The Great Resignation: What it means to work, life and career

Almost two years into the pandemic and some Australian employers may perhaps be faced with their greatest challenge yet – that is The Great Resignation.

By Josephine Simone and Dr Selvi Kannan

The Great Resignation: What it means to work, life and career

Almost two years into the pandemic and some Australian employers may perhaps be faced with their greatest challenge yet – that is The Great Resignation.

Talk about game-changing events. The global pandemic is continuing to transform the way in which we work and live. For many employees, to some extent, it has resulted in upheaval and merging of experiences to the domains of their work and life. This unchartered territory, along with the uncertainty and changes that continue to emerge within the pandemic landscape has caused many employees to reimagine and reassess the meaning and purpose of their personal affairs of work and life. This search for meaning and purpose, presents a potential predicament of various proportions for employers, even in recent instances where employees are considering resignation as a viable and suitable option to suit their individual circumstances.

Following overseas trends, The Great Resignation is expected to take place in Australia in the coming months. US Labour Statistics reported that in January 2022, approximately 4.5 million people had quit their jobs, with record numbers of employees aged 30 – 45 and from the health, social and transportation sectors. As confronting as this may be for organisations, this action demonstrates a necessity to rethink the root causes of resignation and how they may customize retention programs to retain talent.

So how can employers attempt to address this potentially challenging situation to ensure there is minimal impact on their organisation, amidst such precarious and uncertain pandemic circumstances and beyond?

One critical way is for organisations to foster and support the connection between their employees’ work, life and career by providing employees the autonomy and flexibility in return to their valuable contribution. This vital connective link can assist with supporting employees to integrate, balance, and achieve their work, life and career goals in a meaningful and suitable way.

Organisations could encourage their employees to develop a comprehensive Employee Work, Life Plan that harmonizes their circumstances of work (productivity and learning) and life (wellbeing and lifestyles) with future career plans. An Employer-Employee Work, Life and Career Plan should provide a myriad of benefits to both employees and their current employers in promoting a sense of meaningfulness of work:

  • Charge employees to exercise autonomy and flexibility in exchange for a commitment to value contribution to the organisation;
  • Incorporate a holistic approach of requirements and needs that considers knowledge, skills and wellbeing;
  • Provide more transparent meaning and purpose of work, life and career to both employees and employers. Where employers have a responsibility to nurture a working environment that instils a sense of purpose, community, and belonging whilst employees identify their individual-level factors that give them satisfaction;
  • Highlight employees’ current circumstances, goals, aspirations and subjective experiences as a result of the pandemic;
  • Charting a balanced approach of life, work and career;
  • Assist human resources with negotiating and designing individualized working arrangements;
  • Contribute to value mapping where both employer and employee have a value exchange agreement that charts milestones in work motivation and satisfaction;
  • Set to be an organisational toolkit that can be self-managed.

The pandemic continues to exacerbate issues associated with the retention of skilled talent, putting pressure on many Australian organisations to rethink employee retention. Whether the Great Resignation takes place in Australia is yet to be seen. Regardless, given the wave of change that is occurring in the pursuit of meaning and purpose, this could be a timely opportunity for organisations to focus on the connection between their employees’ work, life and their career in such a way that is suitable and meaningful to employees and contributes value and commitment to organisations.

Josephine Simone, DBA Candidate, Victoria University, is conducting a doctoral study in the career breaks of women in STEM and is supervised by Dr Selvi Kannan.

Dr Selvi Kannan, Academic & Course Chair Management & Innovation, Victoria University.  Available for conversations on Designing and Developing an Employer-Employee Life, Work and Career Toolkit.


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