How To Avoid The Great Resignation

4th Jun 2021

We spoke to the man who coined the term "The Great Resignation" to understand the data behind the trend, and what companies are doing to avoid mass resignations.

What are companies doing to avoid the "great resignation"

Professor Anthony Klotz coined the term “The Great Resignation” to explain the impending phenomenon of mass resignations when people are asked, or told, to return to the office. Klotz argues that, when we're all forced back into the long commute, a nine-to-five job, and office life, there will be a "Great Resignation" among the workforce. 

During times of uncertainty, which we’ve certainly experienced over the past 18 months, people tend to behave more conservatively. Once that uncertainty starts to dissipate, people start to take more risks again, and in this case, resign. 

Why is the “great resignation” happening? 

Why were we so dissatisfied with the old “normal”? Well, the word “normal”, Michael Foucault argues, is the root of the problem. We put up with the long commutes, expensive lunches, and joyless offices because we were told that all of those things were “normal” and if we didn’t abide by those rules then we didn’t fit in. Human beings spend a huge amount of time and effort trying to be “normal”, but the pandemic has shifted our perception of what norms are, thus challenging the need to go back to what we were told was “normal” before. 

Some companies are pushing back on this, trying to claw back the old normal that they saw as the best way to conduct business, and manage their employees. Yet this old normal was inherently flawed, because we are all human beings with individual needs and preferences, and being told that there is one overarching “normal” that we must all adhere to meant that a lot of people, and companies, weren’t reaching their full potential.

What should companies be doing about it?

This new normal is daunting, and while everyone would like you to believe that they have the future of work sussed out, they don’t. The companies succeeding in this new normal are embracing the dynamic shift in our “work norms” and experimenting with new ways of working. 

We work with some of the most progressive companies here at Flexa, so we wanted to shine a light on what they are doing to not only avoid the “great resignation” but attract those people who are resigning from other companies to join them. 

We’ll dive into four things that our partner companies are doing to ensure that they are seen as the most desirable places to work, both for existing employees, and for candidates looking for a better opportunity.

Making a minimum commitment to flexibility

It might feel like you need to have all the answers about what your new ways of working are, but in truth, you don’t! Things will naturally evolve and how you’re working in 6 months might be completely different to how you started out post-pandemic. Coming to terms with that fluidity and evolution is vital to flexible working success. 

Starting with a minimum commitment to flexible working across the business is a great place to start to build trust with your employees that you are, in fact, embracing flexibility. This could be as little as 1-2 days per week from home, but whatever it is, make sure that you’ve committed to something!

By starting with a minimum commitment, you’re removing the doubt that employees might have that you’re not embracing flexibility going forward. This will go a long way to preventing knee jerk reactions that will occur if your employees believe that you’re not considering a new way of working post-pandemic. 

FARFETCH built their flexible working approach through feedback from employees and have built a framework that is applied company-wide. Listen to Harriet from FARFETCH explain more:

Communicating openly and frequently

Communication is probably the most important part of retaining your employees and attracting new ones. We have three key ways to communicate effectively:

  • Explain what is and isn’t on offer to your employees clearly and frequently so that everyone is aware of what they can expect and make the most of. 
  • Encourage a two-way conversation that values feedback so that your employees can build your working environment with you
  • Don’t just communicate internally, do so externally as well. Candidates need and value information about your company, so clearly communicate what you offer in terms of flexible working and benefits on your careers page, job descriptions, and consider using Flexa to ensure that you’re found by people looking for flexibility. 

Communication doesn’t have to be through boring emails, you can take Threads Stylings’ approach and make it fun. They adopted a “drop” system for each new benefit that was announced, talking each benefit through and taking questions, as well as producing engaging content for each new way of working that they announced over an extended period. 

Here’s Grace talking about their “drops”:

Listening to their employees, and remembering the human side of work

The most successful flexible working environments that retain people are built from employee feedback and demands. Sending out a survey to employees to understand what they want, and focusing on pleasing the majority will be essential to retaining your workforce.

There will always be unreasonable demands from a small minority, but don’t let this put you off asking for employee feedback. Justify your choices with employee data, and people will feel listened to. 

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that work and life are inextricably intertwined, and it’s more of a case of managing work-life blend than aspiring to achieve work-life balance. We are all humans, and the companies that are treating their employees as such are the ones who will benefit from high retention rates and strong employer brands. 

Here’s David Barker, CPO at Paddle, explaining how listening and remembering the human side of work is crucial to a successful culture. 

Assuming the best, and that they’ve hired people who can be trusted

Trust is central to successful flexible working. Without it, it is impossible to give people the freedom and choice that they need, and will move elsewhere to find. 

Your employees were hired because of their skills, and thus they should be trusted to do their jobs effectively without needing to be seen at a desk every day. Transitioning towards an output driven organisation can help to focus on the right goals that do not require micromanagement to achieve. If someone is doing their job in fewer hours than they are contracted to do, then you’ve made a great hire because they’re more efficient and productive than you expected. 

OKRs, weekly check-ins, and sprints are all ways of adopting a more output driven approach to performance management and can help you to set up frameworks that nurture trust and autonomy over presenteeism and micromanagement. 

Nicholas Andreou, Founder of Locumsnest, explains why trust is paramount to success:

What one thing should I take away from this?

You need to firm up a flexible working offering now. Even if that’s a minimum commitment that might evolve, you need to have decided something. Employees will leave if you don’t, and candidates are looking for places that offer flexibility. We recently commissioned a YouGov survey and found that 71% of people are more likely to apply to a role that directly mentions flexibility, so grab that competitive advantage now!