What Have We Learned from ‘The Great Resignation’?

It feels like we’ve all had to reckon with the reality of our work choices over the past 24 months.  The COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to stop and take a breath, which gave many the opportunity they needed to reflect on whether they were actually enjoying what they were doing.

This pattern interrupt brought to light an endemic of people who were stuck in jobs that they didn’t enjoy, working for managers that didn’t value them, and in environments that were disempowering and sometimes, downright toxic.  This epiphany caused what many called ‘The Great Resignation’ where droves of employees were quitting and looking for something more fulfilling where they would be treated better.

As we look back on that time now, it’s clear that something was wrong and the employees took it upon themselves to get out of those situations.  But we can’t stop there.  The mere fact that we saw this happen at the scale that it did means that as organisations, we have work to do.  We need to recognise these symptoms and take action to improve things so that we don’t see this happen again.

Through our many roundtable discussions here at Connex, we’ve found some common patterns of workplace culture and behaviour that need to be at the forefront of workplace dynamics and the leaders who run them:

  • Empathy. It’s all about people at the end of the day.  Those leaders who can show real empathy to their employees and take the time to understand the nuances within their organisations are the ones that earn respect.  Building meaningful relationships means nurturing the human, not just the worker.
  • Self-Awareness. It’s amazing how blind organisations can become to what is happening within their firms.  Time and time again, leaders are surprised to hear of employee resentment because they aren’t self-aware enough to read the cues within their team.  We need to see more genuine efforts to reflect on and gather data about how employees feel they are being treated – so that we can solve problems before they expand.
  • Validation. This one is especially true in a remote-first setting.  Employees need to feel valued and appreciated for the hard work that they put in.  Apportioning credit fairly and going out of your way to acknowledge the skill and effort that employees deploy is crucial if you want to retain your top talent and cultivate a healthy workplace culture.
  • Inclusivity. Nurturing a workplace culture that is inclusive and tolerant of different backgrounds, ideas, beliefs, and so on is more important than ever.  Diversity is a powerful advantage when you celebrate it, but some organisations still aren’t going far enough to protect it and let it flourish.  Modern leaders have to strive for full inclusivity in order to avoid alienating people that otherwise would have been able to contribute greatly to the cause.

As you can see, so much of this conversation comes back to treating your staff with respect, kindness, and social consciousness that goes beyond the surface level.  These are the sorts of things that organisations should be doing to avoid another great resignation in the future.

It takes effort.  It takes action.  It takes intentional reflection.

And it represents our obligations as leaders.

Let’s set the right example.