The great depression, the great recession, the great resignation. Turns out that if you find ‘great’ before a relatively large word, it’s not so great at all. Sadly, ‘the great resignation’ shaped the world of work for many throughout 2021. Looking at the job economy and resignation rates, it doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon either.

The phrase was coined by Anthony Klotz, professor and organisational psychologist at Texas University. It was during an interview with a US news network last May, and described the wave of people leaving work during the pandemic.

This isn’t to be confused with people losing their jobs as a result of COVID, but instead, individuals making the conscious choice to hand in their notice after reconsidering not only their job, but their career path or even their entire line of work. The rapid shift to remote working also played a part in many workers realising that they no longer needed to be tied to an office, or even a desk at all.

What Professor Klotz didn’t realise is that this seemingly momentary shift in attitudes was the beginning of a long-term movement. In the UK, it has been reported that one in four workers planned a job change at some point during the pandemic. But confidence remained high, with only 16% of these surveyed workers expressing concern at finding a new role. Across the pond, things are a little more worrying, with 4.5 million Americans leaving jobs, putting the country at its largest number of job openings since 2000.

So whilst ‘the great resignation doesn’t make for particularly uplifting headlines, it’s important to remember that this employment phenomenon will ultimately be, for the most part, a positive one.


Some tangible examples are:


  • Salaried workers switching to self-employed roles (as limited companies or sole-traders) for the flexibility and freedom
  • Workers using their time on furlough to learn new skills and ultimately change the trajectory of their career
  • Or simply, people are switching to more fulfilling or less stressful careers, as COVID reminds us all how precious life is


Culture: the missing piece


In recent research by Microsoft, Gen-Z respondents appeared particularly frustrated and restless in their work, with 60% of the group indicating that they were not only struggling at work, but less engaged overall with their jobs.

We saw a number of posts on LinkedIn throughout 2020 and 2021 declaring the shift to remote work unfair on younger generations, who are missing out on vital workplace connections, company culture and a positive work/life balance. Instead, they are restricted to Zoom calls, long hours at makeshift bedroom desks, and the occasional Amazon voucher in the post if the boss is feeling generous.

We’re inclined to agree; office relationships and in-person connections are some of the key proponents to a strong and vibrant workplace culture. Much of the employer brand work that companies and organisations have strived so hard to get right have been somewhat eroded in recent years, and it’s sad to see. We also believe that a well thought out proposition that combines flexibility with time in the office is most likely to win the day for the majority of businesses.

If you missed our previous blog on how employer brand can shape culture and encourage growth, check that out here.


What’s next?


Kurt Vonnegut once said “You can’t fight progress”. He went on to say “The best you can do is ignore it”. It’s fair to say that the great resignation is progress of sorts. Employees aren’t standing up and revolting, or rejecting a broken system. But they are realising, in their masses, that life is too short for mediocre work at companies that don’t treat their employees well.

Any business or organisation, no matter how big or small, who choose to ignore it will very quickly find themselves losing good staff hand over fist. 

More recent research suggests that a staggering third of UK workers are considering a career change in 2022. The industries most likely to be affected by this continuing movement are legal (44%), IT (42%) and sales, media and marketing (40%).


Go hybrid or go home


Unsurprisingly, businesses offering remote working are less affected, but companies offering some kind of hybrid model are coming out on top. 16% of employees are considering leaving their roles due to their employers insisting that they come into the workplace or office when they’re perfectly able to work remotely. Whilst we do fly the flag of office culture, we are very much ‘Team Hybrid’. To us, it’s about choice and whilst finding the sweet spot may take more time, the pandemic gave us a new baseline from which the only way is up.


Get yourself connected


Whilst it’s a relatively small number, 13% of workers are choosing to leave their roles because their employers are not investing in technology that allows teams to collaborate remotely. This could be anything from shared and creative workspaces via browser-based apps such as Miro, or robust filesharing functionality that makes it easy for multiple people or teams to work on the same document or project at the same time.


Get serious about asynchronous


Asynchronous work is more straightforward than it initially sounds. It’s simply the practice of working on or with a team who don’t all need to be online simultaneously for the project to retain momentum. This is well suited for digital-first businesses where some workers may be UK-based and others working in different time zones.


Loosen up or lose out


Your staff may not be leaving in droves, but don’t get complacent. That doesn’t mean they’re not thinking about throwing the towel in. So now is a critical time to start making changes to your company’s policies and practises.

Think about how your leadership team communicates with your employees. Think about how you demonstrate your company values to your employees and potential employees too. Think about how you can attract a new wave of employees – employees who are looking to move to a progressive, forward-thinking and future-proofed business.

You can do this through employer brand and internal communications. In fact, to be an honest brand in 2022 and beyond, your values, your company DNA and your ‘why us’ should be crisp, concise and clear in every single thing that you do, internal or external.

If you need help getting your employer brand in shape, or perhaps you feel it’s time to finally get your company values set in stone, then talk to us, and we can help you get there. It’s time to take the leap.


“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” Kurt Vonnegut


If you want to talk to an experienced agency who know and value the importance of workplace culture and employer brand, get in touch today.

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