What Is the Great Resignation and How Can You Avoid It at Your Company?

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In this post, we consider the biggest drivers behind the Great Resignation. We also set out five strategies you can implement to protect your company and boost employee retention.

Towards the end of 2021, the number of people who voluntarily quit their jobs reached a record high, with 4.5 million ‘quits’ in November in the US alone. This ‘mass exodus’ has been termed the Great Resignation — and the effects are ongoing.

If you’ve not yet considered future-proofing your organization against the Great Resignation and similar trends, now is the time. Keep reading to learn exactly what the Great Resignation means and how you, as an employer, can avoid it

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What is the Great Resignation and what’s driving it?

The Great Resignation is an ongoing trend which has seen a record number of people quit their jobs. Also known as the Big Quit or the Great Reshuffle, it began in early 2021 in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and continues to impact the labor market today. 

The pandemic and initial lockdowns represented a period of great uncertainty. For many, they also triggered some serious reflection and reevaluation of what matters. There were those whose jobs placed even more demand on them during the pandemic, and those who got to experience a more flexible way of working as their jobs went remote.

As the world began to open back up, people seized the opportunity to leave jobs that were making them unhappy and search for something better aligned with their values. By the end of 2021, over 47 million Americans had left their jobs.

And the Great Resignation isn’t over. On average, 4 million people quit their jobs each month in 2022, while around 40% of employees are thinking about leaving their jobs in the next 3-6 months.

What’s causing the Great Resignation?

Ultimately, the Great Resignation is about people coming to the realization that they aren’t happy in their jobs. Rather than staying put due to economic uncertainty, they are moving to different roles, organizations, or industries.

Research has identified a handful of key factors driving the Great Resignation. In 2021, the most cited reasons for quitting were:

  • Low pay
  • Lack of opportunities for advancement
  • Feeling disrespected at work
  • Lack of flexibility
  • Inadequate benefits

We’ve seen a great shift in the balance. Employees are no longer putting up with working conditions that they deem to be unsatisfactory or which don’t align with their personal values. Job openings are at an all-time high, and workers are making the most of it.

Employers, on the other hand, are having to rethink retention strategies and really ask themselves: Is this a good place to work? 

So what can you do to make sure that the answer is a resounding Yes? Let’s take a look in the next section.

2 employees are standing in an office with modern equipment and green plants.

Handling the Great Resignation: 5 strategies to protect your organization

Avoiding the effects of the Great Resignation is about creating an attractive workplace that responds to the evolving needs of today’s workers. Here are five actions you can take to boost employee retention.

1. Prioritize wellness, well-being and mental health

With burnout on the rise and more and more people reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression, it’s more important than ever for employers to prioritize mental health and promote employee well-being. 

At the same time, 65% of workers say that their approach to wellness has changed since the pandemic and they now expect more support from their employers — meaning that it’s a crucial factor for employee satisfaction and retention.

There are several measures you can take to prioritize mental health and well-being in your organization, such as helping your employees achieve a healthy work-life balance, providing access to mental health resources, and modeling mental health-positive behaviors at the leadership level.

💡 More about this topic
You can learn more about how to support mental health in the workplace in this guide.

2. Offer more flexibility (and review your remote work policy)

You may remember from earlier on that one of the top reasons for people quitting is a lack of flexibility. So, if you want to shield your company from the Great Resignation, you’ll need to take flexibility seriously.

Now’s the time to evaluate: Are you offering enough flexibility, or is there room for improvement? 

suggests that only one in five knowledge workers want to work in the office full-time, but 35% are doing so. 55%, meanwhile, said they would rather work flexibly at least some of the time.

Speak to your employees (or survey them anonymously) to find out what they really want from flexible work — and do your best to give it to them.

If you’re already fully remote or as flexible as you can be, make sure your employees have everything they need to succeed in a remote/hybrid environment. 

3. Facilitate employee development and career progression

This relates directly to another main driver behind the Great Resignation: a lack of opportunities for career progression.

One LinkedIn study found that 94% of employees are more likely to stay with an employer who invests in their learning and development — that’s a major boost to employee retention if you can get it right.

Not only that. 93% of CEOs who have introduced upskilling programs report an increase in productivity, while the Association for Talent Development estimates that upskilling an existing employee costs $1,300 compared to the $4,425 it costs on average to hire someone new.

Employee training, reskilling, and upskilling make good business sense all-round. Take the time to learn about each individual employee’s career goals and map out a pathway to help them get there. They’ll see that you’re invested in their progress, and you’ll benefit from all of the above.

💡 More about this topic
Learn more: Employee Development 2.0 — The New Way to Upskill Your Employees.

4. Upgrade your employee benefits package

For many, employee benefits play a pivotal role when it comes to weighing up job opportunities and employers. The benefits you offer not only help shape the workplace culture — they also impact people’s quality of life outside of work.

Some of the top-trending employee benefits at present include menopause leave, hybrid working, subsidized gym memberships, and paid sick leave. Employees also value company-sponsored retirement plans, health insurance, private dental care, and paid self-care/mental health days.

Pay attention to what’s trending on the topic of workplace benefits, but ultimately, speak to your own employees and find out what they would value most.

📢  Have you heard?
Other popular employee benefits are workations, jobbaticals and sabbaticals. In episode 13 of our podcast, we discover how these benefits make employees feel empowered and inspired. Listen here:

5. Create a culture founded on psychological safety

The third main reason for people leaving their jobs in 2021 was feeling disrespected at work (Pew Research). Even if you’re not aware of any such issues at your own organization, it’s essential to take stock of your company culture. Are you actively fostering an environment of psychological safety and respect? 

Psychological safety is present when your employees feel comfortable speaking up, sharing their ideas, making mistakes, and raising issues and concerns without fear of punishment or humiliation. It promotes mutual respect, allowing people to be themselves and ultimately feel safe at work. 

Not only does psychological safety improve team performance. It has also been shown to boost employee retention — a double win in the age of the Great Resignation and beyond.

💡 More about this topic
We show you how to create psychological safety at work in this guide.

You can’t necessarily avoid the Great Resignation. But, with these five steps, you can set yourself apart as a worthy employer and make yours an organization that attracts — and keeps — happy, high-performing employees.

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Start now!

Discover specific ways to increase employee happiness in the workplace in our free booklet “The Keys to Employee Satisfaction.” 

Anika Wegner

Anika Wegner

SEO Content & Blog Manager — Exploring other cultures through language is particularly important to her. That's why she loves writing for Babbel about topics, how companies can benefit from language-learning solutions.