Turning The Great Resignation into The Great Retention: HR’s Playbook


“job hopping” has taken on a new meaning. Despite an economic downturn sparked by the pandemic, employers are grappling with severe labor shortages. A Gallup study reveals that a staggering 48% of America’s working population is actively seeking job opportunities. What’s driving this massive “Great Resignation,” and how can HR turn it into “The Great Retention”?

Understanding the Great Resignation:

The roots of this phenomenon run deep, and to decode it, we must examine the underlying causes. An in-depth analysis conducted by Ian Cook, published in Harvard Business Review, delved into the reasons behind this paradigm shift. Among the findings were two significant trends:

Mid-Career Resignations

Employees between 30 and 45 years old reported the highest increase in resignation rates, with over 20% more resignations between 2020 and 2021. This surge is attributed to various factors, including the reluctance of employers to hire inexperienced individuals during the shift to remote work. This situation provided mid-career employees with a stronger position in the job market.

Industry-Specific Resignations:

Certain sectors experienced a more pronounced wave of resignations. The healthcare industry saw a 3.6% increase in resignations, while the tech sector recorded a 4.5% surge. The primary reason was the extraordinary demand generated by the pandemic, leading to increased workloads and burnout.

Causes of the Great Resignation:

Burnout is just the tip of the iceberg. The Great Resignation is driven by a multitude of factors. Employees aren’t just searching for higher pay or remote work options; they’re questioning the very essence of the daily grind. A significant proportion of the workforce is disengaged, and disengagement is costly, sapping productivity and morale. This cycle, however, can be broken, and HR holds the key to transforming the Great Resignation into The Great Retention.

HR Strategies for Great Retention:

Embrace Data-Driven Decisions:

Begin by quantifying the scope of the problem through business metrics like retention rates and their impact on key performance indicators. Conduct an in-depth data analysis to identify the root causes of employee turnover, allowing for the development of customized retention programs.

Listen to Employees:

Surveys can uncover what employees truly desire. It’s vital to understand their needs and build retention strategies based on their input. Disregarding their opinions can lead to disappointment and disengagement.

Support Long-Term Retention:

Flexibility is not a band-aid solution but a long-term strategy. Reduce burnout and stress by hiring independent contractors to share the workload. Create a people-centric workplace where employees feel a sense of purpose and positivity.

Embrace Hybrid Working:

Employee productivity and happiness often surge with flexibility. Offer incentives that matter, whether it’s better pay, more paid time off, flexible schedules, or the option to work from preferred locations. To retain talent, provide the benefits that genuinely contribute to employees’ overall well-being.

In this era of the Great Resignation, HR professionals have a pivotal role to play. By understanding the root causes, embracing data, listening to employees, supporting long-term retention, and offering flexibility, organizations can transform the Great Resignation into The Great Retention. With the right strategies, HR can ensure that the workplace becomes a space where employees thrive, find meaning, and, most importantly, choose to stay.