The Great Resignation

The Great Resignation

The Great Resignation is no longer an esoteric term coined by Texas University’s, Anthony Kotz and pounced on by consultants, wanting to “fear-monger” clients into employing their services. It is real and it is here. The pandemic has meant that many employees have been working remotely and this has afforded them the rare opportunity to revaluate their lives, priorities, values, circumstances, career choice, and most importantly, their employer.

Consider the following statistics (just 3 of 100's of examples) which patently demonstrate the danger to employers:

While the number of resignations in the US and some other developed markets is alarming, South Africa has not escaped the Great Resignation – several of our clients have expressed concern that staff turnover is at record levels and they are struggling to attract and recruit top talent. Even some of our UAE clients, traditionally an employer-dominated market, have expressed concern about their ability to attract talent.

There can be little doubt that the relationship between employer and employee is changing; for the first time, employees are asking – does this employer deserve me?

Accept the brutal facts, the power is shifting to the employee. It may seem strange to quote Jonas Riddestrale and Kjell Nordsrom in their book Karaoke Capitalism, given that the book was published nearly two decades ago, but their words are now frighteningly accurate:

“The talent market does not operate like markets for raw material. Competent individuals are unique and different. Economists would even describe the talent market as imperfect.

Power is now in the process of being transferred from the owners of financial capital to those in control of intellectual capital.  In the gold-collar niche of the labour market, firms may end up as price-takers-being forced to accept whatever fees or salaries talented men and women suggest.”

We do not want to be alarmist and jump to the conclusion that work, as we know it, has fundamentally changed. It has not, but the Great Resignation does represent a seismic shift that must be recognised by HR practitioners and most importantly, actions must be taken to alleviate the negative effect it will have on your company and on your ability to attract and retain the required top talent, to execute the company’s strategy.

Numerous surveys have definitively proved that staff turnover during the Great Resignation has been lower in companies with a strong Employee Value Proposition (“EVP”). So, the question must be, how does HR improve the EVP?

The fundamental problem in the current economic environment is the precarious financial position of many employers, where they do not have the financial resources to “throw money at the problem”. They simply cannot increase salaries and/or introduce expensive additional benefits.

The objective of this article is to suggest some actions which HR can take to improve the EVP and stop employees from resigning or looking for another job – at no cost. The suggested actions have been carefully selected from an in-depth analysis of various surveys where employees have stated why they are looking for another job or alternatively, and more importantly, why they are not looking for another job. We have purposefully limited the proactive actions to only the most important three from our list of fourteen; the focus is required on those that will yield quick, tangible, and meaningful results for most employees.


The trend over the last few years has been to increase communication with employees via intranets, bots, AI, and other electronic means. While this delivery mechanism is cost-efficient, recent data indicates that it diminishes the EVP. ADP’s research discovered that the more interactions an employee had with HR, the more they felt that HR was enhancing the EVP. The research found that if an employee had 7 or more interactions with HR, they were 7.4 times more likely to feel that HR was a valued promoter; and concomitantly enhancing the EVP.

Now is the time for HR to increase personal interaction with employees. Be seen and heard in person. Further, CHRO’s need to become visible. Rather than simply spewing out emails and staff announcements, manage by wandering around and/or interacting with employees on Zoom. For example, rather than distributing the Back to Work policy by email, hold a Zoom call for all employees where they can interact with you on a personal level; and see you albeit on a video call, if remote working is still being done. Where most employees are in the office, communicate the new policy by a Town Hall.



Employees are less likely to leave or even search for another job, if they know they are valued, feel a sense that they “belong” to the company, and know that HR is encouraging them to improve themselves, their performance, and growth within the company.

The best methodology to achieve this is to conduct regular, effective, and cogent career pathing sessions with employees. For the sake of clarity, career pathing is simply the process where HR and the manager consult with an employee to set out and define their potential trajectory through the company. It would incorporate defining the goal and identifying the skills, experience, and learning the employee must gain to reach the goal. In many companies the career pathing conversation is done by the manager- we are encouraging HR to take the lead and evangelise the process, to ensure this is done comprehensively and within the next few months.

An additional consideration that is aligned with career pathing, is performance reviews. Employees want to know how they are doing, and this “want” is corroborated by a plethora of surveys.

However, at most companies, performance reviews occur annually and are aligned to the salary increase cycle. If this is the case, we strongly recommend changing the frequency. Continuous performance discussions are optimum; consider introducing monthly, or at the very least, quarterly performance reviews. Further, managers conducting these reviews should concentrate on tangible and clear actions that the employee needs to take in order to improve performance. Once again, we are encouraging HR to take a lead and evangelise the process, to ensure this is done comprehensively and within the next few months.

Career pathing and monthly performance reviews are a lethal cocktail that will reduce talented employees scouring the job market.



Remote working has furnished almost all employees with the opportunity to work from home. Initially, a work-life balance was thought to be the advantage of remote working, but many employees have since discovered that they are probably working longer hours. However, what this has demonstrated, is that remote working facilitates flexibility. A mother can now go to a child’s piano recital and a father can pop into a weekday cricket match; although it would mean that those hours must be caught up in the evening.

Almost all employers are grappling with the “back to the office” question and while the current consensus seems to be the introduction of a hybrid solution, this may not suit all employees. Some may want to work from the office full time, others may want to work 100% remotely – a dictatorial approach by the employer will lead to an exodus of top talent.

Many managers want employees back in the office to continue their “command and control” management style. The job of HR is to establish how greater flexibility can be incorporated into the workplace, without compromising the effective operational requirements of the company.



The above three actions are certainly not rocket science. But what is required to mitigate the effects of the Great Resignation, is immediate action. HR is not an administrative function. It is a strategic role and is undoubtedly the driver, custodian, and promoter of EVP. Conversely, inaction by HR could result in it being a destroyer of EVP and thus exacerbating the impact of the Great Resignation on your company.

We have often said that the role of HR has expanded exponentially in recent years – HR practitioners are now required to be a strategy swami, a finance guru, an operations rock star, a behavioural psychologist Jedi, and an incentive ninja.

The Great Resignation has now added a new role – EVP evangelist.


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