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The Great Resignation and its Implications: 4 Tips for HR Professionals

Blog / April 25, 2022 / with Christoph Drebes
The Great Resignation

There is one topic, everyone is currently talking about: The Great Resignation. It describes the increase of layoffs that began last year in the U.S. and is now slowly making its way to Europe. But what is the reason for the increased layoffs? Are all industries equally affected? And what can HR managers do to counteract this trend?



The “Great Resignation” is a term coined by Anthony Klotz, a professor at Texas A&M University in May 2021. It describes the trend of mass job resignations occurring in the United States between 2020 and 2021.

Also called “The Big Quit,” The Great Resignation is a sign to many employers that things are changing. According to a Gallup poll, 48% of the United States working class are looking for new opportunities. And interestingly, employees in customer-facing roles like retail and white-collar roles are job hunting all at the same rate. 

The Great Resignation is also called “The Big Shuffle,” as employees are shuffling from one company to another rather than quitting the workforce altogether.


Karen Kimbrough, LinkedIn’s Chief Economist, told the American news program 60 Minutes that the COVID-19 pandemic made many employees realize that they were living to work rather than working to live. This mindset shift resulted in a huge deal of turnover.
Here’s a video by the Wall Street Journal in which Labor Economics Reporter Sarah Chaney Cambon explains the decrease in labor since the beginning of COVID:

But new data from the Harvard Business Review shows that quit rates have been steadily increasing since 2009. Is this phenomenon a sudden shift in workplace culture? Or is it indicative of a workforce that’s slowly been growing discontent with the status quo?


Though this “Big Reshuffle” originated in America, the Washington Post reports that other countries are following the trend. Countries like China, France, Spain, Singapore, Ethiopia, and India are all experiencing higher-than-normal quit rates. 

Germany also is beginning to undergo a kind of Great Resignation. According to Achievers’ Employee Engagement and Retention Report 2022, 41 percent of respondents say that they definitely plan to job hunt in the coming year. An additional 24 percent are undecided about staying.


The Great Resignation has been impacting workers in both white-collar and blue-collar settings. In her 60 Minutes interview, Kimbrough mentioned that more women appear to be quitting than men. Millions of Generation Z workers are switching roles as well.

Additionally, increased numbers of resignations are also taking the tech world by storm. A survey by TalentLMS and Workable showed that 72 percent of IT professionals surveyed were thinking of quitting their jobs in the next year and a half. Another Data World survey of data engineers showed that 70 percent of respondents were considering quitting in the next year. Another 80 percent of that subset considered pivoting into a new career entirely. 


There’s one thing that the Great Resignation should teach HR professionals. Culture and employee well-being are make-or-break factors in employee retention.

In fact, Talent LMS’ survey shows that the top three reasons employees sought resignations were limited career progression, inflexible work hours, and a toxic work environment. Also, an additional 32 percent of respondents cite a lack of learning and development opportunities as the reason they would leave their jobs. 
Most recent research by the Pew Research Center among adults in the U.S shows the following reasons for workers to resign in 2021: 

Short-term steps to increase retention

Interestingly the reasons to resign can differ from country to country. In Germany, for example, low pay is not one of the top 5 reasons. But researching about resigning reasons globally, there are some that all have in common: Company culture, lack of appreciation, lack of flexibility, and well-being.

The world of work is changing – when in 2019, the employers were still the ones shaping the basic conditions of job roles, today, in 2022, it’s the employees having the say. 

The Future of Work: download the free whitepaper today


Worker retention has become an enormous issue for HR over the past years. Unsurprisingly, in HR Executive’s ‘What’s Keeping HR Up at Night?’ survey, 60 percent of respondents agree that recruiting and retention is their most pressing concern. This is closely followed by improving employee morale in the remote workplace and managing compliance.

These problems aren’t just keeping HR up at night figuratively. About 86 percent of HR professionals report an increase in stress over the past year. And 44 percent say that increase has been “dramatic.”

Sadly, it’s no mystery why this situation is so stressful for HR professionals. Data from Forbes specifies that worker turnover can cost a company as much as $ 4,000-5,000 USD per mid-level employee. There are also intangible damages, such as reputation damage, lowered morale, or staffing shortages.


Fortunately, Gallup reports that HR leaders are actively trying to improve their performance. They’re focusing on areas like communication, work/life balance, feedback, and company culture. Additionally, they value leadership training and overall employee well-being. But sometimes, it’s even more helpful to have concrete tips.

According to MIT Sloan, there are four easy short-term actions every HR professional can take to boost retention. The numbers show the importance of the topic for employee retention relative to compensation. Offering remote work arrangements for employees, for example, is 1.5 times more predictive of retention than compensation:

Reasons why US Workers resigned in 2021

To aid HR professionals, Gallup outlines 12 data-driven elements of engagement that are proven to increase employee retention. And here, we have four simple ways to implement them.


1. I know what is expected of me at work.
2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

Employees frequently emphasize needing the most effective tools available to complete their daily tasks. Shockingly, a poll from Slack notes that only 31 percent of workers report being extremely satisfied with their workplace communication tools. 

