Is The Great Resignation here to stay?

Anne-Lise Brown
Anne-Lise Brown ↓ 9 minute read
Dec 20, 2021
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Employees come and go, that’s no news, but did all workers around the world just decide to come and go at the same time? I guess that’s how you could sum up the peculiar phenomenon of The Great Resignation, a socio-economic event that leaves employers confused and understaffed. Especially in high-income industries such as IT, workers feel empowered to embrace change and search for a job that fulfills their current needs, even if that sometimes translates into a lack of stability, for a while. This new approach to work has mostly been researched in the USA, but Romania is no exception, especially when we look at the IT industry. In Cluj-Napoca, we registered a 55% rise in people who find a new job in between the time of accepting an offer and having their first day on the job they accepted. We hear both our clients and our candidates talking about it and experiencing it, and our conversations with them made us want to dig a little deeper into the topic and try to debrief it so that it makes a little more sense to us all: companies, software engineers as well as recruiters

Software engineers are leading the Great Resignation

A piece of research conducted by Microsoft shows that 41 percent of the global workforce is likely to consider leaving their current employer within the next year, and 46 percent are planning to make a major pivot or career transition. As in anything that is happening lately, we could easily say that the pandemic is what’s causing it all. And we wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But what about the pandemic is propelling this confidence and openness to change? There are a few factors that contribute to this movement. From the backlog of resignations that have built up over the past 2 years, to the time people had to reflect on their needs and values, to the unsustainable digital exhaustion and the realization of actually not enjoying one's job when other contextual factors (like the small talk during coffee breaks) are removed. Remote work has created new job opportunities for some, offered more time for personal life for others, and provided options for when, where, and how people work.

Our focus is on the tech industry, and unsurprisingly tech is leading the movement, with great job openings being now available one click away, and a plethora of growth opportunities worldwide at the disposal of software engineers, especially when we’re looking at mid and senior roles. The downside is, the more people quit, the harder it gets for those who remain on the job, and tech workers suffer more downtime, cyberattacks, and tech implementation slowdowns, which later translate into burnout and profound dissatisfaction.

Some will argue, that this is not a Great Resignation, but a Great Migration, with employees migrating from mediocre, faulty jobs to better, superior jobs, and from “companies that don’t seem to care” to “companies that really really care”.

We have a great network of software engineers, so it was only logical that we would turn to them for first-hand information on this topic. So we pointed our research to Linkedin, where we asked our network to help us define the top factors that would determine them to quit or change their job. Below you can see the statistics for 210 respondents, all software engineers.

Answers to our poll on Linkedin

Of course, we are well aware that a) Software Engineers have a complex field of activity that can't be reduced to salary or the project they work on, and b) a career change is a big step for anyone and it encompasses many factors, but Linkedin only offers 4 possible options as answers, so we picked the broadest aspects when it comes to this decision. The comments section brought some valuable insight, with one of the engineers expressing his viewpoint on the money aspect “Anyway, I am usually in for the ride, I don't see myself chasing the money. Money is a <<nice to have>>, lots of it, but not at the price of getting enslaved by it.” and another one talking about the importance of good leadership “I wanted to tick both meaningful project and better leadership but opted for the latter since maybe one is the consequence of the other.”

Another comment worth mentioning is an analogy that compared the requests of managers with “mcdonaldsified clean-cut processes, with replaceable people and automated skills” while the software engineering field and the way the human mind works is more like a high-end restaurant's cook, to which we add - detail-oriented and dedicated to his art.

So how can we all contribute to minimizing this movement and providing fulfilling jobs that yield satisfaction, productivity, and financial & psychological well-being?

Companies can have the superpower to nest true talent

1. Companies - What can you do?

First things first, we want to address the delicate topic of money. Be aware that remuneration has a big impact on the “should I go or should I stay” dilemma. When employees are more often than not spending their time in solitude working towards an end goal that can easily slip from their hands, a career choice can easily be reduced to the temptation of a higher salary. It is your job to draw a clear picture of your priorities, to reconsider budgeting as a long-term investment in your company, and to take initiative into rethinking leadership and creating a safe working environment.

Now that we got that out of the way, here are some other key aspects that can play a hit-or-miss role in employee retention.

