By Patrick Gallen, Partner, People and Change Consulting, Grant Thornton Ireland

Like me you may have heard of the term the ‘Great Resignation’ over the last few months. The phrase was coined in the US and describes the current mass exodus of employees from the workforce. The term is equally relevant across the UK and Ireland. Most organisations have noted a higher turnover in staff over the last six months than in the previous 18-months.

Microsoft’s Work Index shows that 41 per cent of the global workforce is “considering a job change in the next year”. Pandemic burnouts, changing personal priorities, a review of work-life balance and employee experience expectations are some of the factors that could explain this trend. One thing is for sure – employers need to be taking cognisance of it, as the war for retaining top talent heats up.

So, what can organisations do about it? The answer starts with addressing the root causes of why staff are moving on and analysing the data behind those resignation statistics.

It comes down to pretty much the four core basics of strategic workforce planning; how you attract staff, the employee value proposition, how you develop and deploy staff, and finally how you retain them.

Resignation rates are highest among mid-career employees, between the ages of 30 and 45. While turnover is typically higher among younger employees, over the last year or so, resignations actually decreased for workers in the 20 to 25 age group – mainly in part to a higher level of financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

Patrick Gallen

So what are some of the reasons for the increase in resignations among the mid-tier group?  Firstly, it is possible that the shift to remote working has led employers to believe that recruiting staff with little experience/graduates would be riskier than usual, since new employees won’t have the benefit of on-the-job training and guidance. This would create greater demand for mid-career employees, thus making them more marketable to employers.

Another contributing factor is pent-up demand. Many of these mid-level employees may have delayed transitioning out of their roles due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, resulting in the increased resignations we have seen over the last few months, which could be the result of more than years’ worth of pent-up demand.

And of course, many of these workers may have simply reached breaking point after months of high workloads, pay and recruitment freezes, causing them to reflect on their work and life goals. This would also explain why resignations are highest in the technology and health sectors.

According to Gartner, retaining the high potential top talent in your organisation (those within the 30-45 age bracket) can be the difference between a weak leadership pipeline and a strong team that will drive future business growth. Its research indicates that firms with weak leadership succession grow their revenue only half as fast as the strong ones. Yet while 62% of HR leaders rank managing their top talent as a key priority, only 13% of companies are confident they do a good job of it.

In these times of the great resignation, losing your top talent can deepen the crisis, so doing nothing about it is not an option.