What is The Great Resignation?
Since the world has emerged out of lockdown, it seems that a so-called ‘Great Resignation’ has swept the nation. Over a year after the term was first coined, the job market remains buoyant; employees are continuing to leave their jobs or change careers and women, in particular, are quitting their jobs. Women are believed to have dropped out of the workforce at twice the rate of men since the pandemic began.
According to last year’s Mckinsey study of Women in the Workplace, one in three women say that they have considered downshifting their career or leaving the workforce, compared with one in four who said this a few months into the pandemic.
Why are employers losing top female talent?
The pandemic provided workers with physical separation from the office and that may have also led to a psychological separation. Workers have had time to reflect on their careers and work-life balance and many have ultimately decided they are not willing to continue to work in roles that have burned them out. This change of pace has also provided many with an opportunity to reassess what is important to them. More specifically, an acknowledged reality of the pandemic was that the burden of home pressures fell disproportionately on women and according to the Mckinsey study women are feeling more burned out than their male counterparts. Schools and nurseries were closed throughout the pandemic and even since lockdown has been lifted, parents continue to be advised to keep their children at home after their child test’s positive for Covid. With women continuing to bear a higher proportion of the childcare responsibilities, balancing those burdens has led a number of women to leave the workplace.
Diversity and culture
Diversity is a topic which is discussed increasingly by both employers and employees and a number of businesses are trying to change with the times and update their policies – but this isn’t always enough. A tick-box diversity policy or initiative will have limited impact. Instead, policies and initiatives need the backing and enthusiastic involvement of senior management. According to the McKinsey study, female leaders are more likely than their male counterparts to champion diversity and participate in mentoring schemes – not only is there a risk this could cause divisions and tensions within the leadership team, but it also exacerbates the issue of burnout among women. Where female workers are not happy with the progress (or lack of it) that their employers are making towards meeting real diversity targets, some are expressing their frustration with their feet and employers are losing their top female talent as a result.
Internal policies, such as family rights, the menopause or flexible working policies, can benefit the whole workforce. Employers with inadequate support policies and procedures in place are less likely to be able to retain top talent (including top female talent). Millennials and Gen Z workers are known for not being afraid to challenge their employers and demand more. Ultimately, if employers have less generous or less supportive policies, then employees are more likely to move on to employers with better ones.
Conversely, employers with a generous flexible and/or hybrid working policy are better placed to retain top female talent. As mentioned already, the burden of home pressures falls disproportionately on women and therefore employers who are inflexible or unwilling to allow their employees, to, for example, arrive at work after school drop off, or work from home certain days of the week, are more likely to lose their top female performers. Additionally, where employees were working effectively from home during the pandemic, to now allege it “does not work” without good reason can reflect badly on the employer and potentially lead to employment claims. Where employees perceive their workplace to be more flexible and supportive, this leads to improved satisfaction, better workplace culture and to a more committed and loyal workforce.
This article was first published on 20 September 2022 by Dan Begbie-Clench, Partner & Head of Canary Wharf Office, London, Helen Brooks, Partner, and Kathy Scott, Solicitor at our UK member firm Doyle Clayton.
Doyle Clayton is very experienced with advising on flexible and hybrid working, family friendly and menopause policies and how employers can help support and incentivise their top talent, as well as spotting and acting on burnout or mental health concerns amongst staff. Please contact them if you would like to discuss any of these issues further.