Don’t fear The Great Resignation 

As Australia charts a post-COVID recovery, experts are predicting many employees will be looking to make a change, dubbed 'The Great Resignation'. Pedestrian Group CEO Matt Rowley argues this transition can be a positive for employees and employers alike. 

Whether you’ve heard of the term or not, I bet you’ve felt the effects. Data from an Australian HR platform  suggests that 40% of the workforce will be looking for a new job in the next six months and 15%  are already on the move. Personal experience says the media sector (a sector well known for its turnaround) is well down this path – with the USA in full swing.   

The term itself is terrifying and cataclysmic. Yes, there’s a whiff of a corporate end of days, but there’s also that underlying sense of personal rejection and shame that it taps into; people are leaving you, in droves. As the LinkedIn trope goes, people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Thanks, LinkedIn.

I’m here to say that it isn’t to be feared. Let go of the personal shame – it may actually be one of the best things to happen to your business.

First, it turns out that pandemics have a habit of forcing societal change, or at the very least pushing people to have a good look at their lives. Being trapped inside four walls for months on end will do that. One of the easier big things to change in life is your job, especially in a hot market. While ending a relationship will cost you money, getting a new job could make you more.  

For a performing employee who likes you and your business but needs a next step, it may well be that the logical next one isn’t in your business. While no one wants to lose great people, sometimes not only will this be a good opportunity for the employee moving on, it will also create space for someone else in your business to move up and progress; a win/win and payoff for development and succession planning.

Side note: if you’re an employee thinking this way, my one piece of advice is not to overlook something you might have built in your current organisation that is far more valuable than a pay bump – political capital. The trust and respect that you’ve built over the years is what unlocks those primo opportunities that don’t go to market. At a new company you are starting again from zero (regardless what is promised), and who says it’s actually going to be as good a place to work as the one you’re leaving? Beware change for the sake of it, or for a few bucks.  

The other key driver of The Great Resignation is dissatisfaction with pay, conditions and culture. Your organisation is on a continuum somewhere between “not perfect” and “in deep shit” and The Great Resignation is about to pressure-test the hell out of your employee value proposition. It will find your weaknesses, and if you are prepared to listen, give you the chance to fix them.

Here’s what is potentially the best news – if your business culture is much further towards the “deep shit” end of that spectrum than you would like, this is your big chance. The Great Resignation means there are more excellent people than usual on the move, those not usually on the market. New talent also brings with it a new energy and fresh perspective; a clean slate to fundamentally transform within just a few months. If you can be better as a business it’s one of the biggest opportunities you’ll get. If you can’t, it’ll be an expensive blip. 

My hope is that longer term, The Great Resignation shatters the concept that employee turnover is intrinsically bad, something to be feared and ashamed of. In a healthy business it’s a form of renewal and growth. Shock: not everything on LinkedIn is true.  

Matt Rowley is the CEO of Pedestrian Group.


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