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What 'The Great Resignation' could mean for Australian businesses

What 'The Great Resignation' could mean for Australian businesses

​Australia has fallen behind much of the rest of the world when it comes to moving past lockdowns and starting our “COVID normal” life. While it’s been frustrating for many, it’s also provided us with a unique opportunity: To learn from those countries who have emerged before us and prepare accordingly.

A phrase you might have seen circulating around recently is “The Great Resignation”. If you’re not familiar, it refers to the prediction that a huge portion of the global workforce will leave their jobs in the next 6-12 months. It could mean a new set of challenges for employers - or even entire industries - if these predictions turn out to be true.

The prospect of so many people willingly leaving their job might be hard to believe right now for those of us in Australia. After all, many of us are still in the phase of desperately wanting to get back to work - not leave it. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be paying attention to all this noise - or failing to prepare for a big change to the way we work.

Is a great resignation actually going to happen?

If we look at what the stats are saying then, yes it looks that way. It is already a very real situation in the USA, with many expecting it to soon make its way across the rest of the world and here to Australia.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that during the second quarter through to June, a total of 11.5 million workers quit their jobs. On top of that, 50% of employee’s nationwide are considering a change, and about a quarter of them will do so within 6 months.*

And it’s not just the US. According to recent research by Microsoft, more than 40% of the global workforce are considering leaving their employers this year.**

Remember, the USA is a few months ahead of Australia in their COVID recovery, after widely reopening in early-mid 2021. So, if what’s happening there is anything to go by, 2022 could be the year of resignation for Aussies.

“Good enough” is no longer a reason for employees to stay

The pandemic has impacted every part of our lives. And as we come out the other side, many people are reconsidering some major factors - where they live, how they spend their time, and indeed, their jobs and careers.

There are a number of different reasons that are influencing people’s decisions to move away from their existing roles, companies and even industries:

•Vaccine mandates in certain industries and companies

•Burn out (especially in hard-hit industries like healthcare)

•A desire to retain flexible working

•More security now the economy is rebounding

•People furloughed maybe want more security. Those who worked hard through it are fatigued and want a break.

Many are simply revaluating what’s important for them and realising their current job isn’t their highest priority. The way we think about work - that it must be done and in a certain way - has changed a lot.

9-5, five days a week, in a suit in an office isn’t the norm anymore. And some people don’t want it to be ever again.

How it can really impact your business

Even if a fraction of the number expected to resign follow through with it, businesses are going to be hit hard. Those who have been shuttered during the pandemic will be facing shortages of staff as they try to get back to normal. Those who have become comfortable with high retention will be caught off guard as mass resignations come their way.

Many will find that they no longer have total control over deciding what they will or won’t offer staff. Employees are moving into the driving seat, ready to demand the kind of work experiences that they want.

The real problems will come if employee demands move faster than businesses are able to adapt. This could leave businesses in vulnerable positions as they scramble to manage staff shortages, and result in:

•Significant strain on remaining staff

•Impact on service and delivery

•Inability to meet growth targets

•Decrease in employer reputation or competitiveness

Right now, there’s no way to know if this will be the reality for few or many. But a little preparation never hurt anyone. As we come out of this once-in-a-lifetime situation and try to get back to normal, the possibility of more big changes should be in the back of business leaders minds.

The great resignation shouldn’t be seen as something scary. Simply, as yet another COVID-related change we may need to adapt to. The more you can prepare now, the better off you’ll be - even if you manage to avoid mass resignations. After all, work has changed for all of us.

In our next blog, we will discuss how businesses can best prepare themselves for both resignations and the inevitable change in the way we perform and think about work.



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