The Great Resignation: true or false?

Talk of the great resignation emerged from America early this year — a term that describes how many Americans are leaving their jobs in the wake of the pandemic. A recent Forbes article cites a 2021 report by Microsoft, claiming that approximately 41% of the global workforce and 54% of Gen Z workers could be considering resignation.

So when 37% of the global workforce feels their companies are asking too much of them, how do we muster the energy to continue diversity and inclusion work? And how does that work relate to the great resignation? 

It may be that workers are exhausted, burnt out, or looking for a fresh start as we enter the “new normal.” Some may have considered leaving their jobs before the pandemic, but instead decided to hunker down and postpone career advancement. There’s no doubt that growing global awareness of systemic diversity, equity, and inclusion issues has shifted people’s focus to  business culture and the job market. Employers have come under scrutiny to manage themselves with greater empathy, social responsibility, and ethics — something that may have gone unnoticed before the pandemic. 

At Acrolinx, we have employees working from approximately 12 countries, including Germany, US, Canada, UK, Japan, Columbia, Spain, Portugal, Africa, India, the Netherlands, and Australia. We’ve collected some of our best insights to help you prepare for the great resignation, keeping in mind the critical role of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Insight #1: Leverage cross-cultural knowledge in recruitment 

For some businesses, attracting adequately skilled employees during the great resignation may mean taking the work to the talent, instead of bringing the talent to the work. Inevitably, that means we’re seeing a rapid expansion of global teams that span continents, languages, and cultures. Raman (2018) states that understanding cultural differences is one of the most important skills companies can develop for competitive advantage in international business. But according to researchers, more hours spent communicating virtually actually exacerbates the challenges of intercultural communication (Szkudlarek et al., 2020). 

Cross cultural training is essential to the success of your organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts. It helps foster connections between employees and creates a sense of belonging. But there are challenges. It’s not simply about avoiding offense, but also knowing how to collaborate and communicate successfully, while respecting cultural differences. 

An example of cross-cultural differences can be seen in Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory. Geert Hofstede developed a model for cross cultural communication, after analyzing data from a global employee survey of 116,000 IBM employees. Understanding the value dimensions between globally distributed teams keeps communication aligned to the goals of the business, with less conflict and misunderstanding in diverse teams.  

Value DimensionDescription
Power distanceHow cultures handle inequality and hierarchy among people
Uncertainty avoidanceThe degrees of tolerance to the unknown
Individualism – CollectivismA preference for loosely or tightly knit social relations
Masculinity – FemininityThe degree to which assertiveness or nurturance is valued (somewhat outdated)
Short term – Long term orientationThe degree to which a culture is forward-looking, attitudes towards perseverance, thrift.
Indulgence – RestraintThe extent to which a culture allows the gratification of impulses and desires.

Table: Hofstede’s value dimensions (Source: Lilienfield et al., 2018)

Insight #2: Get leadership involved

Inclusive leadership plays a role in keeping employees engaged and contributing “in knowledge intensive, complex, and uncertain environments“ (Choi, 2016).This insight has proven to be very relevant in the last 12-24 months. But if your organization’s D&I initiative isn’t sponsored at an executive level, and employees are doing D&I work as a secondary role to their main job — you can almost guarantee that people are exhausted from keeping morale steady. Leadership that’s attentive to the needs of workers beyond times of crisis, signals genuine care in employee wellbeing. 

Gallup found that not paying attention to employee well-being has cost businesses at least $322 billion globally (because of turnover and lost productivity due to burnout). It’s important to realize that workers may not have felt safe to take time off, or were stuck in the habit of pushing themselves too hard because they felt lucky to still have a job when the pandemic first hit. Leaders can encourage employees to take time off, reminding them that rest contributes to productivity in the long run. The best leaders will lead by example, signalling to teams that switching off sometimes is both possible and a necessary part of creativity, innovation, and productivity.  

Insight #3: Prioritize upskilling and trainability

As it happens, 79 percent of CEOs are either extremely or somewhat concerned about the workplace skills gap. But it’s not just about skill. Many people on the lookout for a new role are questioning their purpose in their current role. The Peakson’s 2021 Employee Expectations Report found that while salary and wages are still important factors for employees, a sense of purpose and values has become more important. This is actually great news for your business because it gives employers the chance to ask workers how they see their career developing. It also offers them growth opportunities within the same organization.

And when it comes to new hires, look for trainability over the perfect fit. If you’re favoring candidates who have worked for certain companies or attended certain colleges, you might overlook candidates from underrepresented groups. Instead, ditch your traditional expectations and embrace a growth mindset! 


Jane Betts, chief people officer at Findex, says her company focused on a few key areas to help mitigate the risk of the great resignation:

  1. Help current employees thrive through inclusive leadership and DEI.
  2. Enable employees to grow with career opportunities.
  3. Create a strong sense of alumni for those who may be tempted to return in the future. 

Want to learn more about eLearning and upskilling? We have another great blog called Upskilling and e-Learning: Critical Tools for a Changing Workforce to help you incorporate upskilling initiatives into your business.

Insight #4: Make the shift to inclusive enterprise content

LinkedIn’s figures suggest that the average number of applications per job are down 63% compared to one year ago. Which means it’s more important than ever to speak to a diverse workforce, with inclusive content. If there’s talent out there, you don’t want non-inclusive content to stand between you and the perfect candidate! Communicating in a way that breaks gender stereotypes, includes non-binary identites, and uses history-conscious and ableist-free language is possible. Our inclusive language guide is a great place to start if those concepts are new to you! It might sound complicated, but thankfully, there’s a number of digital solutions that support inclusive language initiatives across your entire company’s content. 

Just take Acrolinx! Acrolinx is an AI-powered software platform that improves the quality and effectiveness of enterprise content. We help some of the world’s most valuable brands meet complex content challenges at immense scale — across writers, languages, and cultures. The Acrolinx Inclusive Language feature checks your entire enterprise content for:

  1. Respectful language
  2. Gender neutral language
  3. Person first language
  4. Inclusive representation. 

And it offers guidance to all your writers — in more than 50 authoring environments — for how they can represent their content and communications more inclusively.  

Don’t know where to start? No problem! Take a peek at our Inclusive Language for HR brochure, or watch the inclusive language feature in action

References

Choi, S. B., Tran, T. B. H., & Kang, S.W. (2017). Inclusive Leadership and Employee Well-Being: The Mediating Role of Person-Job Fit. Journal of Happiness Studies, 18(6), 1877–1901. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-016-9801-6

Delecta, J., & Raman, G. P. (2015). Cross cultural communication barriers in the workplace. 6. 332-335. International Journal of Management, 6(1), 332-33

Lilienfeld, S. O., Lynn, S. J., Namy, L. L., Jamieson, G., Marks, A., & Slaughter, V. (2018). Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding (3rd ed.). Pearson. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/rmit/reader.action?docID=5472925&ppg=1

Mann, K. (2021) Brace Yourself For The Great Resignation: A Note To The Leaders, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2021/11/01/brace-yourself-for-the-great-resignation-a-note-to-the-leaders/?sh=4464188c62be

Maskiel, L. (2021) The Great Resignation Down Under: Aussies begin job hopping, LinkedIn data shows, SmartCompany,https://www.smartcompany.com.au/people-human-resources/great-resignation-aussies-changing-jobs/

Microsoft (2021) The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready? Work Trend Index, https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/hybrid-work

Szkudlarek, B., Osland, J. S., Nardon, L., & Zander, L. (2020). Communication and culture in international business – Moving the field forward. Journal of World Business : JWB, 55(6), 101126  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jwb.2020.1011265