The Great Resignation

The Great Resignation – fact or fiction? Tabloid melodrama or something to take seriously? What is it? Why is it? And what can we do to avoid falling foul of it?

By: James Blair on

It was reported in the Spring that for the first time, job vacancies in the UK outnumbered the unemployed. Yes, there were more job openings (1.3 million of them, in fact) than there were people claiming unemployment.

At the same time, we all know that wages are stagnating (or, to be more accurate, free-falling!) when compared with sky-rocketing inflation and huge increases in the cost of living.

After the pandemic and the lockdowns it enforced upon us, there is also a perceptible trend for UK workers to want to spend more time at home. For some, this may mean seeking a job closer to home. For others, the aim is one that affords them more flexible working practices than their current position.

The combination of these things is leading to what is being dubbed in some parts as ‘The Great Resignation”. Some UK towns and cities are already experiencing this, but the rest of the country is likely to experience something similar as we hurtle along the current economic trajectory. London is currently leading the way in ‘The Great Resignation’, but Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Cardiff are also listed as having unusually inflated rates of interest in advertised jobs. The largest commuter towns are, perhaps unsurprisingly, following the same trend.

Of course, some industries and sectors are more severely affected than others, and the reasons behind resignations are complex and varied. But what is undeniable, regardless of backstory, is that for those who are not entirely happy in their roles, opportunities are plentiful and alternatives often more appealing. It is also true, therefore, to state that employers need to be doing wall they can to keep their people happy, engaged, and loyal.

According to The Circular Board, a study last year found the UK’s employee engagement rate to be at just 50%. And, to place that engagement rate in the context of ‘The Great Resignation’, a report by Achieversshowed that employers with highly engaged workers experience a decrease in turnover of between 25% and 59%. They also experience 41% lower absenteeism.

When it comes to keeping a workforce engaged, two headlines keeps cropping up: Internal Communications and Recognition.

To be fully engaged and to feel that we truly belong somewhere, we need to know and understand the purpose, vision, and values of the people and organisation for whom we work. We need to know that what we do for them is of value and how we are contributing to the success of the business. This gives us purpose, meaning, and relevance. We also need to know how the organisation is performing, even when the news isn’t brilliant. That gives us trust and confidence in those who lead and manage us. We need to feel connected – not only to the business, but also to our colleagues, irrespective of our shift patterns or working locations. It’s also important that we feel our voices are heard and that our feedback is listened to and acted upon. The Qualtrics study found that employers who turn feedback into action have an employee engagement rate of 80%. That’s twice that of those who don’t.

And we all need to receive meaningful feedback on, and recognition for, the work we do and the contributions we make. Ideally, this should be regular and ongoing. Achievers found that employers with highly rated cultures of recognition are 2.5 times more likely to see healthy engagement rates than those that don’t.

Checking the health of your internal comms and recognition practices now could do wonders for your employee engagement and retention rates. That could just provide your business with a great escape from ‘The Great Resignation’.