HR Blog

The Fake Resignation

Is The Great Resignation really happening, or going to happen any time soon? Is it just a tale or a myth? It sounds very similar to a story I’ve heard before, where a management consultant repeatedly tricks an executive into thinking that 50% of their employees are about to resign. Off the back of this fear, the consultant sells their tools/services claiming that it will solve all the executive’s attrition problems. Then, when the rate of attrition increases, the executive makes the stark realization that the management consultant was crying wolf. 

It’s taken a long time for the HR industry to identify the management consultants who’ve been crying “wolf!” I can see why. It’s incredibly puzzling to try and follow the flow and recommendations of management articles, especially if you are not in the habit of doing a little bit of source criticism,  where you ask: 

  • Who is the source? 
  • What is the purpose of the text? 
  • Is there a clear or hidden message?
  • Can you fact check? 
  • Do they make money, if so, how? 

We know source criticism works – school kids are now trained in source criticism as early as seven years old in order to keep them from being subject to sensationalism for commercial gain. By applying this 7-year-old tried and tested approach to recent articles regarding ‘The Great Resignation’, especially this one from Gallup, we can look past the misleading headline. 

The fact is there. Gallup’s 2021 study shows that 48% of employees are looking for a job or monitoring for opportunities vs. 46% in 2019. However, this does not mean that there will be a Great Resignation, or that there is Great Discontent across the board. 

An alternative conclusion could be that the world has been upside down for almost 2 years, but American employers managed to keep roughly the same engagement over this time. A different, less ‘scare-mongering’ article would speculate that the reason for such a positive finding (only 2% decrease during such disruption) is that most employers walked the extra mile to support their employees during this troublesome time. We think the main point of this article should highlight that this is a school book example on how you build loyalty – not with strategies or branding but with actions. Every. Single. Day. 

Does this mean that we don’t think attrition is a key area to understand and mitigate? No, of course not. It’s the opposite – we think it’s one of the most important areas to understand for any people department and executives. Hence, we can’t be dull and rely on clickbait, written to sell tools, service or traffic. 

It might be time consuming (and for some even a bit boring), to deeply understand a few things rather than being on the surface of many things. But to make sound business decisions, we need to do the hard work and stay level-headed. Looking past the panic in the industry, and with some calm thinking, you can remember what you as an HR professional already know: attrition is based around engagement, and understanding triggers around mass exiting will allow you to do good solid HR work for the good of your people and your business. We need to understand and then execute on the findings in our own companies. Every. Single. Day.

The not so well hidden secret is that building a culture that attracts and retains the right talent (where there’s a culture add-on) isn’t something you focus on during a single quarter when you see volatility in your attrition numbers, or when management consultants are screaming wolf – it’s something you focus on every day. This is how you avoid a mass resignation, and instead create an organizational culture where your talent wants to stay and perform.

Disco, our people analytics platform is the true source of information at Spotify. It’s what we rely upon to know our employees. It’s what helps us to avoid transactional HR. It keeps our whole organisation intentional and strategic. It acts as a springboard for the everyday work that shapes our culture.

Don’t only hear the screams of “The Great Resignation is here!”. Instead, recognize that those cries are coming no matter what the data suggests. Have a sober dialogue around the fact that 2021 looks the same as 2019. Then focus on understanding the real trends – from your people and in your business. 

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