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How to deal with the big quit

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It’s a strange sort of melting pot at the moment. You have the usual suspects packing in the job they’ve been at for six months for an extra few quid down the road, you’ve got the loyal ‘unskilled’ workers who have now been told they’re skilled who are being offered astronomical pay rises to drive lorries or pack items in warehouses, and you’ve got the stalwarts whose heads are suddenly being turned by the opportunity to get more elsewhere, even if they aren’t looking.

Yes, the weird, wild and woe-inducing world of post-Brexit, post-Covid recruitment is creating the ‘big quit’. Whether it’s care workers refusing to get jabbed and going off to earn more money in hospitality, or bus drivers turning their skills to driving HGVs, we’ll bet a hefty sum that you’re reading this nodding in recognition of your workforce suddenly becoming very adept at writing resignation letters.

So what can you do about it? Nothing? Well, there are a few things to try, and avoid, that we’ll cover in this article.


Wow, straight in there! Maybe it’s time to realise that loyalty is done for, and to just backfill those roles with fresh talent? We’re going to cover this off as it’s the obvious answer, but the most difficult one in the current climate, and in general.

Before you rush off and start copying and pasting those lovely job ads into your ATS, step back and have a think about what you’re up against. We’ll give you a clue: it involves a bigger recruitment and wage budget somewhere else.

You could also look at if you even need to replace the person, or if their job role could be tweaked. There may be someone else out there who could do a better job, even if their skill set looks completely different.

Instead of jumping straight into the war for talent and ploughing time and money into agencies and job ads, try something different. Look at your EVP. Attack your values. Question every step of the employee journey, from initial awareness, recruitment, onboarding through to their development and how they move on from your company. If you find holes, then those candidates you’ve spent a fortune on capturing will simply speak to the competitor down the road who has an excellent employer brand and a great culture. Fix this first, and once you’re confident you have, then you can aim for a replacement strategy worth spending money on.

Figure out why they’re really leaving

Retention always has multiple factors. Many say they’re leaving for more money, and that’s a real shame. If you realise the worth of your employee, you should be reviewing if you’re paying enough in the first place – it’ll always be cheaper than constantly having to re-hire when someone offering more comes along.

If you work in an organisation where simply increasing salaries isn’t an option, or you don’t fancy the difficult conversation with your boss to ask for more budget, then finding out the real reason for leaving and fixing that instead has to be the focus.

Dig deeper and ask those really uncomfortable questions. By having a candid approach to resignations, a solid exit interview if they really can’t be convinced, improved regular reviews and a system that allows a temperature check with employees, you’ll be able to spot the discontent before they arrange that awkward meeting to serve notice.

Just remember, you may find that counter offering still doesn’t fix the issue. In fact, 80% of employees who get counter offers are gone within six months anyway.

Once that’s in place, you can...

Have a sensible conversation

The sense check. It’s an overlooked wildcard that could convince your best people to change their minds without needing to counter offer, or even bend over even slightly backwards to retain candidates.

Currently, money is flowing into employees’ pockets, and rightly so. As we put paid to ultra-cheap labour, the fight for new workers leads to bigger hourly rates and eye-opening joining bonuses. Imagine offering someone £1,000 just to come and work in your pub or restaurant a few years ago?

Realistically, this battle for talent will be short lived. Simply out-bidding the next company is unsustainable – and this is where your sensible conversation needs to sit.

Yes, you’re being offered some more money elsewhere, but what are the other benefits to leaving? Are you being offered the same culture benefits? Could your current role be tweaked to make it better than the one you want to leave for? Is it something else rather than money that’s really making you leave? Are you just jumping out of a frying pan into a fire?

It’s easy to start worrying about what you’re going have to do and the extra work that comes with re-recruiting someone, but this is the time where you really need to remove the emotion from the situation.

Don’t take things personally, realise that your best people will also be attractive to others, and learn from their reasons and what’s just happened. You’ll then be able to ask the really important questions, like what they’re getting elsewhere that you can’t give them, rather than focusing on the negatives that you’re going to have to sort out.

Instead, arm yourself with candid questions and have an open and friendly conversation. You may find that this leads to a reconsideration or at least some learnings that can help you to prevent others from giving the same reasons for leaving.

Look at the long term

Yes, it may be panic-inducing right now when your best people are taking their leave, but think smart. When the chickens come home to roost and the Brexit/ Covid dust has settled, your roles may still be the best ones in town after the ones throwing money at the problem have lost all their new hires due to a lack of due diligence.

Instead of panic-recruiting, spend your time on creating an incredibly solid people and culture strategy that makes your organisation the best place to work before money is even talked about.

Look at your cultural benefits. Are they attractive to everyone? Are they worth having? Maybe bin off those unused gym discounts and enforce a strict ‘no emails after 5pm’ rule. Or, instead of tracking log-ons and setting work from home days in stone, trust your people to work in a way that works best for them. Cultural benefits often don’t need a budget.

Above all, stop thinking about salaries, hourly rates, welcome bonuses and elastoplasts being put over the cracks. Drill down into your employer brand, values and EVP and really look at whether you are living and breathing the culture through the actions and habits within the company. You’ll soon find that’s infinitely more powerful, and will stop your best people from leaving, if you can get it even close to right.

Are you experiencing a big quit right now? What are you doing to combat it? Do you have serious business concerns for 2022 in terms of staffing and recruitment? Tell us your stories on LinkedIn – just post in our group or write a post and tag us in it. We’d love to hear some more retention ideas!

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