Addressing the Great Resignation phenomenon: the HR perspective

  • 03/03/2022  |
Addressing the Great Resignation phenomenon: the HR perspective

More than 19 million US workers have quit their jobs since April 2021 – this is a fact. Even if we look outside the US, it is easy to see that job resignation is a trend disrupting business everywhere across the world.

According to an article by McKinsey, titled Great Attrition or Great Attraction and based on a survey involving nearly five thousand people in five countries (Australia, Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States), this trend shows no sign of slowing down in the near future:
• 40% of employees will leave their current job in the next 3-6 months, with businesses and hospitality industries risking the most in terms of losing employees
• 53% of employers are experiencing greater voluntary turnover than they had in previous years
• 64% of employers expect the problem to continue – or worsen – over the next six months

The trend is called “Great Resignation” or “Great Attrition”, or even the “Big Quit” – all terms that refer to the record numbers of people who have decided to quit their jobs, following the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a true crisis of the concept of work as we know it and that seems very likely to persist.

From a Human Resource standpoint, however, this phenomenon could also be seen as a challenge giving us the opportunity to work on a positive change and ultimately re-shape the traditional idea of corporate work. At the same time, we should not be afraid of asking the bigger question posed by the recent literature on the topic: what is the purpose of work?

To address this issue properly, it is important to understand the employees’ needs and create an empathetic relationship together, so that we can really take the right actions and improve retention.

More generally, it is essential to have a human approach and assess some key areas and topics to find growth opportunities. Starting from the McKinsey report, I wish to highlight some of the key points that may be worth considering in order to improve employee retention:
Leadership: Executives must be able to motivate, inspire and understand their teams. To do so, the key drivers are empathy and compassion for what employees are going through – to avoid ineffective moves based on imprecise assumptions. Also, having trained and capable leaders is crucial, especially in hybrid working environments, where new skills are required.
Avoid the transactional approach: raising compensation cannot be the only measure to solve the problem. This measure would indeed only imply that the relationship between employers and employees is merely transactional, and that their only reason to stay with you is the paycheck. Moreover, as McKinsey points out, “the very best people will always have a better cash offer somewhere else”.
Company culture: from small startups to big corporations, the sense of community is the most important asset when it comes to employee retention. In the current situation, creating a sense of belonging is particularly challenging, as we need to find a balance between the needs of in-person connectivity, which will still happen on site, and flexibility, which is directly linked to remote working.
Meet employees’ priorities: Human Resources representatives have now the task and responsibility to design jobs that meet priorities that were out of the picture, or blurred at best, before the pandemic. Especially when it comes to parents, flexibility, family care, home and family-focused benefits can make a difference in keeping employees from leaving. As for the younger generation, it is important to offer career paths rather than just jobs, recognising good work and offering new chances of upskilling and career development.

Looking further into what company culture means, it is important to highlight the CEOs and executives’ role in building a shared sense of belonging to the company, as well as in conveying a clear idea of the company values and its positions when it comes to the main social and political stances. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2022, 60% of employees in 25 countries expect their CEO to speak publicly about social and political issues that are important for them – with a +5% increase from 2019.

At RGI, there are several actions that we decided to implement at Group level during the last two years. Human Resources is one of our six strategic projects for the growth of our Group, and we have a strong focus on reaching our goals in terms of employee retention.

We started from major investment in training and skills development, offering better employability to our people through certifications and paid trainings. We also focused on creating a sense of community, thanks to activities such as social media challenges, special gift packages, and virtual staff meetings – actions that really helped people connect when distant and that concurred in strengthening the foundations of a recognisable RGI work environment that is not confined withing the space of our offices.

With regards to its fundamental values, RGI Group has identified four standards of conduct that inspire governance and apply globally to all business interactions with all stakeholders:
Passion: Encouraging employees to be responsible and passionate in their work without ever “settling for” or “making the best of” a situation, completing all activities and debating their ideas as far as possible, so as to satisfy at best the needs of our customers, in compliance with the highest group integrity standards
Innovation: Having an innovative mentality is right at the heart of the business. We appreciate original thinking, a passion for difficult challenges, supported by continuous research and training, constructive feedback, both when given and received. We believe in change and being the spokesperson of that change.
Teamwork: Working together, beyond geographic boundaries, to satisfy the needs of customers and help our Group win. We do a demanding job and achieve excellent results
Sustainability: Generating value to support our Group and the context in which it works. Our growth is based on reciprocal success: when our customers and our employees grow, we grow with them.

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