have the skills they need to deepen trust and connection with their team? Think about capabilities like emotional intelligence and agility, high-quality communication skills, compassion, and empathy.
  4. Does your organisation view people as workers or workers as people? How is this shown?
  5. Does your organisation have the systems and structures to support a people-first culture, that is, a culture that embeds wellbeing into every touchpoint?

As a people leader, you have several short-term solutions that your organisation can adopt to prevent your teams from resigning.

Active listening and engagement, mentorship programs and targeted learning journeys for employees are essential activities to have in place.

It's all about connecting with your team members, employees, and freelancers to proactively engage with them. As well, consider:

  1. Creating flexibility: Empower every team member so they can decide what's best for their wellbeing.
  2. Providing a sounding board: A safe and secure way for people to anonymously raise concerns via phone, tablet, or PC, ensuring you are aware of any workplace issues and can respond quickly and accordingly.
  3. Giving technical solutions: Offer personalised tools that support regular healthy breaks and improve the wellbeing of your people, right in the flow of work.
  4. Showing increased empathy: Studies show that empathic leadership can result in greater engagement, productivity, and higher staff retention.
  5. Offering clear incentives: Not just financial; include training opportunities, flexible hours, and more significant resources.
  6. Thinking outside the box: Are you open to a 4-day week or 9-day fortnight? What can you offer that will attract the best people to stay?
  7. Having honest conversations: Actively invite your staff into discussions to find out what would work best for the whole team.

Focusing your leadership skills on these activities can help reduce the impending Great Resignation’s impact on your company.

The days of multiple lockdowns are hopefully behind us, together with the impact living with them had on us, our families, and businesses. However, before we all take a collective sigh of relief, it's vital to remember that for those running a business or managing a team, your workforce might be thinking about leaving you right now. Yet, with careful planning and considered leadership, you can prepare yourself now and ease any worries about potential gaps in your workforce both now and in the future.

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