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Feb 22, 2022

Thriving during The Great Resignation


Teaser: The Great Resignation is a worrying trend for big business, but it can also be a Great Re-evaluation and opportunity if understood and approached correctly.

What is the Great Resignation?

In November 2021 over 4.5 million people resigned from their jobs in the United States alone. This was an all-time high, and an astounding statistic that makes up part of a trend that has been called The Great Resignation or The Great Attrition, and which has seen some 19 million US workers quit since April 2021. No matter what you call it, it is a movement that needs to be addressed by businesses.


The Great Resignation has shown no signs of slowing down, and the trend has spread to other global markets. It is interrupting business and making us re-evaluate what we know, how we relate with employees, and what we need to do to attract and retain top talent.


Why is it happening?

This is a constantly evolving situation, but what we have learned so far is that people are leaving and taking up jobs for different reasons than in the past.


There are countless theories about why people are resigning in such numbers, but many agree that the Great Resignation is directly related to the stress of the Covid pandemic. People have suffered such trauma that they are re-evaluating the stresses of work and their personal relationships with work.


As people have done this, they have realised that some of the work stresses they were forced to endure in the past – long commutes, long days at a desk in an office, a lack of flexibility, even where they had to live to do their jobs – are actually negotiable.


Then there are other, less obvious reasons. For some it’s as simple as not wanting to give up the freedom of remote work. Others, forced to sit at home for months, suddenly had time to think and realised that they didn’t like their jobs, or that they didn’t need to be stuck in one fixed geographic location. Many people relocated to be closer to family. Simply put, people crave careers where they feel heard, and their needs are taken into consideration.


Impact on the UAE and the region

Many of our clients have asked us if, or how, the Great Resignation affects the UAE and the Middle East? The Middle East does not operate in a vacuum – if employees are not happy here, they too will vote with their feet. Organisations everywhere need to be asking themselves: What does better look like and how can we create an environment where we will attract top talent that wants to stay and contribute?


Another question that needs to be asked is: Do employees need to be physically resident in the Middle East to work in the Middle East? With location-agnostic positions becoming more acceptable in diverse industries, this creates a huge opportunity to attract talent who may not want to relocate internationally, but who would still love to work for a dynamic company in the region.


The Great Resignation provides an opportunity for a Great Re-valuation.


How do we attract and retain top talent?

great resignation


The new normal, with more possibilities for asynchronous work, should enable a win-win situation for workers and organisations alike. According to Dr. Welpe from the World Economic Forum, one of the most important points is establishing a culture of individualised working conditions. Organisations need to know the approximate areas, abilities, behaviours, and rules where they cannot, and will not, compromise (e.g., high self-responsibility and conscientiousness, or an aptitude for self-development). On the other hand, organisations need to flexible when it comes to working times, working places, and workplace setups.
At Engage Me, we recommend that our clients consider the following key points when developing their talent attraction and retention strategies.


1.) Be flexible. We’ve covered this point above but it’s worth restating. Every employee is different, which is why blanket policies don’t make everyone happy. By focusing on your core expectations and required behaviours, but allowing flexible working conditions, you can create a win-win situation.


2.) Address wellbeing. We’ve discussed how personal wellbeing is a major factor in the Great Resignation, so it goes without saying that employees need to feel that their wellbeing is being taken care of. This includes their physical and mental health as well as financial wellbeing, but mental health is probably the largest priority at this moment. From wellbeing programmes to company-wide rest days, it is important to send a people-first message to current and prospective employees.


3.) Focus on the employee experience. In an era of workplace upheaval, organisations that create tailored, authentic experiences strengthen organisation-wide performance. This requires a fundamental shift in thinking – one that puts employees first, delivering tailored interventions focused on critical moments that matter.


4.) Build skills. Investing in employee development helps to build capabilities that drive financial returns, but it also shows employees that their advancement matters, and that they are essential to the organisation’s future. By focusing on reskilling and upskilling, organisations can make the most of the talent they already have.


5.) Reimagine the talent pool. Unless you are running an organisation that requires face-to-face customer interaction, you can access a global workforce of top talent remotely, often with considerable cost savings. Even organisations with on-site people requirements can rethink their talent pools, hiring for skills and thinking beyond traditional profiles that may simply be older, younger, or less formally educated.


Making the most of the Great Resignation

Never has there been a greater opportunity to attract top talent to your organisation. Of the millions of people who are resigning, only a small percentage are either stopping work altogether or starting their own businesses – the majority are swapping jobs and you want to be the organisation that they’re swapping for. This can be achieved by creating a flexible work environment where employees feel valued and heard.

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