What does the 'Great Resignation' mean for the world of Learning and Development?

The stress, chaos, and uncertainty of the pandemic has resulted in millions of people taking a step back to re-examine how they approach work. This examination has led to employees rethinking their careers, and for many, that means leaving their current jobs.

In August, a record 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs, accounting for 2.9% of the workforce — the highest number on record. This wave of resignations termed the “Great Resignation” by organizational psychologist Anthony Klotz, has forced companies to reimagine their employee experience to retain and attract talent. 

Looking deeper into the issue, a global study completed early in 2021 found that the driving force behind the “Great Resignation” is Generation Z and Millennials. More than 50% of respondents plan on changing jobs within the next year, with the majority of them being unhappy with their current positions.

The reasons behind this dissatisfaction are numerous, including the obvious concerns about the current pandemic, and, for many, the pressure of needing to take care of family members. For young professionals who have only recently entered the workplace, not being exposed to the formative experience of working in an office setting can also be challenging. In the light of these concerns, increased financial compensation simply does not suffice - it seems that employees yearn for more opportunities to learn and develop their skills, increased scheduling flexibility, and other benefits.

Faced with this “Great Resignation,” companies are left with a choice — continue with business as usual or transform how they interact with and support their employees. With one of the biggest factors of employee attrition being a lack of Career Development opportunities, many are looking towards learning and development as the solution — but how does this “Great Resignation” impact the world of Learning and Development? 


1. There will be an overall increased demand for Career Development 

The pandemic served as a wake-up call for people, where they self-reflected on what was important both professionally and personally. Many took this as a time to upskill themselves — from learning to code to social media marketing, people turned to improving their skills. 

Companies cannot afford to lose valuable employees as they look for more rewarding job opportunities that allow them the flexibility to grow their new skills. A Sitel study showed that 37% of employees said that, if they did not have the opportunity to be trained in new skills, they would be willing to leave their current job. Companies need to be prepared to support their current employees' career development.

Employees want flexibility and tailored learning journeys as they look forward towards the next steps in their careers. Ensuring employees have these opportunities to develop improves employee engagement and encourages them to stay opposed to jumping ship. Understanding how employees want to grow and providing them with career opportunities to get there has become increasingly important as now is the time employees are reevaluating their careers. 


2. Management Development Training will become even more important 

There needs to be an increased emphasis on Management Development training as companies reshuffle and people are promoted. According to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workforce Learning Report, since Covid-19 there has been a sizable rise in internal mobility; from April through August 2020 the internal hiring rate was nearly 20% higher than it was during the same time in 2019.

As seasoned managers exit, they leave gaps that are often filled by successful individual contributors — many without previous management experience. Without formal management development programs in place, new managers can feel overwhelmed as they struggle in their new roles. Managers have an enormous impact on worker success and wellbeing, so it is especially important they receive formalized support and coaching to succeed in these roles.


3. Toxic company culture is no longer acceptable

Numerous studies have confirmed what seems like a logical conclusion—toxic company culture that nurtures ostracism, harassment, and bullying reduces job productivity and increases stress load on the employees.

However, a toxic environment is not always obvious. Another study has shown that employees who are not being rewarded for their hard work, who are subjected to unreasonable demands, and who do not feel like they have autonomy in decision-making, are three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression. In addition, employees who do not feel fulfilled or supported at their workplace are more likely to leave the company, looking for a more supportive environment.

To create a nurturing, productive environment, you should introduce norms that encourage employees to speak up and voice their concerns without any fear of repercussions. Allowing employees to have autonomy in deciding on their self-learning development plan creates an open atmosphere of support and genuine care for your employees’ progress. This atmosphere can be incorporated in all of your HR processes, starting with recruitment, enabling you to work with talent to develop effective succession plans.

A good resource you can encourage your employees to explore is the Hemsley Fraser Hub, which offers numerous playlists and hours of content to support everything from "Looking After Yourself" to "Coaching and Compassionate Leadership."

Every great crisis is also a great opportunity to reinvent. Similarly, the "Great Resignation" is an invitation to look into your employee support systems and improve them for the betterment of your team and your company.

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