Wed, Oct 4, 202311 min read

The Great Resignation: What Did We Learn From It?

Nick SaraevGrowth
The Great Resignation: What Did We Learn From It?

Hang onto your hats, folks. We're riding a wave of change that’s earned a catchy, albeit daunting moniker: The 'Great Resignation.' Sounds big and ominous, doesn't it? Well, it is. But it's not something a sci-fi writer cooked up to scare you. It's real.

The Great Resignation

The Great Resignation is a phenomenon defined by an unprecedented number of employees willingly chucking their nine-to-five jobs.

  • These aren't just a few isolated incidents, either. We're talking sky-high numbers here.

  • According to CNBC, more than 50 million Americans hit the trail in pursuit of better opportunities – primarily in 2022.

That's charting historic highs globally, and business pundits aren't kidding when they say this is transformational. So buckle up. Now that you're familiar with the backstory, let's meander through the hows and whys of this significant employment shift.

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Unpacking the Causes of the Great Resignation

So, what's lighting the fuse behind the phenomenon known as the Great Resignation? To get a handle on this, we need to poke around some key drivers.

First off, employee dissatisfaction. There's no rocket science here. If folks aren't happy at work, they're going to bounce. Dissatisfaction can hatch in various ways: low wage increases that don't keep up with inflation, unappreciated efforts, limited growth opportunities, or even a toxic environment. Lately, the end of the pandemic seems to have fanned the flames, making people reassess what truly matters to them in life and work.

Changing priorities also shoulder some blame, riding shotgun with dissatisfaction. With more time to ponder over our locked-down lives, many had a lightbulb moment, recalibrating what they value: work-life balance, empathy from management, mental well-being, not idling away in commute traffic, the list goes on.

Gone are the days when a hefty paycheck was the only lure. Now the scope has widened: eudaemonic wellbeing, a sense of purpose, and a societal cause are all becoming deeply ingrained criteria for jobs.

End of the line: burnout. It's a chronic state of being under stress that's become all too familiar to us in the 21st century. A significant chunk of people have already quit their jobs because of overwork and mental exhaustion. Not only that, but there is also the factor of how employees are experiencing their workload. Repeat after me: 'burnout is real.'

Rise of Remote Work

The pandemic brought about a seismic shift: remote work. It broke down office walls, tech savvied us up and infused flexibility into our lives. Suddenly, geography wasn't a constraint, pajamas were legitimate work attire, and there was no need to brave peak-hour traffic.

The flip side, however, is that some employers haven't fully grasped how to navigate this new paradigm effectively, resulting in inefficient remote work practices and burgeoning anxiety levels for employees.

All in all, it's clear that the Great Resignation is a cocktail of dissatisfaction, shifting priorities, burnout and the new world (dis)order of remote work. Savoring the flavor of this cocktail might indeed help redirect the current tide, helping companies see what changes need to be made to keep people from hitting the 'exit' door.

Employee Retention, Before and After the Great Resignation

Traditionally, employee retention has been crafted within familiar parameters. It was steered by things like compensation, periodic promotions, employee benefits, and positive work environments.

Companies invested in schemes to motivate employees, nurturing them with structured growth plans and keeping them engaged through team-building activities. Though these strategies still hold weight, they've seen seismic changes owing to the Great Resignation.

The event of the Great Resignation has served as a wake-up call, flashing a glaring spotlight on the overlooked issues within the conventional approaches to employee retention.

For too long, intangible factors, such as a robust work-life balance, autonomy, sense of purpose, and psychological safety, were on the fringe of concerted retention strategies. The drastic surge in resignations has underscored that these factors are not just good-to-haves but are absolute necessities from an employee's perspective.

The New Workforce Demand

Traditional retention strategies are being disrupted and recalibrated to suit the emerging demands of the present workforce. For instance, the pandemic-induced remote work scenario sparked a wave of flexibility that employees are keen on maintaining. Companies are seeing the need to unchain from the 9-to-5 shackles and adopt flexible schedules or hybrid working norms.

Agile engagement strategies, focusing on employees' mental health and fostering a culture of trust and openness, are gaining traction. The emphasis is shifting from mere job satisfaction to overall well-being and fulfilment. Additionally, with the potential for job-hopping made easy in a remote and digital-first world, continuous learning and development opportunities have become a crucial retainer.

In a nutshell, the Great Resignation has catalysed a metamorphosis in approaches to employee retention. It's redefined the notion of what keeps employees stuck to their chairs, underscoring that it's no longer just about the paycheck. Rather, it's pushing companies to create a culture that respects humanity, fosters growth, and champions well-being.

