One of my favorite lines is, “The plural of anecdote is not evidence.” It means that the story you might hear from your friend or the person-on-the-street interview might not be a good representation of what is actually happening. 

However, those data points are great for confirming things you might already believe…

What is the Great Resignation?

“The Great Resignation” is the Rorschach Test for people to project their existing beliefs onto the explanation for why workers are leaving their organizations at all-time record rates. The anecdotes are flying (and winning the narrative), while the data clearly explains why it’s happening—and it might not be what you think.

The reality is—driving the Great Resignation are Next Leaders, largely Gen Y-aged workers, and they are leaving in droves at resignation rates never seen before. According to the Harvard Business Review, workers between 30 and 45 are resigning at a 20%+ higher rate than last year, the most significant jump of any age group. Our research shows a clear dividing line between companies knee-deep into “turnover triage” and those in a position to attract the most in-demand talent on the street.

Who is the Great Resignation impacting?

The impact of the Great Resignation can be felt across almost every single industry and career level. It is interesting to note, however, according to the Harvard Business Review, mid-career employees and those who are between the ages of 30 and 45 years old are quitting their jobs at a drastically higher rate than ever before. These mid-career employees are Millennials who in most organizations are now moving up into leadership positions as older generations are nearing retirement. 

So why is the Great Resignation happening now?

These workers are leaving their organizations at high rates not because of unemployment benefits, demanding remote work, or sheer laziness. The pandemic has caused a seismic shift in how most people view work. After nearly two years of working remotely, people are reevaluating their careers and lifestyles. Workers are looking for flexibility and a better work-life balance. They want to work for an organization whose values not only align with theirs but also an organization that values them as an employee. They are looking for meaningful work and to exist in a culture that supports their growth and invests in their future.  

How long will the Great Resignation last?

According to the data coming from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Great Resignation is not slowing down any time soon. While the trend appears to have peaked in late 2021—the number of people voluntarily leaving their jobs has remained steady since late 2020. So, it’s safe to say that this will continue to be a concern for organizations this year… and beyond. 

Great resignation stat that workers between 30-45 are resigning at a 20% higher rate

Now for an analogy

Imagine two medical patients: one who invested in their health by eating right, exercising, and following recommendations to avoid heart disease; and the other, who never exercised, ate a diet that was likely to be bad for the heart and ignored advice from doctors to make improvements. Then, let’s say both individuals experience a heart attack.

The “healthy” patient is given a roadmap for recovery. After the brief setback, that patient makes small changes, settling into a previous routine that helps them recover healthfully. The other patient requires a series of significant (and expensive!) interventions and uncomfortable and drastic lifestyle changes. These new habits are tough to form and, unfortunately, will only slow down the progression of their declining health.

That’s the tale of two types of companies.

Organizations that prioritized having a deep leadership bench and long-term planning certainly were impacted by the pandemic but could weather the storm. These organizations valued their employees and invested in their growth within the organization as leaders. The team remains committed, they retain employees, and their next leaders stay with the organization out of loyalty and opportunity. Simply put, the organizations that invested in their leaders are not struggling with employee retention. 

Companies that didn’t are scrambling. In the middle of navigating a talent exodus, their leaders are implementing too-little-too-late solutions that are incredibly costly without the organizational habits to ensure their effectiveness. These companies have the highest turnover risk. 

How can organizations prevent a mass exodus of employees?

A graphic with bulleted reasons as to why workers are leaving at higher rates

It may seem that this mass exodus of employees is inevitable for your organization, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Your organization can take steps now to support employee retention and growth. 

  • Listen to your team

First things first, did you ask your employees how happy they are in the organization? Simply listening to your employees does wonders for their loyalty. If an employee feels heard and seen, they are less likely to leave for another opportunity. 

Develop an ongoing plan to receive direct feedback from your team on what your leadership can do to better support them. What type of flexibility do they want? How do they prefer to be recognized for their hard work? What professional development opportunities do they value?

  • Invest in career growth and leadership development

Employees are no longer just looking at their employer for a paycheck, they want opportunities to grow and expand on their skill set, whether they are moving into a leadership role or not. By investing in your team’s development, you signal to your employees that you are invested in them and want them to grow with the organization. And better yet, the ROI in employee development means a more skilled team within your organization.

  • Reward productivity

Leadership can no longer only look to how many hours an employee has worked as a measure of their performance. Your organization should value and reward an employee’s productivity instead. Increased flexibility allows your employees to achieve a better work-life balance while still maintaining their productivity, without constant oversight.

  • Reward loyalty

And finally, it is time to look around and see the value of those team members who see the value in your organization. For your veterans, continue to provide them respect by putting thought and attention into retaining them. Those who feel like they’re being taken advantage of likely will not stay. Communicate with them regularly. Ask for their insight and input on organization-wide policies. And moreover, trust that they know how to do their jobs.

Partnering with Solutions 21: an investment in the future of your business

The good news is that, unlike the health example above, there’s more than one life to live for organizational effectiveness. Businesses have many resources at their fingertips to retain talent and secure their legacy in a rapidly changing world.

Solutions 21 is a team of professional problem solvers—your partner in solving the issues you face today by building comprehensive solutions to invest back into your business. We have decades of experience, research, and data to back up our methods. We’ve led teams, started and grown companies, suffered entrepreneurial failures, and built the credibility and experience to make your organization more successful in tangible ways.

Interested in an organizational health check? Reach out to one of our strategic consultants today.