There are many names for what is described as The Great Resignation.
Michele Hunt from DreamMakers.Org calls it The Great Soul Searching. Employees are asking, “Is this organisation worthy of my commitment?” When the answer is, “No”, they are leaving (up to 50% of these folk are doing so even if they don’t have a job to go to). A record 3.98 million Americans per month quit their jobs in 2021, up from the previous record of 3.5 million per month in 2019. This figure does not include redundancies or people “sacked” from their job, and many other countries are experiencing a similar phenomenon.
Garry Ridge, CEO of WD40, calls it The Great Escape, “People are saying I’ve had enough of these toxic cultures“.
Anthony Sork from Sork HC Pty Ltd says we are experiencing an Enhanced Talent Mobility Event. The drivers for this don’t entirely sit with the organisation and its culture. He says there is a combination of reasons causing people to leave, including the culture and leadership of the organisation, people self-actualising and realising that “I’m in the wrong job“, and trauma.
Trauma is associated with a person’s entire life experience over the past two years of the pandemic. For some people, trauma is related to a range of factors caused by working from home, home-schooling young children and being isolated from colleagues, extended family and friends, in addition to the ever-present threat of the virus itself.
Going “back to work” in any form is re-igniting the trauma, and they simply need to leave and start anew. For these people, the grass truly is greener elsewhere.
Whatever the cause or driver for people leaving organisations, other factors are at play concerning what will happen as we look forward to the rest of 2022.
Over the past two years, most people have not enjoyed their “leave” or holidays as they usually would, especially if they were “forced” by their employer to take time off.
They couldn’t go anywhere. It was as if the required leave only benefited their employer because it enabled them to reduce their leave liability.
In Australia, the usual “summer holidays” have been clouded by the ever-present spectre of covid “visiting” them and causing the entire family to isolate. I know because this is what happened to our family. Anecdotally, as vaccination rates have continued to climb, “isolation” has become more of a concern for many people than contracting covid and the illness that it causes.
Nina Mapson Bone, Managing Director at Beaumont People, shares the cumulative effect of all of the above is that folk have started 2022 with a negative energy balance. They haven’t adequately re-charged over the summer. They are exhausted.
Understandably, many organisations want 2022 to be the year they re-coup losses or reduced productivity they may have experienced over the past two years. Of course, numerous organisations have thrived, and their goal will be to continue the growth trajectory the pandemic has gifted them.
What if the most thoughtful strategy for 2022 is to sit down with the people in your organisation and work out what is realistic, given people will need to take a proper break, possibly earlier than usual, before they are “cooked”. If employees become “cooked” en-masse, it won’t matter how good your strategies and stretch goals look; they won’t be achieved if the people in your organisation aren’t there to deliver them.
Many good leaders are exhausted from the past two years’ extraordinary effort to support the people in the organisation. They need a rest. The risk is exhaustion will cause many of them to quit as well. When this happens, my guess is many of them will take extended leave, six to 12 months off, to recover fully. Can your organisation afford senior leaders to quit en-masse? And what might this mean for our economy more broadly if a swathe of experienced leaders take extended leave? Yes, opportunities will open for others to step up, but the normal mentoring and support may not be available.
The counter-intuitive strategy is to pull back on your growth initiatives and plans for 2022. Take a two or three-year view looking forward, rather than the traditional 12-month view. In two to three years, you could still achieve everything you want; you’ll start more slowly in 2022, but that will be okay.
A deliberate choice such as this will ensure you have the people and talent available to benefit your organisation in 2023 and 2024.
Has your organisation done anything that indicates careful consideration for the well-being of the people within it has been included in its goal-setting for 2022? If so, please share them in the comments.
My educated guess is that the turtle will well and truly beat the hare over the next two to three years from a people and performance perspective.
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By Gary Ryan
Gary Ryan helps talented professionals, their teams and organisations, move Beyond Being Good®