Should employers embrace the ‘Great Resignation’?

Millions of people quit their jobs in the continued fallout from COVID-19. Some are naming it the ‘Great Resignation’. But who is safe? And should we embrace it? Stacey Epstein explores.

A shift in the workforce is well and truly on its way, and the pandemic has caused employees to rethink their careers and question the role of work in their life. With recent studies finding more than 40 percent of the global workforce will consider leaving their employer this year, how should businesses respond?

Optimise for happiness

Freshworks is my ninth stint at a Silicon Valley technology company and although our focus on employees is paramount and we’re doing everything we can to inspire and retain our talent, we still experience attrition. I strongly believe talent is the most important ingredient to a successful company, and although turnover is not a new concept, this phenomenon of extreme resignation and turnover across industries requires a vastly different approach.

Girish Mathrubootham’s CEO of Freshworks mantra is that we should “optimise for happiness” rather than efficiency, productivity, or hours clocked. In a study conducted by the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, researchers found that happy employees are 13 per cent more productive — assuming you’ve hired the right talent, employees will thrive when happy in their roles.

How to keep your marketing team

Losing people from a marketing team can be stressful. Finding a team that fits and creatively understands one another can be rare. Myself and others in my position are working to keep our teams together through the flurry of resignations. 

Zoom meeting after zoom meeting can be a drag. What most marketers really love is the creative process. Try to get everyone involved in brainstorms and “no slides allowed” meetings that are creative discussions about what’s possible. Remote work presented marketers with the opportunity to do things in a new way. Virtual meetings and collaboration tools allow everyone to be involved in the creative process even when across the globe. 

Right now there is a lot of uncertainty in the market. Moving to a new job might provide a needed change, but it doesn’t make anything more certain. In fact, the unknown of a new company makes for even more uncertainty. By including everyone in a long term strategy, helping even the most junior members see the big picture is critical to retention. They can feel more secure about where the company is headed, and be ready to withstand the twists and turns.

Embracing the ‘Great Resignation’

What if instead of fighting the ‘Great Resignation’, we embraced it? Across the globe, we have experienced endless months of lockdowns, virtual meetings, and homeschooling. Many of today’s job seekers are not unhappy or disgruntled with their current employers, they are burnt out and craving change. People are increasingly stepping back, reflecting on what really matters, and needing new inspiration. 

Welcoming the ‘Great Resignation’ means truly listening to our employees who are ready for change, tired, checked out, or burnt out, and helping them find new inspiration. What if instead of throwing titles and money at demotivated resigning employees, or giving the cold-shoulder treatment when notice is handed in, we:

  • Helped them find new inspiration in a different role within the company
  • Celebrated their contribution to the company and cheered them on in their new role
  • Celebrated the chance to promote someone from within and optimise the happiness of our broader workforce

Empathetic leadership

By listening with empathy and prioritising employee happiness, a mutually beneficial solution is more likely to be reached. Instead of asking “how can we make you stay?”, I encourage you to ask “what are you looking to do next?” — perhaps a new role in a different part of the company will reinvigorate them and spread fresh knowledge across teams — a win-win!

If the employee is simply ready to go, I implore you to embrace the opportunity the ‘Great Resignation’ presents by taking advantage of widespread industry turnover and adding fresh, new talent to your team. New hires have the ability to breathe fresh ideas and inspiration across the organisation in impactful ways and may even help to retain talent.

Win-Win

Instead of fighting the ‘Great Resignation’ by focusing solely on how to retain employees who are ready to go, we have a golden opportunity to lead with empathy and celebrate new chapters. We can and should continue retention practices, but people will still leave. Perhaps we shouldn’t fight the ‘Great Resignation’ so hard, but embrace it and explore the new ways our people, business, and the broader world might instead prosper.

How do you employ the best team?

When all is said and done, you might have to be recruiting in the new year. So, what are the candidates expecting? Experience matters, but team fit has always been my primary focus. Remote hiring has become acceptable, so that may not ever change! But it is much harder to interview today without meeting candidates face to face. Over Zoom, you can only learn so much about a person. Assessing culture and team fit is challenging during a video call. That’s why backdoor references are incredibly important. With LinkedIn, there’s no excuse not to do it.

Stacey Epstein is the CMO at Freshworks.