How can workplace culture contribute to The Great Resignation?

Estimated reading time
6 minutes
8th June 2022
Author: Ellen Montgomery
Posted in: Education & Upskilling, Recruitment & People, Strategy & Planning

There is currently one of the biggest workforce crises since the 2008 recession. However, this time it isn’t about people struggling to find employment. This time, it is companies that are struggling to find employees (and hold on to them). 

A Gartner study found that 48% of companies today have significant concerns about employee turnover. The same study found that 65% of employees say the pandemic made them rethink where ‘work’ sits in their lives. Jobs site Monster recently reported that as many as 95% of workers keep their eyes and ears open for new job opportunities. That’s a lot of people.

An unprecedented social shift

At the start of the pandemic, people craved security more than ever. As a result, resignation rates declined. However, the pandemic also brought new passions into the lives of millions of people. Suddenly, returning to the same old job lost its appeal. Enter: career changes for millions of people.

the great resignation: woman sits at desk, behind an open laptop, resting head on hand looking bored

Known as ‘Tang Ping’ in China and sometimes referred to as a ‘turnover tsunami’, you might be familiar with its more collective term; The Great Resignation. A seismic social shift, the movement has witnessed tens of millions of people walk out of their jobs in only 18 months.

Drivers of The Great Resignation

The pandemic brought about a shift in values. The Great Resignation is largely led by Millennials and Generation Z searching for more meaningful opportunities, better work-life balance, and less work-related stress.

Before the pandemic, people prioritized workplace support networks and enjoyed working closely with others. Today, while workplace support remains important, career development has replaced working with others in the list of what matters most. People are prioritizing personal happiness, development, and fulfillment.

Myths of The Great Resignation 

Firstly, one of the biggest myths of The Great Resignation is the belief that employees will stay if they receive a promotion. They won’t.

A promotion may tempt someone to stay a few extra months. However, an offer of a promotion is only a temporary solution to a long-term problem.

Think of it this way: if you feel like your house is too small, painting the walls won’t change its size. Ultimately, you will end up going for a remodel or relocating entirely.

the great resignation - hands straighten a tie on a suit

Secondly, loyalty means less now than it once did. People no longer plan to leave school and stay in the same company for their entire working life.

Thanks to professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, people can view jobs in any location. As companies headhunt your top talent, employees are lured by the temptation of new opportunities more in line with their professional aspirations and personal needs.

Rerouting the resignation movement  

Whether people are trying to avoid burnout or want to be closer to their family and friends, businesses should prepare for many more months of continued resignations. But how can you retain your employees? While there isn’t a blanket solution to all retention woes, it is important to focus on elements that can make a proper difference.

Workplace culture

Workplace culture is a driving force in what determines whether employees stay or go. Endless perks such as cycle-to-work schemes and refrigerators full of fresh fruit are great. However, if you walk into a bank to try and pay your mortgage with a bowl of apples and bananas, you will soon understand how these attempts at culture-building do not go far enough.

people sit in an office, chatting socially

People need their workplace culture to have meaning. Icy facades are simply not inspirational. Sometimes, people need a little encouragement. That is completely fine. Delving deeper than engagement surveys and taking necessary action on the feedback provided shows people you care about them as an individual.

By creating an enjoyable environment where people feel listened to, as a leader, you create a place people will want to be. Think of it as the great re-imagination of what it means to be ‘at work’.

Listen to people

Create a sense of belonging for employees by listening to them. See people. Hear people. Let people be their most authentic selves.

A recent Deloitte study found almost two-thirds of people are ‘covering’ an aspect of their identity in the workplace, rising to 83% of LGBTQ+ communities.

Leaders must ensure all colleagues have what they need to perform at their best. As a result, people will feel more comfortable in the workplace.

Create opportunities for growth 

Growth is complicated. However, as businesses strive for long-term development and prosperity, it is essential to have the right team to bring your growth strategy to life.

people watch a presentation in an office

Do not simply fill the skills gap. Recruit individuals that fit the business vision for the future. Implement processes to retain existing colleagues to enable growth together. As leaders, work with individuals to help them get more from their roles. This creates the satisfaction of progression.

What does the data say?

While resignation rates are high on average, it varies considerably depending on the industry. For example, one study found attrition rates in consultancy management and retail significantly higher than in aviation and health care.

However, the same study found that resignations within sectors can vary too. For example, employees are 3.8 times more likely to leave Tesla than Ford. Company culture is a significant contributing factor to this.

Simply put, companies with a healthier workplace culture have lower-than-average resignation rates. In contrast to general assumptions, evidence suggests the rate of pay is not a key driver behind increased resignation rates. A toxic corporate culture is 10.4 times more likely to contribute to attrition than compensation (which ranked 16th on the list).

How B2B leaders can help people stay

The top five aspects that employees ranked in contributing towards a toxic company culture are; disrespect, non-inclusivity, unethical practices, workplace harassment, and ruthless competition.

the great resignation: a man sits in a small booth with an open laptop, head in hands, looking stressed

To improve toxic culture, identify the root cause of the toxicity and address the core issues. Make your company culture the best it can be, by considering the following elements:

Flexibility 

Once reserved for parents or part-time employees, it is time to take flexibility mainstream. To help prevent people from over-working and burning out, help colleagues set boundaries. Offer to assist with their day-to-day planning and workload balance and remind people of the right to disconnect.

Feedback

Feedback results in growth. Growth equates to prosperity, not to mention how good it feels to know you’re on the right track. Those feelings are what will make people want to stay in an organization. Employees deserve acknowledgment, respect, insightful and constructive feedback, and growth opportunities.

Freedom

Trust that your employees can and will do their jobs. There is a fine line between regular check-ins and micromanaging workdays.

two people sit at a white table chatting and smiling

Friends

Establish and maintain connections with colleagues. Building trustworthy relationships is beneficial. A 2018 Gallup study found that people with a workplace ‘bestie’ are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. LinkedIn places particular importance on workplace connections for people aged 18-24, directly linking it to improved happiness, productivity, and motivation. 

Before you go 

New evidence suggests businesses that take steps to construct a company culture of empathetic leadership will be able to keep their best employees for longer. As more vocal young generations move into the workforce, businesses should aim to communicate their values clearly. People want to work for companies with credible, relatable values. 

As we move towards a post-pandemic model of hybrid working, there has never been a better time to reevaluate workplace culture. Create a culture people want to be part of. Create a place for people to thrive. It’s The Great Resignation’s secret blessing.  

Hungry for more 2022 leadership advice? Click to read our guide for agile marketing leaders ⤵

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