The ‘Great Resignation’ – why it may not be so great

Jo Turley, ARK’s Performance Coach and Trainer, talks about the changes in people’s attitudes to the world of work since the pandemic and wonders whether the housing sector is seeing the effects of the ‘Great Resignation’.

The ‘Great Resignation’, a term coined by Anthony Klotz, a professor of management at Texas A&M University, began to gain traction in May 2021.

The data showed us back in 2020 that resignation rates had fallen to the lowest levels. The fear, uncertainty and severity created by Covid 19, the associated shutdowns and business closures made people stay put.

We all hunkered down to our new ways of remote working: homes turned into offices overnight and computers became our window to the outside world. Once the first lockdown had passed and we found our way around a new normal, colleagues started to reassess their relationship with work.

For some, the thought of returning to the old ways of working – the daily grind of the commute, back and forth on the nearest motorway, late nights back from the office and the increase in travel costs has suddenly cast things in a stark new light. For others, it’s the lack of social and interpersonal connections with their colleagues, feelings of being overwhelmed and burnt out that is the problem. Colleagues crave meaningful, though not necessarily in-person, interactions, not just transactions.

As we move towards a ‘new normal’, we have seen the resignation trend has reversed and there is a sharp upwards spike. However, it’s fair to say the reason is multifaceted: from the lower levels of opportunities in 2020/21, to the impacts of the pandemic that stalled movement, to those that are naturally looking for their next challenge in their career journey.

Most of the data around this comes from the US and while there are reports in the media of the impact in the UK, very few focus on the impact on the public sector, let alone the housing sector. We want to learn more which is why we have pulled together a short survey which we are asking you to participate in and share with us your experiences. The results of the survey will be published so everyone can see the findings.

From our anecdotal experience, there are those that are feeling disillusioned with their employer, and those feelings are different depending on where those colleagues sit within the organisation. Blue-collar workers have shared with us feelings of disrespect and being undervalued. It would appear that this is linked to the continuation of working in customer’s homes during the pandemic in comparison with colleagues who home worked or were furloughed.

Operatives have shared feelings of lack of trust and respect for senior managers. For the many who were remote working but now returning to normal and back on site, the routine checks that are back in place are creating feelings of resentment and frustration. Creating more of a ‘Big Brother’ experience, teams feel that they are being monitored and workloads observed for cost-saving activities rather than as one team, all in it together.

There is a general feeling of a lack of reward and recognition for the work they did and continue to do.

Research tells us that low-wage workers are particularly motivated to change jobs with even marginally better offers. Many will in fact leave for lower pay but more benefits, opportunities, and compassion from their managers.

From our close working with programmes like Black Country Talent Match, we have observed challenges of sustainable employment for Gen Z (those generally born after 1995 and who make up a significant part of today’s workforce).

Young people are telling us they are, of course, looking for jobs which offer good benefits packages, but just as important to them is a company that shows empathy, compassion, good management, support, where they have meaningful interactions, with the opportunity to develop and progress.

Burnout, being overwhelmed, feeling stressed, pressure and disconnection is just some of the feedback from many team talks and coaching conversations, across layers of organisations and from colleagues at all levels. They talk of too many virtual calls, late night working, no time for creativity and headspace, lack of social and interpersonal connections with their colleagues and, for many, the feeling that they are on their ‘own’. Colleagues want permission to pause, to have opportunities for the ‘water cooler’ conversation not just agenda after agenda. They want development and learning to help them navigate the new world of work, but most importantly they want meaningful interaction.

So, while we are yet to see the facts and figures that support the great resignation in our sector, and our colleagues aren’t yet leaving in their droves, we are far from out of the woods. Please take five minutes to complete our survey around this issue. We will publish the results at a later date and share them with you.


Additional resources – Useful links and articles

https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/deloitte-women-at-work-2022-a-global-outlook.pdf

https://zety.com/blog/the-great-resignation

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/great-attrition-or-great-attraction-the-choice-is-yours

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jul/03/us-jobs-report-june-trend

https://www.hays.co.uk/blog/insights/the-great-resignation-why-are-so-many-thinking-about-quitting

https://www.cipd.co.uk/news-views/cipd-voice/Issue-33/great-resignation-fact-fiction#gref