The Great Resignation

A recent report conducted by Microsoft’s WorkLab has found that 41% of the global workforce surveyed are considering resigning, moreover that number jumps to 54% for Gen Z, those aged 18-25. In other words, the great resignation is upon us.

The report, The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready? Sampled more than 30,000 people in 31 countries and included an analysis of trillions of productivity and labor signals from Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn.

In the UK and Ireland, a Personio and Opinium survey found that 38% of employees plan to jump ship in the coming year, and a Prudential survey of US employees reported that 42% of those surveyed would resign if their company didn’t offer the option to work from home moving forward. The UK and Ireland figure alone would cost an estimated USD 23.33 billion to the respective economies.

New work trends

Microsoft’s report highlights a basket of trends, which show how work has been shaped by the global pandemic:

  • Flexible work arrangements are here to stay
  • Leaders are out of touch with employees
  • High levels of productivity is masking employees exhaustion
  • Gen Z is most disengaged
  • Innovation is being brought down by shrinking networks
  • Authentic engagement will spur productivity and wellbeing

In our own experience, through interactions with both clients and candidates, we see these trends manifesting frequently. Those who are currently employed cite that they are looking for new positions as the pandemic has revealed poor leadership. This poor leadership was previously camouflaged by the enjoyable social aspects of their positions. Without daily social interaction, a lack of engagement and care from organizations’ leadership has been brought front and centre.

Image source: Microsoft – Work Trend Index: 2021 Annual Report

Siloing of the workplace

While Worklab’s report highlights that remote work flexibility is desirable and here to stay, it does come with drawbacks which need to be closely monitored and managed. The report found that some individuals are experiencing elevated levels of exhaustion brought on by intense digital engagement. In addition to this, another byproduct of working remotely is siloed thinking. The loss of in-person interaction means individual team members are more likely to only interact with their closest coworkers and this can stifle spontaneous sharing of ideas which would otherwise occur in the workplace.

The report states that “At the onset of the pandemic, our analysis shows interactions with our close networks at work increased while interactions with our distant network diminished,” suggesting that “as we shifted into lockdown, we clung to our immediate teams for support and let our broader network fall to the wayside. Simply put, companies became more siloed than they were pre-pandemic.”

In addition to siloing of interaction and thought, individuals we have spoken with have noted the extreme exhaustion they feel and when considering new roles. Traditional buzzwords of fast-passed or exciting are not viewed as enticing, rather we see individuals seeking out being valued, finding meaning in their roles and overall balance in their lives.

Image source: Microsoft – Work Trend Index: 2021 Annual Report

Hybrid is the way forward

As with many things, a one-size fits all approach has its shortcomings for addressing how to move forward through and out of the global pandemic. Employers need to recognize that giving their employees flexibility with their work arrangements is the best course forward. Having a purely remote work policy may be enticing for some employees however we find that in speaking with candidates working remotely isn’t the draw it used to be, however having an in-office only policy will also handcuffs employers. Individuals are seeing out flexibility and as such a hybrid approach is the most desirable.  Microsoft’s report states that “We can no longer rely solely on offices to collaborate, connect, and build social capital. But physical space will still be important,” after-all we are “social animals and we want to get together, bounce ideas off one another, and experience the energy of in-person events. Moving forward, office space needs to bridge the physical and digital worlds to meet the unique needs of every team – and even specific roles.”

Image source: Microsoft – Work Trend Index: 2021 Annual Report

Leadership must lead

We find time and time again that one of the most constant variables that has kept employees engaged throughout the global pandemic has been the quality of leadership. Many who we have spoken with identify that what is keeping them in their current role, are leaders who engage with them consistently and in a genuine manner.

Corporate vice president at Microsoft 365 Jared Spataro, writes in the report: “Those impromptu encounters at the office help keep leaders honest. With remote work, there are fewer chances to ask employees, ‘Hey, how are you?’ and then pick up on important cues as they respond. But the data is clear: our people are struggling. And we need to find new ways to help them.” Leaders who go the extra step to connect with their employees on a personal level enjoy far greater levels of engagement.