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The Great Resignation Defined


Joy Langley

Date Published

Oct 10, 2022
7 minute read
Great Resignation

At its core, the great resignation is really the great re-balancing. As the COVID pandemic has become manageable, employers are seeking to regain a sense of normal in the workplace. At the same time, many workers have become accustomed to the benefits of working from home and the increased work/life balance it can bring. In fact, according to CNBC, approximately 72% of workers now prefer a flexible work environment.

In some cases, an employer’s idea of what normal should now be doesn’t match up with its employees’ wishes. Whether it is dictating how many days a week employees must be in the office to reinstating dress codes, changes are being made that put people on one side of the fence or the other.

Complicating matters is the evolving job market, which has more open roles than applicants. The number of open opportunities has reduced the risk workers typically feel when considering leaving their company. It all adds up to people leaving jobs for opportunities that provide the balance they’re looking for. And the numbers back it up.

A recent poll shows 40% of workers are considering quitting their jobs in the next three-to-six months.


The Great Resignation’s Impact on Organizations

At The Clearing, we have the privilege of serving those who have opted for a career in public service. Federal agencies, unfortunately, aren’t insulated from the effects of the great resignation.

The Partnership for Public Service recently reported that the attrition rate among young employees is 8.5%, double the average level of their 30-to-59-year-old counterparts. HR departments are faced with the challenge of re-balancing themselves: with dwindling bandwidth, do they increase efforts to recruit or retain? Employees are faced with the challenge of taking on additional responsibilities when their colleagues resign and they’re forced to re-balance their expectations. With their dwindling bandwidth, do they increase efforts to meet workplace needs or devote time to a job search for a position with greater support?

Situations like this result in everything from collapse in camaraderie to burnout to – as we’re seeing with the great resignation – high turnover. From the employer’s side, this requires creative problem-solving. In our experience, the best employers are the ones who recognize this moment is different from a typical labor shortage and redouble their efforts to recognize employee commitment in traditional and non-traditional ways. Recognition and reward lead to a better overall employee experience and commitment to a high level of employee satisfaction is key to retention.

In many cases, this means thinking beyond the standard benefits package and asking employees what they need to both feel valued and to be successful within current constraints (budget; COVID; transition from remote to hybrid or in-person; etc.) While more resources may not be an immediate option, simply showing that leadership is listening is a step in the right direction. Are people looking for the option to work remotely? Can hours be adjusted so employees can attend to their personal needs? Some of these simple changes are the top reasons people cite to stay at their current company.

Simply recognizing your workforce as multi-faceted humans with needs both inside and outside the workplace is, I believe, mission-critical; when people feel their needs are being met and cared for, it increases the likelihood they’ll stay as employees despite staff shortages and other workplace challenges.


Mitigating the Effects of the Great Resignation

There are three macro-level tactics leaders should deploy when faced with a situation such as the one described above.

  • First, don’t panic. Like in an emergency room, triage. That includes the steps above (reconsidering how you reward employees to drive retention) and conducting an honest assessment of where your organization is and what strengths you can build on using a tool such as CliftonStrengths®. This will allow you to create a realistic view of your current-state workforce needs, identify your ideal “TO BE” workplace, and implement a plan to build.
  • Second, think with an abundance mindset – focusing on making the most of the resources you have instead of worrying about those you don’t. Consider working with a partner like The Clearing to help your organization incorporate best practices that have worked for organizations when faced with similar challenges.
  • Third, remember your employees are your most-valuable resource (whether your organization is facing staff shortages or not.) Consider how workplace policies impact them not only as workers but as humans balancing full lives. If certain mandates have triggered resignations, it’s never too late to walk them back or consider ways to refine them.

For example, we know of one agency that requires employees at certain levels to be in the office five days a week. This has been a major adjustment after years of work-from-home flexibility. In situations like these, consider services that may bring some of the work-from-home balance back. These could include on-site grocery delivery to employee cars to eliminate a trip on the way home; on-site flu shots; or remote oil changes in the parking lot.

It’s also critical to remember that your multifaceted employees face multifaceted circumstances. Considering those circumstances may help you shape better policies. For example, a healthy employee may have an immuno-compromised partner, making the health risk of coming into the office very real. Considering these factors may be the difference between thriving or suffering through the great resignation.


Business Unusual

This is a watershed moment. Let’s not waste it on going back to business as usual. COVID has made us all more resilient and showed us that a better way to work is possible if we’re willing to commit intentionally to creating it. As leaders, it is imperative to recognize the positive effects workplace change and flexibility has had on many people. Ignoring that may be the decision that puts your organization in the same company with others hemorrhaging top performers and valued team members.

To that end, the companies that don’t go back to business as usual – the ones who view this moment as an opportunity to evolve instead of a crisis to be managed – are the ones I believe are best positioned to succeed in an uncertain future.

If you or your organization is struggling to find its footing in this new normal or are ready to take a leap and redefine how you operate, I’d love to chat. I can be reached at I can’t wait to hear from you.