The ‘Great Resignation of 2022’ is on the tip of every organisational HR tongue, but will it actually happen here?  The trend that started in the US last year has now been felt in many countries around the world and it is increasingly likely that Australia and New Zealand will be impacted.

In the US, April 2021 saw many workers resigning from jobs and going to work for the competition.  Organisations like Amazon are now losing more than one-third of their workers annually, placing greater pressure on employers to ramp up hiring efforts.

In Tim Sackett’s article Why 2022 could be the year of the Great Retention (, he suggests that whilst 2021 could be described as the “Great Reshuffling”, in 2022 we’re likely to see even greater numbers of employees deciding to move. So, organisations and leaders need to act now to stem this tide and find new ways to hold onto their best people.

We’ve seen a seismic change in the past two years and for many of us, this has been a highly reflective period. Important choices are being made about what we want from life and work. Importantly, we’ve been reassessing what we don’t want in our working lives. High on the list of things many of us don’t want, is to go back to tightly controlled work patterns and times.

Like it or not, the demand for workplace flexibility is here to stay. Employees in roles that can be performed from home have proven they can be highly productive under flexible arrangements. Organisations and leaders who are not onboard and back-peddle on flexibility commitments are likely to lose good people.

Newer industries (e.g. technology, fintech companies), operate very differently from traditional organisations, offering attractive Employee Value Propositions, investing in technology, being more purpose-driven, having younger leaders and innate flexibility in their DNA.  In these sectors, we’re seeing some very bold offerings to employees, such as the option to work from home indefinitely.

Dr Ben Harmer (Post | LinkedIn) shares that some US organisations have seen massive spikes in resignations, after mandating a return to work three days per week. Josh Bersin (Post | LinkedIn) cites data showing that 50% of employees in the US are willing to forgo as much as 5% of their pay for the option to work at home.  And whilst 70% of leaders want their teams back in the office, less than 40% of line workers feel the same. There are exceptions of course but given more than 45% of employees are currently working remotely, changing jobs can be as simple as getting a new email address. This is certainly not a time for complacency.


So what’s the likelihood Australia and New Zealand will experience similar trends?  It’s not entirely clear, but we’re already seeing indications of hiring difficulties and a squeeze on finding and retaining great talent across many industries.  Couple that with the increasing likelihood of real wage inflation for the first time in many years and there certainly is cause for concern here at home too.

And even with the right working arrangements in place, if organisational culture is not supportive and conducive to making people want to stay, they will likely leave. Bersin talks about employees migrating from “crummy jobs” to “better jobs”, and from “companies who don’t seem to care” to companies who demonstrate they “really really care.” (From The Great Resignation To The Great Migration – JOSH BERSIN)


So, the challenge for leaders is how to create and maintain a positive working culture and ensure that employees feel cared for and valued in this fragmented, hybrid virtual world.  We can’t afford to be passive about culture and the drivers of employee engagement have shifted to include greater emphasis on things like a sense of wellbeing, aligning with purpose and meaning, and organisational reputation.

The good news is there are many things we can do right now, to get ahead of a possible Great Resignation curve.  In Tim Sackett’s article, he makes an important observation, that whilst we’ve all got used to working in a crisis, it’s not just about having mechanisms and benefits to help hold onto great people. It’s also about ensuring we have a robust and positive workplace culture that supports and helps them thrive.


So what do we need to do?  The first step is to know your culture – what does it feel like to work in your organisation. Workplace culture often happens by default, but organisational leaders have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to shape and design positive culture.  Here are three simple areas of focus to do that:

Develop a ‘people first’ leadership culture:
  • Develop your leaders to be great coaches, so they can confidently support the growth and positive behaviour change of their people.
  • Provide great feedback to inspire and enhance self-awareness and help employees focus on the right things.
  • Lead openly and authentically, create a psychologically safe work environment where employees feel it’s okay to be themselves and express their ideas.
Take steps to improve the employee experience:
  • Help employees see connections between their own purpose and that of the organisation, in order to create greater meaning and connection at work.
  • Communicate openly about succession/career paths and how to narrow any gaps.
  • Leverage internal learning and development opportunities to engage and attract employees, and reduce temptations to look elsewhere.
Give your people a compelling reason to stay:
  • Overtly value your people, don’t assume they know what you’re thinking, tell them that you appreciate their efforts.
    • Place strong emphasis on employees’ wellbeing, helping them to feel supported and nourished at work.
    • Focus on eradicating toxic cultures by dealing with issues upfront – it will spit the good people out if you don’t!
    • Proactively invest time and effort in building a positive culture of workplace civility and respect.

Whilst we can easily blame the likelihood of a ‘Great Resignation of 2022’ on the pandemic effects of COVID-19, perhaps future wage inflation, or even new competitors into the war for talent, there are many strategic and deliberate actions you can take today to super-charge your workplace culture and boost your organisation’s ability to hold onto your best people in a post-COVID world!

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At Steople we specialise in supporting you to build your positive workplace culture and ensure it is most conducive to retaining the best people, in order to achieve your strategy and support strong business growth.  If you would like to know more about how we can help you, please contact us today to discuss your individual needs.