The pandemic is finally waning but ‘The Great Resignation’ isn’t
Blame it on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanks—or, no thanks —to the global public health crisis that began in 2020, companies around the world have had to struggle with a massive wave of employee resignations as staffers, many of them stuck at home and working remotely, got the chance to reevaluate their work-life balance and, for those who found themselves off-balance, make changes.
For some, the changes were minor, leaving one company for another, or even just changing departments or roles within their current employers. For others, the changes were dramatic, involving changing careers or even moving to new locations.
Some call it “The Big Quit” while others describe it “The Great Reshuffle.” But the most common monicker, the one that has stuck, is “The Great Resignation.”
Simply put, the Great Resignation is an economic trend where employees, in numbers larger than usual, resigned from their places of work since the start of the pandemic. Many of them resigned due to their low wages aggravated by rising inflation. But many others also cited their overall job dissatisfaction, the lack of upward mobility in their jobs, the lack of benefits, as well as policies that required them to physically return to work once the health crisis started to wane.
Demand outpaces supply
This trend was observed in many industries, but companies involved in the services sector like health care, education and hospitality saw the most staff resignations around the world.
“Human capital is one of the most in-demand resources, and demand far outpaces supply,” PageGroup Asia-Pacific managing director Anthony Thompson says in the company’s recent report on the phenomenon.
“Industries like technology, and health care and life sciences continue to see tremendous demand for talent,” he says, describing the need to attract and retain talent as a factor of leadership. “We are witnessing individuals placing increased importance on company culture, a sense of purpose and leadership—ahead of company branding.”
PageGroup is an international recruitment group that is listed on the London Stock Exchange, currently employing over 7,500 staffers, with 149 office locations in 37 countries. It recently put out a study on the Southeast Asian employment scene with a specific focus on the Great Resignation phenomenon.
The wave of resignations that hit the region since the pandemic began reveals an interesting trend: 44 percent of respondents in the PageGroup survey had been employed by their companies for not more than two years. More interestingly, 81 percent of respondents are looking for new career prospects in 2022.
In the Philippines, 44 percent of the surveyed employees had been employed in their current firms for two years or less, matching the regional average.
No relief in sight
Across all markets, industries, levels of seniority and age groups, there is no sign of this trend abating in 2022, the study says, urging employers to prepare for the rate of resignations to intensify.
In the Philippines, 83 percent of surveyed respondents plan to resign in 2022, while 9 percent are unsure and only 8 percent plan to stay in their current firms.
“With the pandemic forcing home life and work-life into the same physical space, people now view their work and lives more holistically,” says PageGroup. “Employees are reevaluating what constitutes quality work, and they want it to be purposeful.”
“According to our findings, a significant 67 percent of respondents are willing to accept a lower salary, or forgo a pay rise or promotion for better work-life balance, overall well-being and happiness,” the firm adds.
At their core, more employees who plan to resign cited their need for change and progress, but not at the expense of personal well-being.
Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed want a change in careers, roles or industries, while 46 percent are also looking for career progression or promotions. A further 23 percent are unhappy with the strategy or direction of their current firms, while 17 percent say they are an ill fit with the culture of their current employers. Finally, 15 percent are unhappy with their work-life balance… or the lack of it.
The PageGroup study points out that, to address their need for greater well-being, mental health and happiness, two-thirds of employees in the region are willing to sacrifice salaries, bonuses or promotions, while only one-third say they wouldn’t.
In this aspect, Filipino employees led their regional peers with 73 percent saying they are willing to forego higher wages, bonuses or promotions to gain better well-being. This is higher than the 69 percent recorded among surveyed Thai employees, 68 percent among Indonesians and Vietnamese, 65 percent of Singaporeans and 64 percent of Malaysians.
So, given this situation, how should employers respond if they want to avoid the worst effects of the Great Resignation?
One quick answer is to try to entice what PageGroup describes as “talent passion”.
“One thing we have noticed is candidates are increasingly less interested in moving within the same industry and more interested in new ideas, and going beyond their current role, department, and industry even,” Page Executive Southeast Asia senior managing director Olly Riches says.
“There’s a hesitancy to change business cards for a 20-percent pay increase,“ he explains. “If they’re going to move, it needs to be highly enticing in order to take that leap. But that puts the onus on their current employer to entice them through passion.”
“Candidates are looking for more interesting opportunities beyond where they’ve been,” Riches says. “This is going to be critical in protecting your best talent, because these are the type of people who bring fresh thinking and transformation that so many employers are looking for. So, I urge clients to think more laterally about how to make better use of their existing talent pools before their employees start to look for that passion to be reignited elsewhere.”
Retaining one’s best talent isn’t easy and there are no hard and fast rules. But PageGroup has some suggestions: Focus on people, and create a culture that makes employee engagement a priority. Prioritize digital transformation as well as well-being (which has become a requirement rather than a “nice-to-have”). Finally, do “workforce planning” as the world reopens.
If an employer is proactively checking up on how its staff are doing and feeling, if it recognizes the importance of flexibility, if it makes at a habit to check for “blind spots” in employee well-being, and if it focuses on retaining the right people… chances are it might just be able to attract more talent rather than lose it.
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