There has been much commotion about whether the ‘Great Resignation’ is actually real. Are UK employees leaving their jobs in droves? Or is all this talk just hot air?

While some reports argue the mass exodus is overplayed and, that the Great Resignation is not as bad as initially predicted, the figures do suggest that people in the UK are quitting and change is afoot. Overall, the number of people who are not working has increased by 586,000 since the start of the pandemic.

The Great Resignation UK Teaser Chart

At the same time, the latest data from the Office for National Statistics revealed that the UK economic inactivity rate–a measure of people out of a job, but who are not actively looking for work— increased during the pandemic to 21.3%, 1.0 percentage point higher than before the pandemic. This is an increase not seen since records began, implying that people are indeed leaving the workforce.

The Great Resignation UK - economic activity

While these findings indicate that we are in fact living through the Great Resignation, many of us still have lots of questions. Who’s quitting? Why are they quitting? And do they plan to leave the workforce indefinitely or, are they taking this as an opportunity to reassess what they want from their careers?  Finally, what does this mean for L&D teams? Even if the Great Resignation is not as prevalent as we first thought, it’s certainly not the time to become complacent.

Quitting is just half the story—so we wanted to dig deeper and understand what’s really driving the Great Resignation. We surveyed 784 Brits to find out if the Great Resignation is just about low wages and concerns of safety due to the pandemic, or if this trend is pointing to something broader: a fundamental change in how we see our relationship with work.

The results tell us a lot about what’s really motivating people to reevaluate their relationship with work, what they want from their jobs, and how organisations can provide better opportunities for people to be motivated, engaged, and happy.

Even if the Great Resignation is not as prevalent as we first thought, it’s certainly not the time to become complacent.

Why are people quitting their jobs?

Despite significant increases in the cost of living in the UK, low salaries are only the third most frequent reason people gave for quitting their jobs. So, if it’s not wages driving the Great Resignation, what is? 

It’s likely the hours spent in lockdown and for some, on furlough, have given people the mental and physical space to re-examine their priorities and really dig deep about what they want from life, including what they want their career to look like. This is borne out by our survey results: for 37% of respondents, work became less important following the pandemic, while 48% see their job as okay, but are happiest outside of work.

The Great Resignation UK - Work perspective
37% of respondents feel that work became less important to them when asked whether the pandemic changed their perspective about work.

For some, this re-evaluation has made employees face reality—they’re burned out and no longer fulfilled at work. According to our survey, burnout and lack of fulfilment, or realising their job isn’t in line with matters to them, is the main reason employees gave for quitting their jobs.

The Great Resignation UK - reason for quitting
While respondents listed burnout as the main reason for quitting their jobs, feeling unfulfilled or disconnected from their work was also a major driver. In addition, dissatisfaction with salaries and limited prospects for progression were reasons respondents gave for leaving their jobs.

Burnout and lack of fulfilment, or realising their job isn’t in line with matters to them, is the main reason employees gave for quitting their jobs.

The fact that employees are experiencing extreme mental or physical fatigue and are not fulfilled at work should act as a warning sign for employers. Organisations will need to do everything in their power to transform their working environments into places where employees feel happy and engaged, leading to improved retention rates, particularly as the competition for talent remains fierce and repeatedly recruiting is unlikely to prove effective. 

L&D teams play a major role in holding on to talent 

Learning and development teams play a major role in not only managing burnout and improving engagement, but also boosting the overall employee experience and retention. Through dedicated learning programmes, L&D managers support people to take the next steps in their careers, develop new skills, and help manage work-related challenges such as stress and conflict. 

But in the midst of the Great Resignation, L&D teams need to take it to the next level if they want to rescue the employee experience and hold on to talent. Together with senior leadership teams and HR teams, L&D professionals need to find new ways to meet employee demands and expectations. 

From providing the right growth opportunities through to supporting flexible and remote working and giving leaders the tools they need to steer the right course, L&D teams have the power to transform our relationship with work for the better. 

The best tool to combat the Great Resignation? A positive and engaging learning organisation culture. Find out how L&D can help you build the culture you need with expert tips and resources.

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