The first reference to the ‘Great Resignation’ (aka the Big Quit) is credited to Anthony Klotz, a professor of management at a Texas University who used the phrase in interviews and articles in May 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly caused workers of all ages and stages to rethink their careers, their work conditions, and their long-term goals – something colleagues at Tile Hill have been witnessing up close. A greater proportion of conversations with new or prospective applicants to senior permanent and interim roles are driven by a desire to work differently – often in a different place, with a different work pattern and in a role with a markedly different focus and priorities.
We’ve seen further evidence of this through a series of regular webinars that we host for new and aspiring interim managers. The webinars cover some of the things to consider when embarking on an interim career and uptake for these sessions has doubled from pre-pandemic levels with a much larger proportion of attendees considering taking the leap from a permanent role into an interim career.
More evidence of The Great Resignation can be found in the most recent Office for National Statistics labour market figures which shows ‘total job-to-job moves increased to a record high of 994,000, driven by resignations rather than dismissals, during the January to March 2022 period’.
Coupled with this, for the first time since records began, the number of job vacancies in the UK is higher than the number of unemployed people, with 1.3m job vacancies open, in the most recent quarter. The number of older workers (those aged between 55 and 64) out of a job and not looking for work has risen by 586,000 since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, reversing decades of steady growth of the over-50s in the UK workforce.
According to think-tank The Resolution Foundation ‘participation in the UK workforce fell by 1.2% among older workers, by the three months to August 2021’. This is creating gaps at a senior level in organisations at a faster rate than we’ve seen before and this figure is contrary to what has been seen during other recessions.
In the financial crisis of 2008 for example, it rose by 1.4%. This has led some commentators to highlight the ‘Great Retirement’ as one of the significant factors contributing to the Big Quit.
All of this makes for an interesting and dynamic job market in which to chart your career. So, what are the opportunities for those that remain in this new world of work?
• Opportunity often exists within change and uncertainty
Greg Hayes, director of executive search at Tile Hill says: ‘Over the past 12 months, we’ve been seeing a rise in the number of campaigns we’re leading to replace retiring chief executives and those retiring from senior leadership posts. This provides the opportunity for those that remain to be at the centre of any restructuring and to help shape it. There’s the opportunity to take on more, gain exposure to different areas of work, broaden your skills and secure a promotion.
‘When positioning yourself for promotion within your current organisation, it pays to take the initiative and look at ways to contribute to broader goals.’
• Demonstrate your leadership skills and get noticed in your workplace
With employee turnover and vacancies at an all-time high, now is a great time to get noticed. Demonstrating leadership qualities doesn’t rely solely on having a huge team and there’s an opportunity to show your ability to inspire and motivate others in many different situations.
Recognise these situations when they arise and grasp the opportunity to stand out for high performance. With greater exposure comes greater scope to stand out for identifying and solving problems and for bringing fresh thinking and new ideas to situations.
• Sharpen up your CV and connect with relevant recruiters
Being qualified to do the job is one thing – securing the job is another. Taking time now to connect with the right recruiters can help you to be ready to make that next step. Good recruiters will know their market and will be able to help and advise so that you can be better equipped to succeed in applications and interviews.
It’s a good idea to dust off your CV and to get it polished up – spending time now thinking about and listing your achievements can make the application process go more smoothly and can provide you with a confidence boost.
The Great Resignation offers opportunities for employees and employers alike. While local government is no longer recognised for offering the job for life and career stability it did in the past, all organisations will recognise the disappointment of losing talented people with leadership potential through a lack of movement and succession at a senior level.
The Great Resignation offers the opportunity for organisations to bring talented people into senior roles from both within and outside of their organisation. It is a much-needed opportunity to improve diversity and representation within senior teams and bring in people with fresh perspectives who’ll provide positive challenge to established approaches.
By focusing on cultural add rather than cultural fit, it may be possible to positively shift organisational culture far faster than before while, at the same time, rethinking structures and approaches. By acknowledging the trend towards greater flexibility in our working lives there is also an opportunity for organisations that can create good jobs with lots of flexibility, to be rewarded with a greater ability to retain and attract a new generation of leadership talent.
David Weir is director and founder of Tile Hill.