What have we learnt from the great resignation?

A year on from the big quit (that period in early 2021 when absolutely everyone was looking for a new job), things in the world of employment seemed to have calmed down – with employers and employees both feeling more secure in their positions.

In February the UK saw employment rising and the rate of growth of vacancies continue to slow. But we shouldn’t resign the great resignation to the past. There were reasons why an extraordinary number of people decided there must be better out there. And, there are lessons employers would be wise not to ignore.

What went down

But, before we can ponder on its lessons, first we must consider why it came about. In early 2020, after almost a year of lockdown, the ‘huddle where you are’ mentality many of us adopted was beginning to wear off. As it became clear that life would indeed go back to normal, employees began to consider their lockdown experiences- and many were less than pleased with their conclusions.

A study by Personio in April 2021 found that 1 in 3 people were looking to move jobs in the following 6 to 12 months. This indicates a general mood of dissatisfaction with employment situations around this time. Those looking to change jobs cited work/life balance, pay freezes or cuts, toxic workplace culture, reduction in benefits and being furloughed as reasons for leaving their current jobs.

The increasing importance of value alignment

The finding’s in Personio’s study suggest there are numerous and interconnecting reasons someone might leave their job – and that salary is only one consideration.

It seemed that experiences of lockdown and worries about health made people more attracted to companies with a defined culture and values that aligned with their own. Companies that could articulate and act on their employment philosophy (we call this an employer brand (more on this later!)).

Earlier this year, Curious partnered with YouGov to test this hypothesis. We asked our panel to imagine their dream job and share the three aspects of it that most appealed to them.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that many of us enjoyed the benefits of home and hybrid working over the past two years, work/life balance was the aspect chosen by the highest percentage of respondents. This might also have been due to a shift in priorities towards spending more time with friends and family. More recently it’s been interesting to see how the phenomenon of quiet quitting has become an extension of this idea.

Only slightly behind work/life balance, salary was the second most popular aspect. Salary will always be a vital factor in decisions around employment - it affects so many other aspects of our lives. And, with the cost of living increasing, it’s to be expected that salary will remain a key consideration. However, it is interesting to note that ⅓ of our respondents didn’t include it in their top three aspects.

We also asked our panel how important it was for them to work for a company with clear values and culture. Over 75% said it was important to them - and 30% included it in their top 3 dream job aspects. Though there were slight variations in how influential people think this is, our data shows it’s rated consistently high a
cross all of our demographics.

What does all this mean?

Our findings have shown that although some aspects of employment appeal to a broader section of the population than others, there is no one thing that employees look for. There are trends across ages and gender, but it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Employers need to know the kinds of people they are looking for and speak to them directly.

This doesn't mean that businesses necessarily need to change or enhance their offerings - though some might. However, they do need to define them. They must know their approach and be able to talk about it - and highlight how it makes them unique. We call this an employer brand - and a good one can provide many benefits to a business.

  1. It informs how you act
    Defining your employer's brand can help to reset how you approach employment. It’s an opportunity to bring your practices in line with our philosophy. Having defined values makes it easier to respond to situations as they arise.
  2. It reduces hiring costs
    A clearly defined employer brand will help to attract like-minded people who will prove successful additions to the team. This helps reduce the costs associated with employment.
  3. It keeps hold of your key people.
    It helps create a culture that employees can buy into and that values them. Done right, it creates an environment people want to be part of and creates a language that will appeal to the right people to join your business.

What next?

An employer brand can’t be rushed. Making a big gesture that wins you headlines and accolades is all well and good but it is a short-term strategy that is likely to fail: your employer brand must run through everything you do and say, and stand up to scrutiny.

Knowing what’s right for your brand requires serious thought as you must be able to live by the brand you design.
Authenticity is key. Curious works with brands to find what is important to you and your team - they are the most important element of your employer brand. All the elements will be there, but an outside perspective can help to draw out what makes you, you.

Once we’ve defined your personality and purpose we can creatively bring your employer brand to life, so you can share it with the world.