Is the Great Resignation a Cry for Control?

The Great Resignation has been blamed on countless culprits:

  • Early studies suggested that employers simply leaned too far into transactional elements of work like pay, and missed the relational elements that employees really value, such as feeling valued and seen at work.
  • Other studies have suggested that the “return to office” efforts that began once COVID restrictions started to lift have driven employees away to organizations with more flexible arrangements.
  • Some suggest this is the result of bad managers whom workers have simply lost patience for, especially after COVID opened their eyes to the fact that our days are not guaranteed.

In reality, there isn’t one single element that workers are using to judge their employment and whether or not to resign.  Instead, it’s a combination of factors that indicate workers today are looking for more control over their lives, a big portion of which includes their work.  

Here’s what organizations need to be paying attention to if they’re going to retain and attract talent in the new normal:

  1. Fit.  People want to feel like they belong (think DEIB), so as they evaluate their current job situation they’re thinking about how fulfilled they are working at the organization and thinking about their own fit inside the organization.  Organizations looking to retain their top talent are paying attention to this and good leaders are asking their people everyday how they’re doing or feeling and looking for ways to ensure those around them feel like they belong.
  1. Flexibility.  This is one of the most common requirements of workers today.  They want more control over when, where and how they work.  Some of this stems from wanting the ability to both live a full life and do great work, which means pushing back against cultures that push for people to sacrifice life for the sake of the business. The most visible example of this is the front-line hourly workers you encounter every day in your grocery store, restaurant, or retail store.  The shift to remote work amplified this need for the professional office staff in new and unexpected ways.
  1. Future.  People want to know that this stop on their journey will lead them to something else, whether that’s within the organization or beyond.  That’s why it’s critical for leaders to understand what drives their people and where they want to go.  It’s even more important for leaders to acknowledge and accept that someone’s next stop may not be this organization, so they can support that person, get the most of them while they’re there, and end the working relationship with an ongoing advocate and consumer of the brand.

In the end, it’s about creating a relationship that’s mutually beneficial.  By giving workers more control over their work and their future, organizations get people that are more engaged and less likely to leave.  It’s a win-win and it’s the best way to move beyond the Great Resignation.