The Great Resignation: Why Employee Experience Matters

Millions of employees have already left their jobs in an unprecedented event that is widely referred to as the “Great Resignation” as they re-evaluate their work.

There are many theories as to why this has happened. While some cite the COVID-19 pandemic and mass home-based working that has forced many to realize the benefits of not being tied to the office, others point the finger at widespread job dissatisfaction among the workforce and a desire of many to move into roles where they are truly valued.

Whatever the cause or label, there’s no denying that we are indeed seeing an unusually high number of people resigning and switching roles.

With more than half of Americans saying that they anticipate looking for new jobs in the next 12 months, organizations should be concerned and ask themselves: What exactly is the cause of this, and what can we do to safeguard our people and dissuade them from leaving?


‘Great Resignation’ Statistics

Before we go any further, let’s look at the numbers; they paint an interesting picture.

Recent research by Visier, a workforce analytics company, looked at a huge 9 million employee records from more than 9,000 companies in a bid to shine a light on resignation activity.

Its key findings were:

  • The highest rate of resignation is in the 30-35 age group.
  • Resignations in tech and healthcare are trending upwards at an unusual rate.
  • They are also trending up amongst mid-tier professionals (i.e., mid-level managers).
  • Resignations among females spiked in 2020.
  • As for managers, their resignation rate was up 11.8% in December 2020 compared to previous years.


Safeguarding Against the Great Resignation

While we can’t tell you exactly* why people are leaving their jobs nor tell you what to do prevent resignations from happening within your own organization, we can give you some inspiration for how you could consider safeguarding against it.

*There are many factors likely to be at play: new work policies and cultures, a desire to continue working from home, changing employee perspectives, and a surge in job vacancies are all likely contributors.


Identify Potential Leavers

All organizations should run employee surveys as a matter of course. The trouble is, far too many don’t bother. And therein lays the problem; employee surveys can uncover valuable data that tells you what your employees want, what they’re satisfied and dissatisfied with, what could be done to improve their experience, and more.

From your survey’s results, try to identify patterns. Warning signs might be low results in areas like experience, satisfaction, engagement, and happiness. These could point to a workforce that’s demotivated, not particularly loyal to you, and may resign and look for a better opportunity as a result.


Meet Changing Employee Needs as They Develop

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed all our lives, especially regarding how we work. It should come as no surprise that many employees want to continue working from home, at least on a flexible or hybrid basis. According to Medallia’s ‘Return to Work Report, 49% of employees would seriously reconsider their position if their employer refused to be flexible regarding how, where, and when they are allowed to work.  

Investing in and prioritizing employee experience and wellbeing has never been more important as it has now. As COVID-19 continues to play an unwelcome part of our daily lives, organizations must tune in to what their employees want and need — and respond appropriately.


Recognize and Reward Your Employees

Employees don’t work solely for a paycheck; recognition and rewards play an important role in the working world. According to a survey by Vantage Circle, 59% of respondents said that employee recognition improves retention, yet only 25% of respondents said that they actually receive it.

These two statistics alone give us enough information to say for sure that employee recognition matters. Organizations should therefore be asking themselves if they are doing enough to recognize and reward their people, and if so, is this recognition meaningful, delivered in a timely manner, and reflect the value of recipients?  


Prioritize Employee Experience

‘Employee experience’ is derived from the same school of thought that brought us ‘user’ and ‘customer’ experience; it’s used as a means of building and boosting organizational culture and, ultimately, its bottom line. Employee experience plays a huge role in shaping employee engagement, it has a big impact on employee wellbeing, and can be the difference between employees staying or going.

There are many good reasons organizations should focus on improving and prioritizing employee experience, not least because today’s generation of talented and mobile workers are increasingly less conforming with the rules of previous generations when it comes to where and how they work (see also: working hours, dress code, working unpaid overtime…)

As the ‘Great Resignation’ has shown us, employees that are not having a positive experience will walk out of the door.


Understand the Unique Needs of Different Teams

You can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to employee experience because it’s something that can vary based on individuals and teams. Workers in customer-facing roles will have a different experience to those who work in head office or product development, for example. Then there are more nuanced influences such as gender, age, race, and more.

To ensure that everyone is being listened to when it comes to their experiences, organizations should:

  • Define employee personas, groups, and demographics.
  • Segment employees in the same way as it segments customers.
  • Understand the influence that different personas have on experience.
  • Look to address the root causes of consistent experience problems.


Take Home Point: Employee Experience is Crucial

For organizational leaders that are navigating the currently uncertain post-COVID world of work, it’s important to begin to understand and take steps to improve employee experience.

Improvements don’t need to be made overnight; organizations can start with small changes that focus on a single aspect of employee experience, such as hiring and onboarding or recognition and rewards.

Over time, organizations can use what they have learned and the data they have gathered to implement further improvements and safeguard the organization against avoidable resignations.