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2022 is shaping up to be one of the most turbulent years UK businesses have ever faced. Of course, 2020 was a serious contender. But today, organisations are not only having to adapt to the ‘new normal’, but also handle the increasing retention challenge that’s coming their way. The ‘Great Resignation’ is most certainly upon us.

Different reports are citing different figures when it comes to the ‘Great Resignation’. The worst case scenario is that around half of UK workers are either planning to quit, or are thinking of quitting, this year. More realistically, it’s expected that around one quarter will leave their jobs by the end of 2022. Either way, these numbers are enough to make us sit up and listen, consider the business impact, and build a plan.

Exploring the Business Impact

The Great Resignation has been a few years in the making, first reaching the point of concern between September and November last year, when job vacancies hit an all-time high of 1.2 million. This, as you can probably imagine, has been having real and sometimes devastating impacts on organisations. 45% of companies facing shortages have asked their staff to work longer hours, risking employee burnout. And half of those struggling with shortages say they’ve been unable to meet demand.

What’s Sparking the ‘Great Resignation’?

It appears as though multiple factors have come together simultaneously that are making employees take a closer look at their roles, and whether they’re in the right place. The global health crisis is, of course, sparking much of the shift. But so is a growing awareness of the need for equality, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

Some of the primary reasons why employees are leaving jobs today include:

  • Evolving expectations – When the pandemic hit, many businesses discovered that they could operate successfully without the need for a fully occupied office. And employees found that they were able to carry out their roles productively, while also enjoying a much healthier work/life balance. It’s not surprising that workers aren’t keen to return to the office full time, and nearly half of all employees say they’d consider quitting if flexibility wasn’t an option.
  • Healthcare is at a standstill – Accessing healthcare over the past few years has been challenging, and NHS waiting lists are bigger than ever. Unfortunately, this seems to have had a significant impact on workers. Today, twice as many 50-65 years olds are leaving their jobs due to ill health than they are due to retirement, and many businesses are finding that they’re rapidly losing experienced employees, resulting in a growing skills gap.
  • Workloads have changed – Businesses have certainly had a lot on their plates during the COVID-19 crisis, having to do more with less. And employees are feeling the pressure. In fact, almost half of all HR managers have said they’ve considered quitting during the pandemic because of the additional responsibilities they’ve had to take on, such as implementing new health and safety measures, and rolling out comprehensive mental health schemes.
  • There are still limitations in equality – Equality and equity are two words that are fast becoming part of the everyday lingo in workplace environments. And that’s definitely a good thing. But equality still has its limits; there are still areas where we’re not quite there. One of those areas is support for older women. 1 in 4 women have thought about quitting because they feel businesses do not have robust enough measures in place to support them during menopause.

How to Reduce Resignations

As is clear to see from the many different reasons employees are citing for quitting their jobs, there’s no single way to reduce resignations. There’s no point introducing flexible working arrangements if your staff are quite happy to work from the office, for example. The best way to retain your staff is to listen closely to what they need.

Before business leaders get to a point where they’re conducting exit interviews and asking ‘what went wrong?’, they should be working to carry out stay interviews and asking ‘what do you need?’. Stay interviews can be a powerful retention tool, helping organisations learn more about what motivates their staff to work optimally.

Stay interviews aren’t new. But until recently, there has been a definite trend for businesses to address resignation retroactively, rather than proactively. In the turbulent landscape we’re facing today, however, we can’t keep working in this same way. Businesses need to take action and make retention a new priority.

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