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My "Changing a Life" Moment_ATD Moments_Shaundra Williams
ATD Blog

L&D’s Role in Addressing the Great Resignation

Tuesday, December 7, 2021
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Tiger King. Homemade sourdough. Zoom trivia nights. And the Great Resignation? For all the twists and turns of COVID-19, at face value, the Great Resignation has been one of the most unexpected.

Many experts believe that the Great Resignation hinges on how organizations treated their employees during the pandemic. For example, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2021 report, 57 percent of workers experienced daily stress, while the global rate of workplace engagement is just 20 percent. With numbers like these, it should come as little surprise that employees have resigned en masse.

With this in mind, we thought it was the perfect time to analyze L&D’s role in addressing the Great Resignation. To do so, we’ll answer three vital questions:

  • What is the Great Resignation?
  • Why is it happening now?
  • How can L&D teams help address this?

What Is the Great Resignation?

The Great Resignation is exactly what it sounds like: in many countries and industries, employees are resigning in record volumes. In America, 4.3 million people, or 2.9 percent of the national workforce, quit their jobs in August 2021. In Britain, the number of open jobs surpassed 1 million for the first time that same month. Now, 94 percent of US retailers say they are having difficulty filling positions.

What’s more, research by Microsoft shows that 41 percent of the workforce are considering leaving their jobs this year. Similarly, a study by Personio found that 38 percent of surveyed employees planned to quit their jobs within the next six months to one year.

Why Is It Happening Now?

While the COVID-19 pandemic has played a significant part in the Great Resignation, it has not been the sole cause. Rather, it has accelerated the Great Resignation and brought many pre-existing tensions to the surface.

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If you asked the average person, most of them could probably guess the leading causes of the Great Resignation (fatigue, burnout, bad bosses, mental health struggles, and inflexible working arrangements, to name a few).

For instance, 54 percent of people feel overworked (rising to 60 percent of Gen Z employees and 64 percent of new starters), while a massive 95 percent of human resource leaders admit that employee burnout is sabotaging workforce retention efforts. Moreover, 62 percent of employees feel overwhelmed by work responsibilities. If that isn’t bad enough, these statistics reflect a broader trend that shows that employees feel unsupported, unappreciated, and unhappy at work.

To quantify these feelings, Limeade ran the numbers and identified the top causes of the Great Resignation. According to the research, 40 percent of employees left their jobs due to burnout during the Great Resignation. Other common reasons include their company going through organizational changes (34 percent), a lack of flexibility (20 percent), contributions not being valued (20 percent), insufficient benefits (19 percent), and well-being not being supported by their company (16 percent).

How Can L&D Teams Help Address This Trend?

Work Institute recently found that 77 percent of that turnover is preventable, and the Great Resignation is no exception. Now more than ever, L&D teams have a substantial role to play.

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For starters, Limeade has crafted a veritable to-do list for businesses during the Great Resignation. The company identified these common reasons that job-changers were attracted to a new position:

  • Ability to work remotely according to personal preference (40 percent)
  • Better compensation (37 percent)
  • Better management (31 percent)
  • Better company reputation (29 percent)
  • Better work-life balance (26 percent)
  • Flexible work schedule (24 percent)

By offering these benefits, companies can create healthier work environments that employees will be reluctant to leave.

L&D has a massive impact on boosting employee retention. Ninety-four percent of employees say they would stay longer at a company if it invested in their professional development. In addition, employee retention rates increase by 30 to 50 percent on average for companies with strong learning cultures. Finally, studies show that 80 percent of employees think learning and development opportunities would help them feel more engaged at work.

Going forward, L&D teams will play a crucial role in supporting employees’ well-being at work. To demonstrate this, McKinsey finds that most employees would feel less stressed if they were offered things such as additional time off (62 percent), flexible work schedules (60 percent), and hybrid work arrangements (57 percent).

The message is clear: from retention to engagement to mental health support, L&D has an indispensable role to play in addressing the great resignation and re-engaging employees. There’s no need to resign yourself to the Great Resignation. Instead, just focus on L&D.

About the Author

Dom Murray is content coordinator for GO1, an established leader in online learning and education.

1 Comment
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Thank you. What I take from this is that there are many factors involved of which L&D is one. That said, when we say L&D, it helps to be clear on who (the function?) and what (the L&D opportunities?) we are referencing as L&D opportunities can exist and be promoted, yet employees may not be given the space to engage in them. This is in part why shared responsibility is key in creating a learning culture and addressing systemic issues that serve as barriers is paramount.
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