The *real* reason for “The Great Resignation”



Steve Perkins

Career Transition, Leadership

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In response to rising attrition and workforce changes, many companies are trying to sweeten the deal with pay and traditional benefits. Many are already realizing this approach isn’t working, yet continuing to throw money at the problem. 

But this Great Resignation isn’t about money. It’s about purpose and growth.

Yes, some people are leaving their jobs for higher pay, but the majority of knowledge-workers are seeking a place – a work-life – that invests in their personal/professional growth and aligns their purpose with their role.

As career and company culture coaches, we read the reports and study the trends. But perhaps more importantly, we hear the real stories behind the stats. 

After working in hard sciences, research, engineering, and data analytics fields, I’ve realized that data doesn’t always tell the whole story. It has the potential to, if you dig deep enough. But oftentimes in the media we consume, the data only explains the behaviors on the surface and not the ‘why’ behind those behaviors.

For example, Gallup reported 48% of employees thought about changing careers in 2021, and after digging deeper, it became clear that they want to stay if they have a manager who invests in their development. 

If companies ever thought it was a risk to invest in people’s career development, now it’s a risk NOT to!

It’s also worth noting that this trend isn’t new. It’s just that people are taking more action on it.

Across hundreds of coaching conversations the past two years, we’ve noticed a common theme (that isn’t surprising at all): many knowledge workers had a pent-up desire for change for a while. The fact that we all simultaneously experienced a major work-life shake-up, caused many to take action on those desires.

It shouldn’t surprise us, since our work-life structure has gotten to a pretty unsustainable place, where the pace of hurry causes burnout. It would take something as big and ubiquitous as a global pandemic to cause us to collectively realize changes are needed.

The good news for companies is that, like all big changes, this presents a massive opportunity to move into this new era with unprecedented employee engagement and brand-love. Specifically, by investing in people’s purpose and growth through individual and team coaching.

Many Great Resignation studies are pointing to manager burnout as a key issue, citing that people want a manager who provides clear expectations and who encourages their development, but managers aren’t being invested in appropriately to meet these needs.

Additionally, organizations where employee engagement has been increasing are the ones that invest in developing their people. And people don’t want more resources thrown at them. They want connection and conversations. Coaching. Development.

Thus, if managers are too busy to breathe yet expected to develop the people who report to them, then high-quality external coaching is a great way to solve this dilemma.

Additionally, coaching provides a place for individuals to problem-solve and action-plan around other key factors currently at play. Microsoft found that 53% of employees (particularly parents & women) are more likely to prioritize health and wellbeing over work than before the pandemic, and coaching helps people figure out how to do this so it helps productivity (versus hurting it). 

Coaching provides a focused place to navigate engagement, belonging, and meeting overwhelm with remote-work. Coaching gives leaders simple tools to quickly elevate time-management, delegation, prioritization, difficult conversations, and one-on-one development conversations. All practical steps that move the needle for people feeling that their company invests in them.

At the end of the day, whether people leave or stay in a role, your brand as a leader is shaped by the extent to which you invest in the people you lead. People remember the leaders who invest in their development, speak highly of them to many others, and feel deep gratitude for the positive impact those leaders made on their lives. And on the other side, people also remember leaders who don’t invest in their development. They just remember in a different way.

  1. Erick says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. 🙏🏻

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