Navigating ‘The Great Resignation’

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Belk College of Business professor Natasha Randle says it’s important for employers to focus on management fundamentals as record numbers of employees are quitting their jobs.

Natasha RandleManagers are navigating the ripple effects of the pandemic in what has been called “The Great Resignation,” with workers leaving their jobs at a record rate in 2021. And based on Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) projections, this is unlikely to change in 2022. 

Randle, who teaches human resource management and organizational behavior as a clinical professor at UNC Charlotte’s Belk College of Business, said there are three key reasons for the change:

  • Pent-up turnover demand as workers waited through the pandemic to pursue opportunities.
  • “Transforming reflections,” where workers had time during the pandemic to reflect on what is important to them. She’s also seeing this in the classroom when she asks students to think about how they are different now because of the pandemic. The reasons students offer vary from prioritizing family and friends, spending more time on wellness, to enjoying nature and acknowledging they are experiencing burnout and need to focus on their mental health. 
  • Because the jobs are available, many employees are deciding the time is right to make the move. Reasons include more pay, a promotion or a better company culture.

Randle said employers who are looking to navigate “The Great Resignation” in 2022 can benefit by following management theory, such as Hackman and Oldman’s job characteristics model, but with a contemporary application. 

“This model, which dates back to the 1970s, says in order to get positive outcomes, we should focus on things that are important,” Randle said.

Randle said relevant management foundations include:

  • Autonomy: Employees have enjoyed flexibility at home during the pandemic and some may benefit from continued autonomy in how they work as long as it aligns with the overall goals of the organization, she said.
  • Feedback: Engage employees by offering feedback and recognition. Feedback is made better by actively listening to employees. “Listen with your ears, but with your eyes as well to fully capture the things that employees are communicating,” she said. Also, pay attention when employees who have been active become withdrawn or disengaged. Offer feedback and craft solutions. 
  • Significance: When employees find that their jobs make significant contributions, particularly areas that are important to them, studies find they are more engaged and more likely to be retained. Employers should consider ways for employees to see and celebrate the impact of their work.

Randle added that employers are paying a premium when hiring and training new people when they also could focus on retaining good people. 

“This isn’t necessarily just about pay but could also be about autonomy, feedback and impactful work.”