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A reality check on the ‘Resignation Wave’

MEDIA RELEASE: January 12 2022: There’s little doubt that anyone managing staff or running a company will have been dreading the start of 2022. Late last year, all the talk was of the massive ‘resignation wave’ that was about to hit. People were predicted to resign ‘en masse’ as a result of revaluating their lives and priorities following a year, or two, of COVID lockdowns and drama. Stats from other countries, such as the US, were often quoted to fuel the fire. Microsoft, for example, saying up to 40% of employees are considering resigning in 2022 (ABC, 24 Sept 2021).

As anyone who manages people knows, staff churn is hugely disruptive and can derail business planning, growth and systems. So, employers were bracing themselves.

But the media does love a negative story, and also has a habit of scaremongering. So, we wondered, are millions of people really going to leave secure employment at a time when the world is still pretty much in turmoil? Sure, we may be coming out of lockdown, but Omicron is spreading like wildfire and there is much to be said for a regular paycheck and maybe people will choose certainty in uncertain times.

With this in mind, we decided to ask Australians in employment whether or not they did indeed intend to resign in Q1, 2022. The question was asked via a national Omnibus*

The results are staggering.

83% of Australians in employment have no intention whatsoever of resigning in the first three months of 2022.

Do I hear sighs of relief from all the employers and managers reading this blog?

But before you crack the champagne, 9% of employees say they will ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ resign and a further 9% think it’s 50/50. That means a total of 18% of employees should be considered “at risk” by their managers in the first quarter this year. Not exactly a stable workforce.

What’s more, according to some industry norms, on average, every year, a company will experience 18% turnover in its workforce (Oracle Netsuite).  Many things change in a year, but should the 9% who said they would ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ resign in Q1 be replicated in each of the next 3 quarters, there could be up to 36% of the workforce resigning in 2022. This is almost a resignation tsunami and close to the 40% in a year Microsoft projected.

But before employers duck for cover, one other thing we have learnt from COVID is things can change quickly. Just because 9% intend to resign this quarter doesn’t necessarily mean another 9% will follow every subsequent quarter. Especially if employers take action.

There are a multitude of reasons for people to resign of course. But the basic premise behind the ‘Resignation Wave’ is that COVID has forced a re-evaluation of priorities. People are looking at their lives and questioning what is important to them. Time with family and friends. Time to travel. Time to enjoy life, all seem more important when you’ve been through a lockdown. More important perhaps than striving for the next promotion.

Smart employers need to recognize this, and quickly. Offering much more flexible working arrangements; more generous parental, family and personal leave; reconsidering the benefits offered to employees; building a culture of empathy and understanding are all ways to protect valued staff.

Show them you understand and ‘the post-COVID company’ they work for is not the same as the one they were in before.

Every good member of staff is worth fighting to retain and, make no mistake, policy change with direct action is needed. Now.

For more tips and tricks on how The Great Resignation should be seen by CEOs and management teams as a rare opportunity to add value to the work of current staff, check out this podcast from Talent Optimiser, Alicia Lykos from the Red Wolf Group.

Author: Jem Wallis

Website: Potentiate

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