Predictions of a resignation surge began when the US Department of Labor reported that more than four million people quit their jobs in April 2021 alone. Microsoft are also an integral part of the conversation, with global survey results showing that 41% of workers are likely to consider leaving their job within the next year.

In a global marketplace where the competition for talent is fierce, businesses are having to work harder than ever to hold on to their employees. This makes the prospect of the ‘Great Resignation’ even more daunting, and raises the question of what is driving people to leave their jobs in droves and how employers can tackle it.

The case for a hybrid remote working strategy

With the pandemic came the unavoidable rise of working from home, and we experienced this collectively on a vast, global scale. Suddenly, people across the world began to gain back time, money and autonomy, which allowed them to thrive in both their personal and professional lives.

While not everyone has enjoyed working from home, it has become a silver lining around an otherwise bleak situation for others. As a result, how businesses manage working from home after the pandemic is a significant part of the Great Resignation discussion.

The Covid crisis has made us reevaluate what we want from life. On a personal level, government-imposed lockdowns and self-quarantine led to long periods where some of us couldn’t see our family and friends. This has led to increased importance being placed on nurturing our relationships—our existence—outside of the office. For many, this has also meant a significant rethink of what it means to have a good work-life balance.

Flexible work as the new normal

In 2020, Netigate conducted a study into working from home during the covid crisis. We found that 67% of people enjoyed working from home, and 81% stated that they still reached their business goals while doing so.

“Many have enjoyed working from home, and a large proportion have reached their business goals. Companies do not have to worry about letting their staff work from home.”

Professor Stefan Tengblad, University of Gothenburg in Working from home: Flexible work is the new normal

Following up on the study in 2021, it was clear that attitudes towards remote work were still positive, with 70% of respondents saying that they were enjoying working remotely. When asked about the ideal balance between office-based and remote work, 73% voted for a combination of both. And it seems that this call for a hybrid workplace has been heard by companies, with McKinsey reporting that 90% of large businesses are indeed embracing a hybrid model when it comes to managing the return to the office.

Now that vaccinations are being rolled out and people are venturing back into the physical workplace, employees wait with bated breath to see how remote work will be managed by their companies. For those people who have thrived while working from home, having an employer who accommodates working remotely is likely to be a major deciding factor when choosing a place to work.

Read: How do Swedish employees want working from home to be handled after the pandemic?

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What’s loyalty got to do with it?

For many people, the way they have been treated by their employer during the pandemic has played a pivotal role in how loyal they have remained to their company. But what has employee loyalty got to do with staff turnover, and what happens in the businesses where it’s lacking?

Earlier this year, Netigate conducted a large-scale study into employee loyalty. We were particularly interested in what drives loyalty and how levels have changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. After investigating over 200,000 employee Net Promoter Score responses from 274 companies, we found that the average score has remained stable despite the pandemic. These findings were interesting, particularly when considered in the context of the widely-anticipated Great Resignation.

Download: How has employee loyalty developed from 2019-2021?

Commenting on the findings from the study, Professor Graeme Martin from the University of Dundee notes that the stable eNPS scores may be “explained by how some firms continued to show loyalty to their employees during the first stages of the pandemic”. This would suggest a mutually dependent relationship between employer and employee. If businesses are able to demonstrate that they value their employees, they’re more likely to reap the numerous benefits of retaining their top talent.

Digging deeper into the data, we found that employees who didn’t participate in any type of employee survey between 2019 and 2020 have lower eNPS scores than those who did. This reinforces the importance of tuning into the voice of your employees and actively working with their feedback. Taking concrete steps to improve the employee experience at your company is one of the best ways to decrease voluntary turnover and attract the best talent in the market.

Shielding your business from the surge

The relationship between employer and employee is changing and becoming more symbiotic. In order to remain on the right side of the future of work, you need to be prepared to adapt to the needs of your people. Where employers once held much of the power, we are now seeing employees taking more control over what their working lives look like. They are seeking out companies, careers, and industries where their evolving needs can be met. As Professor Graeme Martin explains: “If people value something and come to expect it, then not living up to these valued expectations becomes a problem.”

“If people value something and come to expect it, then not living up to these valued expectations becomes a problem.”

As a result, flexibility is going to be key when it comes to boosting employee loyalty and retaining your talent. Now is the time to embrace a workplace culture that truly has the needs of the employee at its core. A good starting point is to listen and find out exactly what they need. What has worked well for them during the pandemic? Which elements of their work would they like to see change? What are the key drivers of engagement and loyalty among your employees? The answers to these questions will form a basis in preparing your next steps. 

It’s also going to be important to listen to any employees that you might lose during the Great Resignation Surge or beyond. Understanding the reasons behind their departure is going to be essential for understanding how to make others stay.

The talent marketplace was already widening as a result of technology but is now becoming even broader thanks to the rise of remote work. Ultimately, how your business fares will have everything to do with how well you can adapt.

Infographic: The Great Resignation in context

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