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In the aftermath of the Great Resignation, we aren't seeing a major departure from work as we know it. Instead, there's a distinct shift towards a 'new normal.' This term has frequently been used to underline the complex transformations fundamentally altering how we work.

Embracing Remote Work

One of the most notable shifts is a full-fledged acceptance of remote work. Initiated by pandemic necessity, many employees have shown a preference for this setup due to the increased flexibility and work-life balance it provides. Consequently, businesses have started to acknowledge the need to support these patterns to attract and retain talent.

Beyond Location Flexibility

However, the demand doesn't stop at location flexibility. Employees are seeking:

  • Flexible schedules

  • Opportunities for upskilling

  • Companies that echo their values, such as environmental sustainability and social justice.

Interestingly, the focus isn’t just on the paycheck anymore. It's on purpose, meaning, and autonomy.

Mental Health

There's increased focus on mental health. The realization that constant connectivity can catalyze burnout has prompted companies to develop cultures and systems that uphold their employees' well-being. This could include wellness programs, respecting the demarcation between work and personal time, and offering generous leave policies.

The Gig Economy

Another surfacing trend is the surge of the gig economy. Traditional 9-5 jobs now face stark competition from freelance work, contract roles, and self-employment opportunities. The allure here centers around freedom, autonomy, and the prospect of being one's own boss.

Tech Proficiency

Digital tools and platforms being integrated into daily operations highlights the importance of technological proficiency. Both companies and employees must continuously adapt to keep pace with tech advances.

The Great Resignation is catalyzing a huge wave of labor market transformation, still in progress. Businesses must swiftly adapt and comprehend that the old work rules may not apply anymore. These evolving realities force us to rethink how we identify work, compensation, and company culture, steering us towards a future that gives precedence to employee satisfaction and human well-being.

Company Culture in the Wake of the Great Resignation

Before we delve deep into how cultures are evolving, let's all agree on one simple thing: Office culture isn't just about ping-pong tables, free coffee, or flex-hours.

It's the vibe, the ethos, the shared vision that binds everyone in an organization, from top brass to the interns. It can make or break an employee's satisfaction factor, influencing their decision to stay put or join the Great Resignation parade.

Now let's stir – and dare I say 'shake' – things up a bit. The Great Resignation has served as a lit fuse, catalyzing radical changes in how companies perceive and shape their culture. They're rapidly realizing that if employees are voting with their feet, adjustments are needed – and pronto.

Workplace Empathy

Firstly, there's the shift toward empathetic leadership. In an era marked by a massive employment exodus, the importance of understanding and addressing employee needs or concerns is as big as ever. Leaders are stepping out from their Mahogany rows, adopting a more supportive, compassionate, and human-centered approach. An empathetic culture not only illuminates employee satisfaction but acts as a shield against the arsenal of resignations.

Achieving Work-Life Balance

Secondly, companies are no longer treating remote work as a temporary pandemic-induced phase. Remove your 'return-to-normal' glasses, folks; it’s time to accept that remote or hybrid work models are the newest craft beers in the office culture brewery.

With the commute time knocked out and a more flexible work-life balance, the appeal is clear. But it's more than just allowing folks to work in their jammies. It's about creating a culture where employees feel trusted, valued, and part of a clear, robust virtual community.

Employee Wellness

Finally, there's an upswing in investing in employee development and well-being. Caught in the tremors of the Great Resignation, companies are increasingly offering resources for professional growth, mental health support, or wellness programs. 'People-first' isn't just being etched on motivational office posters; it's become the cornerstone of emerging cultures.

These makeovers aren't overnight miracles. They demand effort, time, and often, a cultural overhaul. But if there's one thing the Great Resignation has taught us, it's that an appreciated, cared-for employee is much less likely to become a part of the resigning statistics. And that's a wake-up call worth hearing.

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Robotic Process Automation: A Possible Solution?

In the aftermath of the Great Resignation, a potential solution looms on the horizon: Robotic Process Automation, or RPA. This emerging technology has the power to change how we conduct business, potentially providing the answers companies are desperately seeking to cope with the distinct workforce challenges they're now facing.

RPA is an application that uses Robotic Process Automation technologies to undertake high-volume repetitive tasks, often replacing human labor. RPA bots are capable of mimicking many–if not most–human user actions and can log into applications, enter data, calculate and complete tasks, and then log out.

Why is this relevant in the context of the Great Resignation? Repetitive tasks may be costing businesses more than just time and money as they might be contributing to employee dissatisfaction and, ultimately, resignation. Their study found workplace monotony derived from repetitive tasks can lead to a lack of motivation, reduced productivity, and increased turnover.

