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From Great Resignation to Great Re-evaluation: How to attract and keep top talent this year

By Rebecca Houghton, Founder, BoldHR

  • The current increase in workers leaving their jobs is a culmination of a set of trends that were underway long before COVID.
  • However, the stakes have changes and workplaces that have not moved with the times risk being left behind.
  • This article provides three recommendations that your organisation can implement.

In the world of talent and careers, we’ve not had a catch-phrase as snappy as ‘The Great Resignation’ since ‘The War for Talent’ was invented in 1997! And just the like the War for Talent, it’s already overused, inaccurate and fear-mongering.

This is not a great resignation — that suggests that people have made a sudden decision to do something dramatic that we didn’t see coming. That’s misleading. Instead consider it the culmination of a set of trends that were underway long before COVID could be blamed for people’s behaviour:

  • Retirement: demographic trends are hard to hide from and we’ve known for some time that this decade in Australia was going to carry more resignations than we’ve seen in around 20 years. This means large tranches of experienced workers, with proven resilience are exiting the workforce and their absence is putting significant pressure on those who come after.
  • Resilience: we knew that resilience was at its lowest ever recorded in 2018, and since the pandemic 85 per cent of people have said that their wellbeing and resilience has got worse. Here in Australia, burn-out is the worst in the world. Does this happen overnight? No it does not.
  • Work anywhere: regional capitals have been re-inventing themselves as destinations for mid-career professionals very successfully over the past decade, and have been given a terrific boost now that flexible working has finally become a reality. People have voted with their mortgages, and if you’re not ok with them working from anywhere, they’ll prioritise that over you.
  • Work anytime: flexible work has been on the HR agenda for almost six year. Again, COVID was merely an accelerant to the existing trend. Which is why the battle to ‘return to normal’ is going to be so hard-fought and highly questioned.
  • Resignation: there’s no escaping that there has been a bump in resignations in the first half of this calendar year. We all know it’s there. But — it’s always there at this time of year, and it’ll happen again after bonuses are paid. The difference with this year is that we are making up for almost two years of market stagnation — so it’s a predictable correction that feels worse in the context of the trends above.

It’s not resignation we need to be worried about, it’s the re-evaluation that’s been a long time coming that we should fear. The problem is, we’ve been ignoring these trends, and many of us would like to continue doing so — blaming COVID is far more comfortable than accepting responsibility for ignoring the signs.

As a leader, what can we do about it now? Have we left it too late? I’d argue no you haven’t, but you can’t afford to delay. Here are three things you can do that will make a big difference and fast:

First, bite the bullet and make the inevitable adjustments that have been so long coming, such as flexible working policies and catching up on aged pay rates. These are table stakes now, and without them you simply won’t compete. This can be a challenge for some senior executives, from both a trust and a balance sheet perspective, but in this case the march of time will demand it of us, so we can choose to lead or follow. What we can’t choose is to opt out.

Secondly, beware old assumptions that no longer serve us. PWC research recently highlighted a fast-growing gap between what workers want and what their executive think they want. We used to be pretty accurate — and now we’re not. Instead, start asking lots of questions and be prepared to hear the answer, such as do your people value what they used to, and if not, what? Has culture got worse, or has our tolerance worsened, exposing not-so-great cultures?

Lastly, make sure your mid-level leaders are supported to lead differently — they are going to need to change the rules on how they control the pace of work, how they use the space to think, reflect and recharge, and how they make the case to influence outcomes in different directions. Your mid-level leaders — what BoldHRTM calls the B-Suite — are going to be essential to walking the talk of the new world of work, driving the outcomes that the executive need and re-engaging your workforce to stem attrition and improve attraction, so don’t neglect them any longer.

Rebecca Houghton can be contacted via the website at


Material published in Governance Directions is copyright and may not be reproduced without permission. The views expressed therein are those of the author and not of Governance Institute of Australia. All views and opinions are provided as general commentary only and should not be relied upon in place of specific accounting, legal or other professional advice.

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