The Great Resignation or The Great Opportunity

The years 2020 and 2021 marked the beginning of a shift in workplace dynamics, from one where employers were determining what was needed for them to offer jobs, toward employees determining what is needed for them to accept jobs. People are realizing they have career choices, from permanent to temporary, from in-person to remote, from working for someone to working for oneself.

One thing remains true, there is always a need for talent.

Everyday I have conversations with people about the reasons they are considering staying at their job, considering leaving their job or taking more time to think about their next steps. What is clear is there is a disconnect between what employers think is happening in the workplace and what employees think is happening in the workplace and it is worth talking about this in greater detail.

This is about pivoting, not quitting

I’ve stumbled on many articles with pictures of people wearing sunglasses and drinking pina coladas on the beach, seemingly free from the decisions of everyday life. The reality is quite different. There are lots of stressful days and sleepless nights that go hand in hand with the decision to make a major change in life. Some people leave because they feel as if they have no choice. Some people leave because they feel as if they want to explore a different choice. They aren’t giving up, they are changing paths, to one that is more aligned with their own personal choices.

What can HR professionals do?

Don’t wait for employees to announce they are leaving to find out how they feel. Get a consistent pulse by sending out frequent, anonymous surveys and acting on the red flags.

What can DEI practitioners do?

Support employees throughout the entire talent life cycle from recruiting, onboarding, engagement, retention, rewards, retention, and transition.

The reasons are multifaceted

The announcements come out week after week. Every time someone leaves it appears as if someone leaves after them. And the one question lingering in everyone’s mind is, why? The reason is rarely single faceted and dependent on a number of different factors, included and not limited to — salary, promotional paths, workplace culture, family obligations, health (mental and physical) and burnout. People are experiencing a wake-up coming out of the past two years armed with choices and this won’t change anytime soon.

What can HR professionals do?

Create resources for employees to safely rely on when they need to report bad behavior. Hire professionals to do investigations and have strict zero-tolerance policies against discrimination and retaliation.

What can DEI practitioners do?

Focus on the reasons that people are leaving that are rooted in workplace culture and create accountability measures that everyone is held to. Advocate for the importance of this at the highest levels of the company and protect people’s anonymity.

A renewed focus on inclusion

We all know, a company’s best resource is its people. So what are they doing to take care of them? This time is an urgent call for a shift away from DEI as nice-to-have, unaddressed microaggressions, and lack of leadership accountability. Up to this point, we have seen a lot of performative allyship which is rooted more in how companies appear than how they function. Healthy workplaces are winning over toxic workplaces and are continuing to lure employees that want to be treated right.

What can HR professionals do?

Have an honest conversation about the role of HR in DEI. Is HR there to protect the company or the employees, or both? Propose that DEI sits in its own function.

What can DEI practitioners do?

Ask for resources and for a restructuring under the CEO, giving more authority to DEI practitioners to be able to share strategy and policies and practices in an open and honest way.

Even with choices in hand, some people would just prefer to be their own boss. According to Forbes, Black Female Entrepreneurs Are Launching More Businesses Than Ever but the conversation is not complete with taking a look at how investors will approach this opportunity and support those of us who have stepped into our role as leaders.

Now is the time to think and act differently. You may call it the great resignation, I call it the great opportunity.

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Diya Khanna

Diya Khanna is a global diversity, equity, inclusion consultant and is now the founder of Global IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity in Action)