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5 Lessons for 2022: What Did The Great Resignation Teach Us?

Consider hearing this in one of your water-cooler conversations. “My manager doesn’t offer any recognition other than hikes. And that’s why I decided to quit.”, A couple of years back, such a reason to quit would have sounded presumptuous, even greedy. 

However, the pandemic changed this. The workforce of the post-pandemic era believes their daily grind is worth more than just salaries.

The Great Resignation of 2021 went by many names: the Big Quit, the Resignation Wave, Turnover tsunami, the Great Sabbatical.  Anthony Klotz, a psychologist, and professor at Texas A&M predicted the phenomenon in early 2021. Whatever it was called, the ongoing phenomenon is characterized by high attrition rates, employee dissatisfaction, and job-hopping. 

Many stories throughout 2021 covered the Great Resignation in detail. So you’d need no introduction. This article helps you understand the collective shift in mindset among employees that has led to this phenomenon.  We also offer lessons to stem the resignation wave in your company.

A Deeper View of What Contributed to the Great Resignation

Many studies mention burnout and stress as top reasons for employees to leave their jobs despite surging inflation rates and pandemic-induced uncertainties.

So what contributed to burnout and stress? Was it simply long work hours? Was it the isolation?

Let’s have a deeper look.

Stress on mental health

Impact on mental health is one of the infamous reasons for the Great resignation. 

During the lockdowns, mental health went on a toss due to burnout and stress. The uncertainty and sickness drained them emotionally. 

As mental health awareness increased, employees left their jobs to more flexible work options. Some even took up freelancing and contractual jobs in favor of flexibility.

Micromanagement in a remote environment

Micromanagement may be common in an in-person setting. However, in a remote setting, where there are little to no facial cues, micromanagement can lead to trust issues. 

The transition to remote work saw an increase in employee monitoring tools. These forms of micromanagement can make employers feel demotivated. In a Gallup survey, 1 in 3 respondents revealed that they would be unhappy if their company started monitoring their activity to track productivity, and 43% said they’d leave.

Employees wanted to have more autonomy. They also preferred job roles where trust levels were high. 

Dissatisfaction over pay equity

Do you think your employees discuss their salaries with each other? Yes, your company may have stringent policies that stigmatize and forbid sharing salaries. However, employees inevitably share salary information, hikes, and salary benchmarks with their peers.

One negative effect of these conversations is that someone is dissatisfied and leaves the company. 

Complaints of low wages have been doing rounds since time immemorial. The pandemic, however, posed a breaking point for many employees. Remote work culture left employees isolated, which increased suspicion and distrust. 

With the increase in opportunities and higher salary hikes, employees saw a chance to demand the pay they wanted from their employer or switch jobs.

Lack of recognition

One of the adverse effects of bad management is a culture where recognition for employees is lacking or nil. Whether it is a remote environment or an in-person setting, an ego boost is a form of sustenance in a workplace. 

66% of employees are likely to leave their jobs because they don't feel appreciated. Again, this figure is higher among millennials, with eight out of 10 individuals looking for a new job if they don't feel valued and respected by their peers or leaders.

Employees saw the tightening economy as a sign to leave their jobs to working conditions where they are better recognized.

What Happened During the Great Resignation in 2021?

To fully understand the takeaways from the Great Resignation, let us first understand the context in which employees were working.

Employees who stuck around were overworked

An MIT Sloan study revealed that between April and September 2021, more than 24 million American employees left their jobs. In the UK, 1.2 million jobs will be left unfilled by the end of 2021. In India, the attrition rates at top IT firms ranged between 15%-28%

All evidence suggests that people were leaving their jobs at an unprecedented rate. So what happened to those who stayed?

A story in the BBC, featured an HR manager from Singapore who had to work 60-hours a week to counter the effects of mass attrition in her company. Many employees worldwide had to overcompensate for their peers who resigned.

Although understaffing and the roar for the talent war have always existed, their impact during the Great Resignation was different. Usually, short-staffed businesses practice a “do more with less” staffing model. However, this proved ineffective when dealing with uncertainties caused by a pandemic.

Employers and HR managers led effective change by raising paychecks and offering better health insurance for these workers. However, understaffing and overwork continued to stress led to employee burnout. 

Tightening labor markets led to rising wages

As more job vacancies went unfilled for more extended periods, businesses were left to fend off a tightening labor market.

The talent gap forced employers to go all out to fill in talent in their companies. Reportedly,  84 percent of job openings were unfilled for extended periods than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses provided high salary hikes, lucrative insurance, and other fringe benefits. 

For instance, IT firms - Wipro, CTS, Infosys - faced high attrition rates in India. 

To combat this, the IT behemoths had to hire 1.7 lakh employees in 2021. Besides mass hiring, companies had to offer a “Great Raise” to combat the effects of the Great Resignation.

This trend was seen worldwide in 2021. Salary hikes increased by 5% in Brazil, 6.1% in Russia, 6% in China, 3.6% in the USA, and 3% in the UK & Germany.

In a qualitative sense, employees noticed how their companies started recording high profits, and despite prioritizing work, they weren’t given their fair share. 

Such feelings of dissatisfaction coincided with rising opportunities and furthered resignation rates. 

The rise in demand for mid-level employees

The pandemic created a harsh workplace for managers. Team leaders and managers are generally responsible for all the change management, engagement, onboarding activities. Moreover, the onus of improving company culture, retention, and employee performance also falls upon managers from the C-suite.

