New Year and New Purposes: The Great Resignation
The whole world is going through a period of transformation and change. The digital and technological transformation started before the pandemic but with remote working restrictions and less social interaction, the demand for technology has risen and continues to rise. As we venture into the 2022 the words ‘new’ and ‘different’ will remain at the forefront of conversation. January, for many years, has been the month for reflection, goal-setting and personal resolutions, and this is not new nor different. However, what we are seeing now is that people are on the move and they are starting to rethink their purpose. The number of open jobs surpassed 1 million for the first time ever in August and this trend is expected to continue in 2022. The great resignation is well under way.
There has also been lot of organisational reorganising and rejuvenating happening. The technological innovation and the uptake of automation are driving a need for reskilling and upskilling. There will be plenty of activity throughout the next year with a lot more focus on people development.
The Great Resignation
This time last year we were talking about exhaustion, people were tired of uncertainty, change and failure. People have really started to rethink the kind of life they want and the job they want to be in, the pandemic has reminded many that life is too short. We talk about the great resignation because people are on the move, they are leaving the jobs they have done for years and looking for new inspiration. A survey of 6,000 workers by the recruitment firm Randstad UK found that 69% of them were feeling confident about moving to a new role in the next few months, with 24% planning a change within three to six months. The company said it would normally expect up to 11% of workers to move jobs every year.
Usually leaving or quitting are concepts associated with losing or giving up. What we are seeing here is level of quitting that is rather an expression of optimism and hope. The pandemic has served as a spark, bringing the ambitions that lay dormant for so long in so many people to the forefront of consciousness. The longer people are stuck working from home, lacking social interaction and excitement, the more they will look elsewhere to find the positive feelings that people innately crave.
The past 18 months has been a period of dramatic change but ironically, due to many restrictions still in place, people really cannot change their lifestyle that much. This is why we are seeing a great resignation; people are choosing to change their lives in the limited ways that are available to them. Before the pandemic the office served for many as the last physical community left but now this has decreased, people are feeling more disconnected than ever before. Whether a change in job can bring upon that space for people to regain happiness is a topic of conversation. Perhaps we can relate this to the sensation of winning the lottery. The initial life-changing event will bring a short period of joy, thrill and excitement, but studies have shown that once this period of euphoria has gone there is no evidence that winning the lottery improves one’s long-term satisfaction and mental health.
So yes, on the outset a new purpose, a different role and a new journey can be great. But it is worth thinking about, long-term, if a complete reset will bring you the satisfaction you crave. Perhaps the great resignation is a trend we are seeing from people who are at the end of their tether, mentally, physically and spiritually and so is it so unreasonable to take that leap of faith?
The new year also brings more focus on people development, throughout the whole hierarchy of an organisation. Viren Patel, director of the Business Development Unit at the OU, says the skills gap is an ongoing problem that is not going to go away unless employers start taking proactive action.
Many organisations have reflected on the past year identifying that many skills that need to be re-learnt, or perhaps re-trained. The concept of upskilling is possibly more prevalent now than in recent times. Our thinking has been crafted by generations of industry and economics but we are now faced with real problems that we will find difficult to solve alone. Big changes and big challenges are presenting themselves in the workplace more often. With more focus on upskilling and people development, can organisations use this to benefit them?
For some organisations there has been a rethink around what leadership is. For many it will continue as it has been but for others there will be a rethink. There has been much more emphasis on thinking beyond the boundaries of an organisation’s walls. For example, organisations are becoming more environmentally conscious. Moreover, the digital and technological transformation has not stopped and will not stop for the foreseeable future. If an organisation wants to thrive and remain competitive against this backdrop of constant innovation then fostering a culture of continuous active learning, where reskilling and upskilling are a top, strategic priority, should be at the forefront of conversation.