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In our latest episode of Coffee Mornings, Episode 18, Sam and Robbie explore the transformative shift from the Great Resignation to the Big Stay era. Building on the rich discussions from this episode, this blog offers an expanded perspective on these dynamic changes in the global labour market. For those who missed the episode or wish to revisit the conversation, it’s available for viewing on YouTube and for listening on Spotify.

“This is episode eighteen of our Coffee Mornings the ‘Big Stay’ era which is a complete flip on the Big Leave. That was what six months ago was it? But interestingly I think this is going to be a really interesting topic because we have seen this massive shift from people leaving in droves… to coming out the other way.” – Sam​ Ingram, CEO of Northreach

Let’s start by exploring the transition from the Great Resignation to the Big Stay. We’ll explore the reasons and mechanisms behind this significant paradigm shift.

The Great Resignation: A historical context

A global workforce phenomenon: The year 2022 witnessed a phenomenon that would significantly redefine the workforce landscape: the Great Resignation. This period saw an unprecedented number of over 50 million individuals globally choosing to leave their jobs. As discussed in Episode 18, this mass resignation wave reshaped not only the nature of work but also the expectations and aspirations of the global workforce.

The pandemic’s role in reshaping work dynamics: Triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, this period led to a profound reassessment of work norms. The enforced shift to remote working and the extended periods of lockdowns provided a rare opportunity for employees to introspect about their careers, work environments, and life priorities.

Redefining work preferences and balance: Our discussion in Episode 18 highlighted how remote work transitioned from being a temporary solution to a preferred way of working for many. Employees across the globe started seeking jobs that offered greater flexibility, aligning more closely with their values, and offering a better work-life balance.

Economic repercussions and gig economy’s rise: We also touched upon the economic factors at play during the pandemic. The recovery phase saw a surge in individuals seeking better job opportunities, often with higher pay and improved conditions. Alongside, the gig economy gained momentum, offering lucrative alternatives to traditional employment.

Signs of change in 2023: The emergence of the Big Stay era

We now turn our focus to the emerging signs of change observed in 2023. This year marked a pivotal moment in the labour market, signalling a move towards stabilisation and equilibrium.

  • Declining quit rates: A key indicator of this evolving landscape was the noticeable decrease in the quit rate. This reduction in the number of employees voluntarily leaving their positions was a clear sign of changing dynamics. It suggested that workers were beginning to find more reasons to stay put, whether due to improved job satisfaction, better alignment with employers’ values, or a sense of security in their current roles.

“And here’s a great start to the Great Resignation. Right. So back in 2022, 50 million people left their jobs voluntarily in 2022. Which I think is bonkers…” – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach

“50 million people have just moved to a company where they’re quite happy. Yeah. So, they’re not going to move again because of this paradigm shift of I think more power has gone to the employees during the big leave now it’s transitioning back over to the employers.” – Robbie Blake, Senior Recruitment Consultant

  • Increased workforce participation: Another positive signal was the rise in the workforce participation rate. This uptick indicated that more individuals, having weathered the uncertainties of the previous years, were either re-entering the workforce or actively seeking employment. This shift pointed to a growing confidence in the job market, possibly fuelled by better job conditions or a more optimistic economic outlook.
  • Slowing salary growth for job changers: In the thick of the Great Resignation, one of the driving forces for job changes was the prospect of higher salaries. However, as we entered 2023, there was a noticeable slowdown in the salary growth rate for those changing jobs. This deceleration suggested that the market was moving away from the talent competition that had characterised the previous year and was now approaching a more stable state.

These signs of change marked a significant departure from the turbulence of the Great Resignation. They hinted at the onset of the Big Stay era – a period characterised by greater job stability and a workforce more inclined to remain with their current employers. Sam, raises an interesting question in the episode:

“Is it arguable? Just saying if people are staying and that people are happier now in their jobs. Or are they more scared about leaving because there’s nothing else out there? Or is it a mix of both?” – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach

So, in the following sections, we’ll explore the nuances of the Big Stay era and what it means for employers and employees alike.

The implications for employers and HR leaders

“So yeah, big stay is interesting. So how is it good for employers and HR? I think that the big focus is on ‘retention’. The topic has always held priority and talked about since the inception of Northreach. Working on a strategy that’s not just focused on hiring people but getting them to stay. You know build a workforce where people aren’t leaving, and you’ve got a very low attrition rate.” – Robbie​​ Blake, Senior Recruitment Consultant

The transition from the Great Resignation to the Big Stay era brings about significant implications for employers and HR leaders. One of the most notable changes is the shift in focus for Human Resources departments from reactive to proactive.

A breather for HR: Shifting from crisis to strategy

  • Transitioning away from crisis management: During the height of the Great Resignation, HR departments were primarily occupied with managing the crisis of high turnover rates. The constant need to fill vacancies and onboard new employees rapidly meant that HR teams were perpetually in a state of reactive management. However, with the onset of the Big Stay era, there is a noticeable shift away from this constant rush.
  • Developing long-term retention strategies: The Big Stay provides an opportunity for HR professionals to breathe and refocus their efforts on developing more sustainable, long-term strategies for employee retention. This involves moving beyond the traditional methods of employee management and exploring innovative approaches to keep employees engaged and committed to their roles.
  • Enhancing the employee experience: A crucial aspect of this shift is the renewed focus on enhancing the overall employee experience. In the Big Stay era, it’s not enough for employers to simply retain their staff; they need to ensure that employees are genuinely satisfied and engaged with their work. This involves understanding the needs and expectations of the workforce and creating an environment where employees feel valued, understood, and motivated.
  • Empowering employees for productivity: Another important implication for employers in the Big Stay era is the need to empower employees. When employees feel empowered and have a sense of ownership over their work, they are more likely to be productive and contribute positively to the organisation. Employers and HR leaders need to create policies and practices that foster empowerment, such as providing opportunities for professional development, offering flexible work arrangements, and encouraging employee autonomy.