If machines were to take over that tedious part of the job, employees could be freed up to engage in more meaningful and satisfying work—work that needs human insights, creativity, and decision-making—thereby possibly increasing job satisfaction and decreasing resignations in the process.

RPA could also help companies maintain productivity levels during personnel transitions, minimizing disruptions as team members come and go.

Reality: Not a One-size-fits-all Solution

It must be noted that while RPA can handle some tasks effectively, it's not a solution for every problem companies are facing in light of the Great Resignation. A thoughtful approach to implementing these technologies would require looking at individual business operations, understanding the company's unique needs, and ensuring a balance is struck so that employees feel supported by technology rather than replaced by it.

In the wake of the Great Resignation, RPA could be a tool in the company's toolkit. But like all tools, its effectiveness depends on how, where, and when it's used.

Alright, let’s get real here. This massive walkout we call the “Great Resignation” didn’t just happen overnight. It’s not a rash rebellion, but rather the result of pent-up frustration coupled with a change in perspective towards work and life balance. So, what can we take from this that will help us navigate the future?

Lesson One: Employees are not cogs in a machine

As much as they contribute to an organization's efficiency, bear in mind, employees aren't just for punching numbers or cranking handles. They're living, breathing individuals with wants, needs, and aspirations.

If this exodus has shown us anything, it's that treating employees as mere workers won't cut it anymore. They seek more than a paycheck. They crave recognition, engagement, room for growth, and yeah, some good old-fashioned respect wouldn’t hurt.

Lesson Two: Flexible work arrangements won’t be optional

The popularity of remote and hybrid work exploded during the pandemic, and now, people aren't just liking it; they are demanding it. Hybrid work, remote work, flexi hours - these are no longer perks or bargaining chips. Instead, they've become standard expectations. Businesses need to grasp this and be prepared to build it into their core workflows.

Lesson Three: Burnout is real

Burnout is real, and it’s a killer — a dream killer, a team killer, and a productivity killer. Never underestimate the importance of work-life balance. Encourage timeouts. Support wellness activities. Establish a culture where overtime is an exception, not a routine. Notice the signs of employee burnout and act on it. Now, that’s a level of care employees can’t just resign from.

Lesson Four: Automation is the next big thing in business

Lastly, embrace technology but don’t let it override the human component of work. Sure, Robotic Process Automation can step in, taking over repetitive tasks and increasing efficiency. But remember, people need to feel involved and value-adding. Use tech to make work easier, not to make humans redundant.

With that in mind, it is clear that AI has become the next big thing. A game-changer for predicting trends, optimizing business processes, delivering insights, and personalizing customer experiences, it's evolved to not just about automation.

To thrive in the wake of the Great Resignation requires a genuine shift in mentality from businesses. Consider people as the heart of your enterprise and treat them accordingly. Be flexible, promote wellness, and utilize technology wisely. Let’s not simply view this time as a crisis, but as a valuable lesson. Sometimes, it takes a storm to clear the path ahead. Let’s march forward, smarter.

Recap: What did we learn from The Great Resignation?

As we wrap up our investigation into the 'Great Resignation', the lessons unearthed are as startling as they are enlightening. It's become apparent that the traditional workplace playbook - the numbing predictability of the 9-5, the charmless cubicle confines and the transactional dynamics at play - are increasingly growing out of sync with modern workforce expectations.

The Great Resignation has made visible the significant factors that drive employee satisfaction and retention. It laid bare the dissatisfaction, the changing priorities propelled by the desire for work-life balance, and the need for adaptability in the work environment. It reminded us that employees aren't just cogs in a machine; their desires, their lives outside work, and their mental health matter just as much as their productivity charts, if not more.

In response, we've seen the evolution of 'the new normal' in working trends and revamped company cultures, highlighting the need for companies to adjust their sails to the current winds of change. Robotic Process Automation seems to be a promising tool to alleviate job dissatisfaction, a bold but practical stride towards keeping staff from jumping ship.

The Transformation of Work

But it's not all doom and gloom. The Great Resignation, while disruptive, is also transformative. Like a phoenix soaring from the ashes of its former self, it offers businesses the chance to reinvent their employment strategies, to create work environments that work for the employee, not against them.

In Conclusion

In essence, the Great Resignation provided a gilded opportunity for companies to build a management model that is not just efficient, but also empathetic.

Businesses need to take note, reflect on these shifts and turn the lessons of the Great Resignation into actionable strategies to sustain and nurture their most vital asset - their people. After all, learning without action is like planting without harvesting. So let's reinvent, rebuild, and rise from here. That's our way forward.

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