This created stagnancy for mid-level employees who, reportedly, quit the most. However, their job switches weren’t characterized by a jump to vertical roles. Many managers switched laterally to other companies to work on something new.

Managers also noticed the risks of hiring new hires and fresher employees during these uncertain times. The dangers associated with hiring inexperienced workers also increased the perceived value of managers and senior employees. 

This created a vacuum in the mid-level. Many businesses lost highly effective managers who led the change to remote work and set up systems for seamless workforce functioning. This led to a rise in the need for managers and experienced employees. 

Increased competition for remote jobs

For employees, the benefits of remote work are vast. They realized this very few months into the pandemic. In fact, 1 in 2 workers does not prefer returning to their jobs that don’t offer remote work.

This means that employers had to view remote work as a norm rather than a company-wide benefit.

For employees, this was good news. Remote work is one of the most inclusive things that has happened to us. However, reaping this benefit turned out to be daunting. 

Although employers had to offer remote work to remain competitive, few made this move. Many hoped employees return to their office once the severity of the pandemic goes down. 

This resulted in a bottleneck. 

Similar to how outsourcing made jobs more competitive in the developed world, remote job roles made it possible for employers to hire from around the globe, making tech and managerial job roles competitive. This increases competition for remote jobs.

Will it Continue in 2022?

Many experts, including Anthony Klotz, believe that the quitting will continue in 2022. However, experts believe that the surge in attrition will not be as bad as earlier.

Klotz believes that a tight talent market will persist for some time. Employers will need to offer better benefits and higher salaries to attract the best talent. Bargaining power will remain tilted towards employees. 

5 Lessons for Employers to Hire, Manage & Retain Workforces in 2022 

Tactics such as offering flexible work options, benefits, and salary raises are effective solutions to increase employee retention. However, these ideas have been discussed often. Here are some more lessons to counter the resignation wave.

Increase roles that provide lateral movement

Since burnout is one of the biggest drivers of the Great Resignation, employers must provide opportunities for lateral job moves within the company. An MIT-pioneered study found that people experience burnout due to a lack of new challenges and the chance to try something new. 

When employees are offered new jobs at their companies, they are almost 12 percent less likely to resign. Climbing the vertical ladder is not the only way to increase your employees' motivation levels. Lateral movement allows employees to acquire new skills. This makes them more confident as well.

International postings are also a big incentive as they come with new experiences.

Salary is just one thing… purpose is more important

Although employees have accepted the new normal, during the earlier days of the pandemic, their lives were characterized by sickness and isolation in addition to work-related stress, burnout, inadequacy, disengagement, and others. Many studies cite the reasons above to have contributed to the Great Resignation.

The takeaway is that an increase in salaries is not the only solution. 

Employers can only address qualitative problems such as burnout and disengagement by giving meaning and instilling a sense of purpose into employees' lives. 

Employees reflect on questions like: 

  • ~What is the whole purpose of this hustle?
  • ~Am I getting a fair return for my efforts?
  • ~How does my work contribute to society?

To retain talent, employers need to help employees connect their company’s mission and values to their own goals. If you want your people to stick around, you're going to have to convince them that what they're getting from signing in each day outweighs the stress, lost time, and lost opportunities it costs them. 

Train your managers

Although managers tried their best to keep their employees happy, a pandemic-induced lockdown and resultant transition to remote work were brutal on them.

However, employee sentiment didn’t reflect well. Consider these recent findings:

  • ~84% of U.S. workers say poorly trained managers create much unnecessary stress
  • ~57% say they have quit a job because of a bad boss
  • ~50% of employees feel their performance would improve if their boss received the right kind of manager training

Managing remote employees can be highly taxing on people managers.  A vital action is to train your managers. Your managers deserve more training, motivation, and recognition to equip themselves to lower employee turnover rates.

Create a high-attention culture

Simply put, attention is one of the most important assets you can confer to your employees.

Another lesson to learn from the Great Resignation is that recognition should be diverse and varied. Managers have to prioritize employee engagement and other aspects to retain employees. 

Of course, salaries and monetary benefits can boost employee confidence. However, they can act as brakes to stem resignation only for a short time. 

Investing in systems and processes to increase attention on each employee can return long-term benefits for the business. 

One of the most effective activities is frequent check-ins. These check-ins need not have any structured plan. 3-5 minute check-ins that allow employees to discuss goals, priorities, and roadblocks effectively increase attention. 

Succession planning

Sometimes employee retention during uncertain times is like fighting a losing battle. With so many job opportunities in the market, no matter how hard employers try and incentivize job roles, employees will have the final say in deciding where and with whom to work. 

In these circumstances, employers may need to plan preemptively. 

Succession planning can help you preserve workflows. This practice is highly effective when dealing with top talent. 

By preserving the knowledge of employees who wish to quit, you could avoid show-stopping disruptions in the workflow.

Conclusion

Klotz thinks that a phenomenon like the Great resignation was long due. He suggests that the pandemic simply acted as a catalyst.

The takeaways we discussed above are perfectly surmised by Pete Schlammp, Chief Strategy Officer of Workday. 

He says, ”We will be going from The Great Resignation into a world of the rising voice of the employee. They want to work for companies that have a mission and a purpose that they believe in.”

Thus, employers must empathize with their needs, accommodate their work preferences, and solve inequities to retain workers. They will need to offer competitive benefits and effectively pay and process salaries. 

This may seem complex and overwhelming. Here’s where a global employment solution like Multiplier can help. Ensure employment aspects like payroll and statutory benefits are taken care of seamlessly to keep your employees motivated with the benefits they deserve to grow your business.

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