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The great resignation – building resilience in the age of uncertainty

By Rupert Morrison, author & founder of orgvue 

Rupert Morrison author founder of orgvue - Business Express
Rupert Morrison, author & founder of orgvue

Even before the pandemic, organisations globally were in a state of flux. Accelerating digitisation, skills shortages, geopolitical shifts and the climate crisis were all forcing them to transform. The COVID-19 pandemic added fuel to the fire. It compounded existing challenges and turbo-charged change, heightening the need for business agility and resilience. 

While the pandemic may be behind us — and things certainly aren’t normal — these attributes will remain critical to business success. Organisations that fail to keep pace with change will fall by the wayside. And right now, one of the biggest drivers of change is talent. 

The great resignation 

Post-pandemic we’re seeing huge levels of churn within the talent market. In September, UK job vacancies hit 1.1. million – a record high. This is being driven by three things. 

Firstly, high demand for digital talent. The pandemic radically accelerated digital transformation at a moment when the UK was already experiencing an acute digital skills shortage. This supply-demand imbalance has driven up the price for digital skills, encouraging talent to switch about to get the best deal. 

Secondly, we’re seeing high levels of dissatisfaction among career starters. People who started their first job during the pandemic had to learn fast under exceptional circumstances and without many of the advantages of corporate culture. This has left many feeling disillusioned by corporate life and looking to make a swift exit. 

Finally, the pandemic caused people of all ages and seniority to think deeply about what they want from lives and careers. As a result, we’re seeing people resign from roles that no longer meet their needs. 

In the face of such change, inaction is not an option – so what can leaders do? How can they transform their organisations to become more attractive employers? And how can they adapt to a continuously shifting talent market? 

Defer to data 

The answers to these questions can be found in data. In a world where uncertainty reigns, leaders need accurate, real-time organisational data at their fingertips to help them diagnose issues and make decisions quickly.

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Data can help leaders spot patterns among workforce leavers. They can see whether an exodus is occurring in a certain age bracket or specific role, and delve deeper into why this might be. Are people feeling disillusioned with work? Or are they being tempted away by a better offer? With this information in hand, leaders can work collaboratively with HR –and employees — to develop really targeted people strategies that address issues and make people want to stay. 

But data can do so much more than disclose existing trends; it can enable leaders to look beyond ‘what was’ and ‘what’s now’ and adopt a ‘what if’ mindset. With the right technology and data, leaders can start to model and test future scenarios and build business preparedness for multiple eventualities. What if, for example, the cost of digital skills increases by 20 percent? How will this impact margins – and when does it become more cost effective to spin out a digital office elsewhere? 

Adopting a ‘what if’ mindset helps leaders remain agile. They don’t fixate on achieving certainly, because they’re confident in their organisations’ ability to adapt and thrive in multiple eventualities. This, in turn, helps them to focus on identifying disruptive events, and responding to these at speed whilst others are floundering. 

Drill down into skills 

Realising the above approach will depend on leaders having access to, and combining multiple datasets. But there is one pool of data that is particularly important within this mix – and that’s data on skills. 

Skills data is absolutely essential for strategic workforce planning. If leaders know what skills they have in their organisations, they can identify those they need to build or buy to achieve business objectives and fuel necessary transformation. They can then develop strategies to secure these skills and factor them into financial planning, helping them guard against shocks. 

Real time information on skills also helps organisations to be more agile. If an urgent project comes up, leaders can redeploy people with the right skills to work on it at speed. 

Finally, skills data can help leaders create more compelling careers for their people. They can use this to formulate targeted learning and development programmes that help people to build expertise in business critical areas. This is important for employee retention, as people want to work for organisations where they feel useful, and where they can grow and progress. Leaders can also use skills data to identify where repetitive tasks can be automated, and employees’ time freed-up focus on more creative, rewarding tasks. 

Form adversity to opportunity

‘The great resignation’ is undoubtedly a challenge to organisations – but with adversity comes opportunity. Those organisations that can create compelling employment propositions that win talent at this moment stand to benefit hugely. 

The phenomenon should also act as a wake-up call to leaders. Without exception, people are critical to business success. Organisations need to develop a robust, data-driven approach to people, powered by technology, to ensure they’re never without the skills they need.

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