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Has your HR department mentioned processing a higher-than-usual amount of resignation letters in the last few years? You’re probably experiencing the effects of the Great Resignation. And your company is far from alone; more than 53% of companies across the United States, Canada, Australia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom experienced higher voluntary employee turnover in 2021 than in previous years. 

You may have heard about the Great Resignation within the hospitality industry. For example, in April 2021, more than 740,000 people in leisure, entertainment, and hospitality left their jobs. But this problem is as prevalent in white collar organizations, and is a cause of concern for HR professionals across the world.

The solution? Reskilling and upskilling employees across the company. 

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What is the Great Resignation?
  • The Real Reasons People are Quitting
  • The Key to Keeping Talent
  • Encouraging Upskilling and Reskilling at Work
  • Adapting the Learning Journey for a Hybrid Workplace

Ready to get started? Book a call with our team now and discover how Thinkific Plus can enable you to launch an online academy for your employees, fast!

What is the Great Resignation?

Coined by Anthony Klutz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, the term “Great Resignation” refers to the ongoing economic trend caused by a voluntary mass exodus of talent across the world.

Almost immediately after the WHO declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, American businesses began to lay off their workers in large numbers. As offices and retail stores closed, layoff numbers jumped from 1.3% of total employed workers in February to a whopping 8.6% in March. Many people scrambled to find alternative sources of income. Voluntary resignation rates dipped below 2% for the first time in five years. 

But almost exactly one year later, the resignations began pouring in – and they still haven’t stopped.

Resignation levels have risen across the United States and around the world, climbing into the millions each month. In November 2021, there were 4.5 million resignations (about 3% of the American workforce) across all industries. 4.3 million of these resignations were from the private sector. 

Some of the initial resignations could be attributed to regular attrition. As Anthony Klutz told Bloomberg in May 2021: “When there’s uncertainty, people tend to stay put, so there are pent-up resignations that didn’t happen over the past year.” 

The Great Resignation continues and shows no signs of stopping. In fact, 41% of white collar workers are at least somewhat likely to leave their current job in the next 3-6 months. So why, exactly, are people still leaving their jobs?

The Real Reasons People are Quitting

Based on first-hand accounts, many employees, especially in the service industry, have resigned from their positions because of untenable conditions. This includes low wages, required overtime, and lack of health benefits or paid sick days.

Many others left their positions due to concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic. These workers were primarily either in front-facing positions requiring significant contact with customers, or in factory settings where social distancing became almost impossible.

Not everyone, however, is resigning their job due to transactional factors like salary. Even workers with what may seem like solid full-time jobs and great benefits packages have left their positions. For many, even a one-time bonus or promises of other monetary rewards are not enough to convince them to stay.

They’re not necessarily hopping over to work for competing organizations, either. Last year, 25% of white collar workers in all income levels quit without having their next job lined up.

There’s a clear divide between why employers think they are losing talent, and why those employees are really leaving. 

According to a recent McKinsey study, employers believed their workers were resigning due to inadequate compensation, a desire to work remotely, poor health, or because they had been poached by another company. In reality, surveyed employees rated relational elements much higher. Factors included flexible work schedule, sense of belonging, having positive relationships with managers and teammates – and potential for advancement.

Why do employees look for opportunities to advance? It’s not just a question of compensation. Many workers are experiencing a general feeling of career stagnation. Whether it’s a promotion, a lateral move, or a completely new industry, people all over the world have been re-examining their career path.

When it comes down to it, many workers want to leave because their employers are not investing in their skills development or career progression.

The Key to Keeping Talent

So how do you mitigate this major cause of the Great Resignation? 

By focusing on upskilling and reskilling the employees that you still have.

Provide your current employees with learning and growth opportunities. Develop a company continuous learning strategy to empower them to participate in a reskilling or upskilling program as part of their employment. Give them a reason to stay by showing that you value their potential and their evolving goals. It’ll work; employees with the opportunity for internal mobility stay at their jobs almost twice as long as those without. 

Top employers in the United States are already taking this approach. In October 2020, Amazon announced that it will invest over $1.2 billion to provide free upskilling training programs for employees. Why? Because they’d rather provide professional options for workers within the company than lose them en masse.

If you play your cards right, you’ll also be addressing employees’ lack of a sense of belonging or strong relationships with managers and teammates. It’s well known that workers who have a positive experience with job training have overall higher job satisfaction – and therefore are less likely to quit. Social learning formats and gamification can also encourage collaboration across teams and departments at all levels.

Encouraging Upskilling and Reskilling at Work

If you’re looking to create lasting change and improve employee retention, you need a strategic, long-term approach to employee upskilling. This doesn’t mean adding the occasional lunch-and-learn or webinar, but an organizational culture shift to one of continuous learning.

Continuous learning can include employee development of technical skills such as a specific type of computer programming, as well as soft skills such as leadership, management, collaboration, and more. It equips employees to either move up in their current area of expertise (upskilling) or shift to a different role in the organization (reskilling).

The best corporate training programs are tailored to the interests and needs of the participants within the context of your organization. After all, you’re looking to intrigue and engage them enough to envision their next career step with you over other available options.

Top tips to get started:

  • Determine your learning outcomes based on future growth goals
  • Conduct an internal survey among employees and managers to gauge interest on major learning topics and new skills
  • Review Universal Design for Learning principles to ensure you’re creating an inclusive learning environment and addressing any potential learning barriers
  • Explore a training mix according to the 70-20-10 model (a combination of experiential, social, and formal training) for optimal employee engagement.

Adapting the Learning Journey for a Hybrid Workplace

Whether you have an existing learning program or are just starting to develop one now, you’ll need to account for today’s hybrid workplace. As the workday and home life become ever more intertwined, time-sensitive synchronous learning just doesn’t make sense anymore. Among those who have a workplace outside of their home, 61% of workers now say they are choosing not to go into their workplace.

A learning management system like Thinkific Plus is a great tool to customize the learning experience to your brand and your learning outcomes. The best part? It facilitates hybrid learning paths that combine digital media with classic educator-led formats. 

Check out our specific tips on creating an online employee training program.

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