How to fulfill employees’ basic needs
To solve this issue, make sure that your employees are receiving stipends for at-home tools, including better technology, like work computers, software, comfortable working chairs, or subscriptions to useful productivity programs. As communication is a crucial factor here, This even includes getting the right HRIS. In this way, employees know they can have a smooth experience when communicating with HR about their needs. 

HR managers and team leaders should always keep in mind that silence from employees does not necessarily imply that everything works well. More importantly, leaders must change their communication style so their team members can feel like they’re always available and receptive. Read more here on how to lead a team in a remote and virtual environment.


4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.

Relationships with managers and bosses are one of the most important features of an employee’s experience, as they’re learning, growing, and developing in their field through the guidance of an experienced helper. But with the wrong manager, an employee won’t stay at a company for long.

The Gallup poll states that it takes more than a 20 percent pay raise to incentivize an employee to leave a great manager, but it takes almost nothing to convince a disengaged worker to leave their job for a new one. 

Tips to become a more helpful manager
HR’s responsibility here is to provide adequate services that coach managers about empathy and encouragement. Team leaders must learn to change their communication styles in a virtual or hybrid environment. One idea could be to establish frequent 1:1 sessions with all members to consistently check in. Mentoring programs are also extremely important, especially internally organized mentoring initiatives. 

On the hiring front, focus on sourcing talent that expresses compassion and interest in their team. A culture of kindness and praise can also be established by meeting with leaders and discussing strategies for showing appreciation. Another way to express recognition for good work is a “Thank You” channel in Slack or other messaging apps. Here, employees can express gratitude for the help and good work while milestones are celebrated together.


6. At work, my opinions seem to count.
7. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
8. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
9. I have a best friend at work/I feel connected to my colleagues.

Almost half of the respondents in the Achievers’ Employee Engagement and Retention Report 2022 believe that company culture has fallen apart since the beginning of the pandemic. Of those polled, 62 percent attributed the lack of culture to an absence of communication, 57 percent agreed that employees working from home were neglected, and 57 percent also agreed that perks and benefits weren’t adjusted to suit their changing needs.

How to build a great (remote) company culture
In the remote and hybrid work world, HR has to remember that everyone has to be on the same page. Teams have to feel connected to succeed. Employees won’t stay if they don’t feel appreciated by their coworkers, by their organization, and by their managers. Frequently revisit policies, perks, and benefits, and make sure that you offer services commensurate with the employees’ situation. Because a remote employee won’t use an in-office gym, and a child-free employee won’t use a daycare stipend.

Here are some easy-to-implement tips to build a great (remote) culture:

  • Informally connect employees with each other by using tools like Mystery Coffee. This initiative will help colleagues to get to know each other, and support newcomers to onboard easier – and it’s a lot of fun.
  • Share knowledge! Implement formats such as our weekly Mystery Minds knowledge drop. Here, every team member shares their knowledge about a hobby, informal topic, or work-related insight. It’s an easy way for colleagues to get acquainted, feel valuable, and leave with a stronger bond.
  • Use break-out rooms after team meetings to add a social element. Divide your colleagues into random groups out of 3-5 people. Then, even colleagues who might have limited touchpoints in their daily work lives will get a chance to catch up.


10. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

According to Talent LMS, skills development was the most highly sought-after feature of a job after a solid salary. Nearly half of the survey’s respondents cited opportunities for growth as a reason to accept a job, and two out of three employees say they value learning and training. Without the opportunity for career progression and skill improvement, your employee might look elsewhere.

Providing upskilling opportunities for employees
For HR professionals, this means investing in cross-training and upskilling programs. These programs can be anything from employee workshops to mentorship pairings or personalized learning programs. You can even organize cross-departmental skill-building opportunities, and enable employees to learn new things outside their chosen field. Either way, these upskill opportunities should be planned and aligned with the employee’s expectations as well as the company’s strategic goal. Here is a detailed guide on how to use skill management as part of a people management strategy.


While it might seem frightening to consider that the Great Resignation might continue, remember that another term for it is “The Great Reshuffle” – a time when employees are moving around from one company to another. We all might be experiencing more resignations than usual, but that’s not an awful omen. It’s just a sign that it’s time for a change, both for employees and for company culture.
HR professionals can think of this less as a hopeless moment when their employees will leave in droves and more of an opportunity to adjust their policies and procedures to create a more welcoming place for future employees.

Do you like this article? Do you want to tell us your opinion on the Great Resignation?
Share this article using #MysteryMinds #GreatResignation

Strengthen your company culture. Mystery Coffee helps you to connect your colleagues & strengthen your company culture. Learn more now.

About the author:

Christoph Drebes

Christoph is an entrepreneur from Munich and co-founded Mystery Minds in 2016. Mystery Minds' mission is to make the world of work more human by creating meaningful, personal connections between colleagues. The remote-only team already works with over 250 international companies, helping them to strengthen internal networks and overcome silo mentalities.

Originally published on April 25, 2022 at 10:00 AM, amended on January 12, 2024 at 3:24 PM


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