  • Take employee experience seriously. This is more than Zoom meetings, it is a true desire to connect and understand your employees and it may very well mean that you will have to change some of your management methods.
  • Employer branding. Your reputation is at the core of recruitment efforts, and your pipeline can and will shrink if you don’t invest in marketing tactics that will secure your company’s positioning and differentiation on the market. The competition is fierce!
  • Internal mobility - promote from within whenever possible. Think about your company with its future needs in mind and create career pathways for your employees. Instead of focusing solely on hiring, ramp up training and career development and consider building new skills in your team. Just as products need a roadmap, so do employees. This will also act as a prospect of growth within their current company.
  • Foster natural connections between employees and don’t lose sight of your culture. User-friendly collaboration tools can help you in this regard, as well as the good old team-building trips, or workshops that focus on different topics such as psychological safety, how to stay motivated, and so on.
  • Forget about micromanagement and employee surveillance. Monitoring screen activity, expecting reports, and other such strategies are THE way to push employees away. This can even have the opposite of the wanted effect, by encouraging employees to “trick” the system. As a better alternative, be results-driven, build trust in your team and they will for sure try to prove that you had all the reasons to do so.
  • Be authentic and human. Employees, especially the ones who are new to a team, want to know what’s going on and to work with human beings who care. If they feel like they are surrounded by robots, they’re more likely to look for purpose somewhere else. On the same note, avoid burnout caused by the implementation of too much technology. Automation should be used to help, assist, and free employees up, not replace them.

We strongly believe that although The Great Resignation is impacting the industry and is bringing a lot of change, you can use it to your advantage, by focusing on a people strategy first. The rest will flow naturally when your team is happy, dedicated, and engaged.

Give yourself time to understand the ever-changing challenges of your career

2. Software Engineers - Go back to your WHY

A poll from Citrix in September that explored the reasons why software engineers are still sticking to their current role found that 40 percent of workers prioritize flexibility, and another 41 percent looked for benefits beyond financial security—including perks around wellbeing more broadly. Yet, when we ask those who do consider changing their jobs what is driving them, the top answer is always a considerably higher salary.

You may ask yourself what are you left with when you take out the nice office, the laughter, the coffee breaks? Spending time at home in front of a screen makes you reconsider why you’re doing the work you’re doing and is raising a valid question - what is really separating this job from another job? It is easy to detach yourself from the company culture when you are not as authentically connected to the team as before, and it is even easier to reduce the situation to money. But is it really worth it to be driven by higher numbers? We suggest, before basing your decision on money, to explore your initial purpose, the inner drive of choosing this career pathway. In addition to freedom, flexibility, and money, it is really about the impact of your work and how you contribute to something bigger than yourself.

In our previous article, we covered the motivation of software developers and it ultimately comes down to Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. These 3 key aspects are covering a large palette of factors that impact your work, your satisfaction, and your motivation (to perform, to stick to a company, or to try something else). Job satisfaction, culture fit, working on innovative and meaningful products for you, the opportunity to grow and better yourself, the tech stack - all of these are worth your time and reasoning before jumping on the money train which might take you even further away from your true purpose.

Don’t close an eye on the role of the recruiter

3. Recruiters - the mediators

As recruiters, our task is not easy, but at least is clear. Now, more than ever before, we need to listen closely to our candidates and our clients and get them on the same page. The way software engineers perceive work has definitely experienced some changes, but change doesn’t have to be viewed as bad for employers. It is mostly a great opportunity for them to assess their company, to improve where improvements can be made, and to connect the dots between cause and effect.

Recruiters are a great resource for both parties and being aware of the influence we have when mediating candidate-employer communication will benefit the IT industry in the long run.

Celebrating a new era of how we work

Going back to our initial question...Is the Great Resignation here to say? Our answer is the mother of all answers in psychology, the answer that can intrigue some and annoy others - IT DEPENDS. It depends on our course of action from now on, given that we are fully aware of the phenomenon, of the gaps in our approaches, and the discrepancies in our mindsets. As with any other “crisis”, it can lead to valuable change and new approaches, or to a collision. But we are confident that the IT industry is composed of great individuals who have a higher sense of purpose, who embrace change and are always in for the ride, however bumpy it might get at times.

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