The Great Resignation: Time for The Great Reflection

The last two years have certainly been challenging with the coronavirus pandemic upending the daily lives of people around the world. For many, the economic impact has led to new categorizations of “essential” workers, move to remote work and soaring unemployment. Putting these numbers into perspective, jobs in the healthcare, hospitality, food, retail, travel and tourism sectors were the worst hit. 

While organizations had little choice but to reduce staffing in light of shuttered businesses, employees were quietly reflecting on the status quo as some voluntarily quit the workforce.   The ‘Great Resignation Wave’ – the phenomenon has become a nightmare for organizations, big or small, and looks set to continue post-pandemic.

So what really brought this on? Experts acknowledge that the past two years have been quite challenging for people, and this has led to a major shift in the mindset. While some lost their jobs due to restructuring and downsizing, for others, the pandemic precipitated a shift in priorities, encouraging them to pursue dream jobs or transition to being stay-at-home parents. 

As the world opens up, people are still leaving their jobs in search of more money, more flexibility, and more happiness. Many are rethinking what work means to them, how they are valued at work, and how they spend their time. Mental health, wellness and work-life balance are top priorities. 

Organizations are also struggling to acquire and retain talent. The tsunami of resignations is only part of the change that we should prepare for as we enter the post-pandemic world. To survive and stay competitive, there has to be long-term change to the workplace culture, and the ways organizations invest in their people.

We share some key trends and analyses by research firm Gartner that organizations should consider as we ease back into the post-pandemic workplace.

  • More remote working: As organizations shift towards more remote work operations, they should explore critical competencies that employees will need to collaborate digitally, and be prepared to adjust employee experience strategies. Consider the shift in performance goal-setting and employee evaluations for a remote context as needed.
  • Data collection:  While some companies track productivity with tech tools, others monitor employee engagement and well-being to better understand employee experience. Expand your data collection but be sure to follow best practices to ensure the responsible use of employee information and analytics.  
  • Contingent workers: Organizations will continue to rely on contingent workers to maintain more flexibility in workforce management post-COVID-19, and consider introducing other job models. Research shows that 32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure. HR leaders need to evaluate how performance management systems apply to these workers and determine whether they will be eligible for the same benefits as their full-time peers.
  • Expanded social safety net:  Employers are playing an expanded role in their employees’ financial, physical and mental well-being – providing enhanced sick leave, financial assistance, flexible operation hours and child care provisions. Personal factors versus external factors take precedence over what matters for organizations and employees, and such measures can effectively promote physical health and improve the emotional well-being of employees. 
  • Critical skills and roles: To rebuild the workforce, focus less on roles rather than on the skills needed to drive the organization’s competitive advantage and the workflows that fuel that advantage. Encourage employees to develop critical skills that potentially open multiple opportunities for their career development. Offer greater career development support to employees in critical roles who lack critical skills.
  • People over employees: While some organizations have recognized the humanitarian crisis of the pandemic and prioritized the well-being of employees, others have pushed employees to work in conditions that are high risk with little support, treating them as workers first and people second. Be mindful of the effects on employee experience, which can have long-term consequences.  Address inequities in remote working and engage task workers in team culture. Strive for a culture of inclusiveness.
  • New top-tier employers: Employees and prospects will judge organizations by the way they treated employees during the pandemic. Balance the decisions made today to resolve immediate concerns during the pandemic with the long-term impact on the employment brand. Communicate openly and frequently to show how organizations are supporting employees despite the implementation of cost-cutting measures.
  • From efficiency to resilience: To build a more responsive organization, design roles and structures around outcomes to increase agility and flexibility and formalize how processes can flex. Provide employees with varied, adaptive and flexible roles so they acquire cross-functional knowledge and training. 
  • Organization complexity: Organizations are looking to expand their geographic diversification and investment in secondary markets to mitigate and manage risk disruptions. This rise in complexity of size and organizational management creates challenges as operating models evolve. Enable business units to customize performance management that include reskilling and career development support.

For more,  download Gartner’s e-book here: “Redesigning Work for a Hybrid Future”.


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