“I recently had a conversation with a company about the challenges of scaling, particularly about how to apply metrics to people in this process. The main question we explored was how to maintain alignment between the company’s culture and the employees’ values as the business grows. Traditionally, this alignment has been managed through performance review statistics. However, we discussed a more insightful approach: understanding the rationale and motivations behind employees’ behaviours. This understanding allows us to focus on input first. By considering factors like empowerment and job satisfaction, we can ensure that individuals are engaged and productive. When employees feel empowered and work on tasks they enjoy, it naturally leads to better outcomes for the company.” – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach

  • Adopting a holistic approach: HR departments now can adopt a more holistic approach to managing their workforce. This includes prioritising employee well-being, promoting work-life balance, and ensuring that the company culture aligns with the values and goals of the employees. By doing so, employers can create a more harmonious and productive workplace, leading to higher job satisfaction and lower turnover rates.

As HR departments transition away from the constant rush of managing high turnover, the focus now shifts towards key areas crucial for fostering a stable and thriving workforce in the Big Stay era. These focal points are not just strategies but essential components for ensuring a resilient and successful organisation.

New challenges: Engagement, motivation, and addressing “Quiet Quitting”

As the workplace landscape shifts from the Great Resignation to the Big Stay era, employers are now dealing with new challenges to ensure long-term organisational success. Among these challenges are employee engagement, motivation, and the increasingly recognised phenomenon of “quiet quitting.”

Engagement and motivation

  • Employee engagement: Engagement is a critical driver of organisational performance. A Gallup study revealed that highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability. However, keeping employees engaged is a complex task that goes beyond mere job satisfaction and involves their emotional investment and commitment to the organisation.
  • Motivation: Employee motivation is another crucial aspect. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, employees who feel valued are more likely to report higher levels of engagement, satisfaction, and motivation. Employers must create an environment where employees feel their work is meaningful and recognised.

Addressing “Quiet Quitting”

  • Understanding the phenomenon: “Quiet quitting” refers to a scenario where employees may physically be present but are mentally checked out or doing the bare minimum. This disengagement can be detrimental to team dynamics and overall productivity.
  • Recognising the signs: Identifying quiet quitting can be challenging, as it’s not always overt. Employers need to be vigilant about changes in employee behaviour, such as reduced enthusiasm for projects or lack of participation in meetings and team activities.
  • Strategies for addressing Quiet Quitting: Addressing this issue requires a proactive approach. Encouraging open communication, providing regular feedback, and recognising employees’ efforts can help. Additionally, creating opportunities for growth and development is crucial. A LinkedIn Learning report highlighted that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.

Key focus areas for employers

“Just breaking it down in terms of like: Good training and development. Open and clear communication. Drafting clear objectives and expectations from each role that aren’t ridiculous.” – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach

  • Learning and Development: Investing in learning and development is crucial for employee retention and organisational success. Employers must provide continuous learning opportunities, adapt to the modern learning landscape, and invest in technology to support employee development. Studies show that companies offering comprehensive training programs enjoy higher income per employee and better profitability.
  • Performance and recognition: Recognising employees’ contributions is essential for retention and organisational success. Modern methods like gamification, social recognition, and personalised rewards play a crucial role in employee engagement and motivation.

“Recognition and I think that’s a big part of it as well. I think people that are doing well in their roles are being looked after more than they previously have.” – Robbie Blake, Senior Recruitment Consultant

  • Cultivating a strong company culture and employee experience: Learning from the Great Resignation, it’s vital to prioritise well-being, flexibility, meaningful work, diversity, and open communication. These factors contribute significantly to job satisfaction and retention.

Takeaway

  1. Embrace the shift: Recognise the opportunities and challenges of the “Big Stay” era. Focus on retaining and engaging the current workforce.
  2. Invest in employee growth: Prioritise learning and development to ensure a clear path for growth within the organisation.
  3. Reinforce recognition: Regularly acknowledge and reward employees’ contributions using modern, engaging methods.
  4. Cultivate a strong company culture: Promote socialisation, relationship-building, and open communication. Utilise tools and technologies to enhance the employee experience.
  5. Address “Quiet Quitting”: Stay vigilant to signs of disengagement and implement feedback mechanisms to address potential issues.
  6. Action steps for organisations and employees: Encourage regular feedback sessions, invest in training programs, update recognition systems, and promote team-building activities.

In summary, the new challenges in the Big Stay era, including maintaining employee engagement, ensuring motivation, and addressing quiet quitting, require employers to adopt a more nuanced and proactive approach to workforce management. By focusing on creating a positive work environment where employees feel valued and have growth opportunities, employers can navigate these challenges successfully and foster a committed and productive workforce.