The Great Quit: People are resigning in droves. What can companies do?

A trend is rising, and it concerns the future of work.


If you haven’t heard, since the pandemic started (and especially last year), employees have been voluntarily leaving their jobs en masse, primarily in the US. The tendency is so impressive that Anthony Klotz, a professor of management at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, dubbed it the Great Resignation, or the Big Quit.


But what is really going on?



The US Bureau of Labor Statistics said on January 4 that there were 10.6m job openings at the end of November and 6.9m unemployed people. The number of quits hit a new high of 4.5m in the country. Moreover, a survey by executive search firm Korn Ferry found that 94% of retailers are having trouble filling empty roles.


The exodus rate started in the healthcare and technology industries, but soon mid-career employees in retail, hospitality, food service, and any other low-wage industry where there is intense competition for workers started leaving as well. A new study from Adobe based on a survey of 3,400 enterprise workers in the US, the UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, found that the mass quitting is mainly driven by Generation Z and millennials, who plan to pursue a new job in the next year.


The reasons could be many–burnout, inadequate worker protections, rising costs of living, wage stagnation, and so on. It’s certain, however, that the pandemic precipitated a shift in priorities. For economic, but also psychological reasons, the egregious circumstances of the last two years helped employees rethink their careers, work conditions, and long-term goals. People started seeing beyond money and focused on upward mobility, compassion, schedule flexibility, the freedom to work from home, and an overall better work-life balance. Companies with existing poor company culture saw themselves pushed to a breaking point.


What can businesses do to retain top talent?


Undoubtedly, the above-described outlook is worrisome if you’re a company owner. High employee turnover is unhealthy for any business.


On the surface, it looks like bigger salaries and more care for workers should do it. But it seems that workers are mostly disgruntled with the way companies organize their work and processes, as well as the lack of a digital-first mindset. According to Todd Gerber, vice president of document cloud product marketing at Adobe, enterprise workers spend a third of their workweek on unimportant tasks, and “more than half would prefer to work flexible hours when it’s most convenient to them.”


Adopt a digital-first mindset


It’s still early to guess what a post-pandemic world of work would look like, but we know that the way we organize work is never going back to the way it was before the pandemic. But this new way of organizing work demands new leadership that requires new skills from workers. In a recent interview, Havelock’s CEO and founder, Marin Kojuharov said that self-awareness can be achieved with the right work method and technology.


For example, the last two years have proven that remote work is here to stay and businesses that adopt technology can simplify workflows and enable employees to be productive and collaborative, regardless of when and where they’re working. Technology can improve efficiency tremendously and help eliminate paper-based processes, which eat up endless time.


Capture and transfer know-how


The mass exodus in the US highlighted the importance of businesses being able to quickly respond to market changes. In the current scenario of high employee turnover, it has become of paramount importance for companies to be able to capture their processes systematically and easily transfer knowledge from one employee to another. Our 20-plus-years of experience in the apparel and fashion industry has taught us that companies operating in a dynamic environment can greatly increase their efficiency and sustainability by adopting a methodology-driven software that can help managers capture and automate repetitive processes.


Create a supportive environment with clear priorities


Employees are, well, people and like most people, they want to feel safe, cared for and that their work has meaning and clear goals. Research on the performance of virtual and non-virtual teams shows that they perform better when there’s role clarity, task clarity, and structure. What is more, workplace collaboration tools can help employers curb burnout and reduce the time employees spend on manual, tedious, and administrative tasks.


Technology plays an important role, because it’s a talent attraction and retention tool that enables employees to work from anywhere in the world and do their jobs responsibly, openly, effectively, and without “shift of blame” scenarios.


It’s still uncertain whether the Great Resignation will continue or die off as a fad, but the current circumstances have made two things clear–company culture matters and so does process organization.