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The great resignation wave

Written by Matt Phelan on Monday, 06 September 2021. Posted in HR, People

I’ve been predicting a mass migration of talent as the world comes out of Pandemic lockdown for a while now. And it seems to be coming true.

The great resignation wave

3 months into the pandemic when we reviewed the global employee Happiness data it was clear that as soon as the pandemic started to end we would see a huge migration of talent away from companies that failed to look after their employees.

Sadly that prediction seems to be coming true. We often say today’s emotions are tomorrow’s performance and this very much seems to be the case. A study by Microsoft showed that 41% of employees are thinking about leaving their current job in the next year. This increases to 63% of Gen Z workers. 

On top of this, research has shown how businesses are planning for the ‘new normal’ post-COVID: “95% of businesses surveyed said they would be recruiting for new roles in 2021.”

Why are people looking to move?

When we look at The Happiness Index's data, which analyses millions of data points globally, we can see that nearly 50% of people are scoring lower than a 6; indicating that they are unhappy at work. This is not sustainable. It’s only natural that people are going to leave unacceptable working conditions. 

For many of us, the Pandemic has forced us to reassess our relationship with work. For example, I’ve realised the importance of taking time off for everyone’s mental health. At The Happiness Index, we’ve seen many people have been taking fewer days off. As a leader, I’m taking more days off to be a role model to the rest of my team and show them that taking time to rest is not only acceptable but encouraged. 

The importance of mental health

Mental wellbeing has been at the forefront of the public mind. We’ve seen this with news stories about athletes like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka. However, it’s not just high profile cases - 60% of adults said their mental health has suffered in the last year. As more conversations are had about this and the topic becomes less taboo, we’ll see the impact on the world of work. Already only 16% of employees believe their place of work supports mental health according to a report by Lime, a healthcare top up provider.

Mental health is vital because it’s a big part of what it means to be human, and happy! We all want to be happy and fulfilled at work. When we feel like our workplace isn’t supportive and understanding in this area - we will likely have wandering eyes.

Why now?

At The Happiness Index, we rely on neuroscience to understand Employee Engagement and Happiness. Our neuroscience model shows that there are four key areas that ensure our people will thrive at work and feel happy.  These are Safety, Freedom, Acknowledgement, and Relationships. All of these are essential for happiness, but often we ultimately prioritise feeling safe. This is because it’s associated with the Basal area of the brain - our reptilian survival response. 

As pandemic restrictions ease and we begin to feel the opportunities, many people may feel that there might actually be more safety available elsewhere. The economy is beginning to recover, and many organisations are starting to recruit again. With this happening, people will be looking for all four areas which feed into Happiness. Not only this but they will also want the four areas which feed into employee engagement: Clarity, Meaning & Purpose, Personal Growth and Enablement.

Your people will only stay if they feel they have all 8 areas. 

The next stages

Even if you haven’t seen the impacts of the Great Resignation in your company, that doesn’t mean the rumblings aren’t starting. Most people won’t leave their job without lining something else up. However, with so much movement in the market, and wages rising, you may find that your team has an eye on other opportunities. 

So, what should you do?

My first tip is that you shouldn’t forget any staff who have stayed with you. With a hot marketplace and new hires, you might find that loyal staff aren’t benefiting from the increased salary. 

I’ve talked before about the importance of measuring employee happiness. Not only is it the right thing to do ethically but you can also get an understanding of how your employees are feeling, thinking and behaving. This in turn will allow you to create a people strategy that minimises employee turnover and maximises employee engagement and happiness. Why wouldn’t you?

About the Author

Matt Phelan

Matt Phelan

Matt is a Co-Founder and Head of Global Happiness at the Happiness Index. In his day-to-day role, he is responsible for the global expansion of the business. Matt is founder of The Happiness and Humans Community, host of The Happiness and Humans Podcast and author of Freedom To Be Happy: The Business Case for Happiness

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