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The Great Resignation of 2021 and Beyond...

I read a short article about the topic above and it made some great points that I wanted to comment on, as well as provide some of my own opinions. The Great Resignation is a movement that gained steam a few months ago in Canada and the United States. People are choosing to leave their job in favour of gaining work-life balance not attained or afforded by their employer. Work-life balance trumps money and promotions in today’s labour market.

Several factors contribute to these feelings, some small, and some huge. One major factor is that some employers simply don't care about data voluntarily provided by workers about working conditions and/or workplace culture. Many workers have heard the excuses many times, I’m sure. “It’s not in the budget”, “We can’t afford the overtime”, and my personal favourite, “We’ve always done things this way”. The last statement is often the last thing a teetering worker will hear before they act on their feelings to leave a workplace.

To make matters worse, some employers simply refuse to learn from their mistakes. It’s not enough to perform tasks such as exit interviews if you, as an employer, are not going to do anything with the information shared by the employee that is moving on. I’ve experienced this firsthand as a manager. We were experiencing high turnover and the information I shared with our department head was dismissed out of hand. The priority was to go out and find “two feet and a heartbeat” thereby perpetuating the turnover cycle. Monumentally frustrating.

Some employers are baffled by how recognition and more money doesn’t retain more staff. My opinion on this is that goals have shifted a lot amongst workers and as such, they are not striving for the same goals as their mentors. The biggest example of this is due to the cost of living, primarily home ownership. The sad truth is that many young workers now may never own their own home. Employees still will not be able to save for a down payment, even with the mediocre raise they may receive from their employer. Raises are never a bad thing, but the impact is not the same.

Many organizations cling to the goal of creating lifelong employees. But in most industries the time of hanging your hat on a hook and removing it after a 40-year career is long gone. Employers need to foster a positive work environment but accept the fact that not all workers are going to stay for their entire career. People are encouraged to develop a very diverse skill set to use in the labour market. Accordingly, they can use their skills anywhere, and many workers seek out the challenge and excitement of moving to different industries.

It's not at all surprising to see a real push for a 4-day work week and to retain remote working as these promote work-life balance. Thankfully, there are many employers that understand and embrace the concept of not only providing a safe environment but a positive culture as well. The great compromise, of course, is that people may still move on, despite the employer cultivating a positive workplace experience. Importantly though, it is the employer’s choice of what that candidate says if they leave. It is much better for an organization to have outgoing staff tell ten of their friends what a fantastic organization they are leaving, than the alternative.

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