Workers are feeling overworked and underpaid and it is one of the key drivers for the 'great resignation' phenomenon. Studies have shown that across the globe workers have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to reflect on aspects of their own lives, including their employment resulting in large numbers of workers quitting their jobs, particularly in America. The studies aren't clear as to whether similar rates of resignations have been reached in the UK, however, many UK businesses felt the effects of the great resignation in some way or another and a key focus is the retention of workforces.
During the pandemic, there was an undeniable shift of control from the employer to the worker as new ways of working were established. Workers started to demand employers step up in terms of greater flexibility in working arrangements, better overall reward packages and more fulfilment from their roles. This trend is showing no signs of slowing down and there are still businesses who are willing to offer skilled workers higher salaries along with the lure of working from home.
Although the future economic outlook is uncertain, it would seem that it is premature to call an end to the great resignation, just yet. Research conducted by PwC in March 2022 found that 18% of UK workers said they are "very or extremely likely" to switch jobs in the next 12 months, a further 32% said they are "moderately or slightly likely" to switch jobs and 16% are planning to leave the workforce temporarily or permanently.
In the wake of the pandemic, a new phenomenon has emerged having gone viral on TikTok earlier this year known as 'quiet quitting'. Despite the name, workers aren't actually quitting their jobs, they quit the idea of going above and beyond in the workplace for what is perceived to be little return, slowly withdrawing from overworking outside of the requirements of their job description. Arguably this has been happening in various forms over the years with many workers 'coasting' but the trend seems to be gaining popularity in recent months which sees workers still performing their duties but no longer subscribing to a mentality that 'work is life'.
To some extent when working from home during the pandemic, and even after in the days of hybrid working, most people will have felt some degree of their employment being all-consuming and the pressures of always being 'on' in service of their employer. It is therefore understandable when people have been working longer hours for no additional personal gain that the workforce are now trying to redefine the boundaries. The risk for workers is going too far the other way that it results in under performance and/or falling below employers expectations. With a potential looming recession and rising uncertainty in the labour market, the shift in power does seem to be inching back towards the employer.
Employers don't want to lose good workers or have a demotivated, disengaged workforce and workers don't really want to stay in a job putting in the bare minimum, as this means giving up the fulfilment that can come from being happy in a good job. So what can employers do to make the workplace more attractive and retain talent moving forward?
With soaring inflation rates and the rising cost of living, employers cannot get away from the fact that a workers overall reward package is one of the key drivers to retaining (and attracting) talent. If employers can't compete on pay, they have to offer something different in order to retain their staff to avoid problems with long-term succession planning.
Creating a collegiate, inclusive workplace with good communication of the businesses environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies is now expected by most workers as a minimum. Employers need their workers to invest in their strategy and vision for it to have a meaningful effect on their workforce. Tackling topics such as gender pay equality and net zero carbon initiatives are becoming increasingly important and something that employers should be addressing.
Hybrid working is a high priority for most workers now that they have experienced the freedom that comes with working from home. Businesses should try to embrace flexibility in terms of when and where their workers work, as much as possible. It is acknowledged that technology and hardware may come at a cost but the cost of not allowing your workforce to work flexibly could be greater. There is of course a balance to be struck between home and office working and productivity and team cohesion are at the forefront for the stakeholders making those decisions.
Businesses should consider establishing development programmes and/or training courses to assist in the upskilling of their workers. This is a win-win for both employers and workers as it allows for continuous development and potentially creates new talent pipelines from the existing workforce.
Lack of progression opportunities and/or a complex, opaque corporate structure is demotivating for workers. Career progression is more fluid than ever before and workers no longer have to follow a linear path. Line managers should work with their direct reports to reframe career journeys and try to cater to a more individualised approach. Line managers should get to understand their direct reports aspirations and consider what experience the business can offer them to support them in achieving their goals. This involves setting clear, defined objectives, holding regular 1-2-1 meetings, looking at opportunities for direct reports to get involved with new work and regular feedback and performance evaluation.