The Great Resignation – Opportunity or a Threat?

3 key findings in this blog:

  • How can well-being culture help HRs tackle attrition
  • When does the “people first” leadership approach work best
  • Why are clear and visible progress & career growth opportunities crucial in fighting “the great resignation” trend

The Great Resignation is probably the most challenging crisis HR people have had to deal with, and it’s still going strong, but now followed by the “quiet quitting” trend as a new form of disengagement; the recent benches and downsizings in the IT & Tech companies; and the new “boomerang” trend where every 3rd employee who previously left the company now wants to return back, due to the economic recession and uncertainty in 2023. 

This is a nice opportunity for HR to win back top talent who left, and to find ways to help existing employees continue to grow their careers internally before they decide to make a jump with an external opportunity.

The Great Resignation is not a myth. However, what is interesting is who is resigning. While staff turnover rates are historically highest among younger people, this has not been the case during the Covid-19 pandemic. Rather, the great resignation is being driven by mid-career employees in the 30 to 45 age range (millennials), with an increase of more than 20% year on year.

And one more fact, the Great Resignation problem is global. It is seen in many advanced economies in the world today, with historically high rates of people quitting or switching jobs, and that’s why employers need to find the answer to the question: “Is the great resignation an opportunity or a threat?”


Let’s analyze the most impactful factors on the Great Resignation:

Well-being matters to people!

Burnout was generally understood to be the leading cause of the Great Resignation, and social-media announcements seemed to indicate the conclusion: “There are some other more important things to take care of than your work.”

Stress and anxiety at work are key drivers for employee resignations, and both played a role in the great resignation. For many, the stresses of redundancies throughout the pandemic encouraged overworking in a bid to stay employed. Unfortunately, this resulted in overworking and, over the years, in a burnout crisis. 

To tackle attrition, HR must encourage teams to value well-being. Fostering effective well-being culture will have a positive effect on multiple HR functions. Engaging leaders at all levels in well-being strategies means they can spot the signs of those who are struggling far more easily. Investing in tools for measuring happiness, such as the “Niko-Niko Calendar” and implementing activities from the “12 Steps to Happiness”, can help leaders better understand their teams’ well-being and how they approach certain situations in the workplace. Doing so will help employees feel supported.

Employee well-being and happiness require a personal approach because we’re all different. Finding the balance between caring about a job and the opposite, can make the change between a fulfilled life and one that’s full of loneliness, exhaustion, and stress. Many surveys suggest an employee’s relationship with their job is a key factor in their overall sense of well-being. But finding the balance may be more challenging now than it was before the pandemic, or even going back a few decades. 

Creating an environment where people will have personal choices to build their happiness is what is expected from HR leaders today. Forget about the one-size-fits-all approach. Give them autonomy! 


Put people first!

In recent years, leaders are challenged by wars, pandemics, recessions, inflation, climate change, politics, innovations, growth, supply chain problems, data security, customer experience, hybrid work models, employee satisfaction, the Great Resignation, and other new trends.

As the list highlights and research confirms, the role of a leader is more complicated than ever before. Too many leaders are playing small. They still micromanage or have become disconnected from the people who work for them, or they see the world through a transactional lens with a focus very rationally on growth, innovation, and valuation.

Employees care more about meaning in their work, a strong sense of community, and company impact. The “command-control” or dictator era is over. Leaders need to build trust and real relationships with their employees. The best leaders are the ones who can balance real humanity, authenticity, and emotion with real results. Good leaders know that flexibility doesn’t equal loss of control. 

The human-centered leadership style is about putting people first. For this, it is important to focus on aspects such as their well-being, motivation, state of mind, fears, social relationships, environment, and other things.

“Leadership is not about being in charge, but about taking care of the people in your charge.”

Simon Sinek

Leadership seeks to create experiences and make things happen. The “people first” leadership approach is faced with one of the great challenges – the awareness about human uniqueness and authenticity, and the fact that every day they are coping with situations that can positively or negatively affect their motivation, behavior, and relationships. Have in mind that the human-centric approach seeks mindset change. This type of “servant” leader cares about their people, about their personal and professional well-being. They will seek to generate the conditions to promote a balance between these aspects no matter if there are goals related to this, a promotion, or a bonus, they will do it because they care about people. 

They look at each person as a flower: Each one is different, regardless of whether they are of the same species. They will create a beautiful garden, where all the flowers, despite being different, grow, develop, and understand each other.


Here, trust in a form of vulnerability is essential for collaboration. This is why these leaders trust everyone on their team, and they are positive that everybody will do their best to achieve the team’s objectives. Empowering and delegation build trust, but also “walking the talk”, taking ownership for mistakes and failures, showing a high level of emotional intelligence, and nurturing healthy conflicts in the team. Leaders must be present, have to show empathy, and seek and give feedback from their teammates.

Develop. Grow. Experience!

The Great Resignation is an opportunity for leaders to rethink their talent strategies. Today people have access to high tech at home, social media, various mobile apps, computer games, and AI tools for home, and young employees may lose respect if they have to work with old tools at work.


The recent survey of WE Forum shows that by 2025, half of all employees worldwide will need reskilling due to the technological revolution which has taken place over the past few years. Here comes the shift in employees’ development needs and a need to upgrade skills related to the future of work trends. 

The new “skill vs job” approach becomes more relevant today. Creating job descriptions that aren’t followed, but continuously upgraded day by day, makes people anxious. Here comes role mobility as a positive trend, where HR needs to create a learning environment so people can upskill and reskill for all future needs working on various projects, meeting the demands for agility, volatility, and complexity involved in the new way of working.


The skills-based concept is based on decoupling some work from the job and slicing projects into tasks, so it is more focused on problems to be solved, outcomes to be achieved, or value to be created. People have autonomy and they aren’t defined by their jobs, but as capable persons with skills and abilities that can be implemented to match their interests, while evolving to align with business priorities. 


Provide clear, visible growth opportunities. With so many employees looking for a long-term career path with an employer, HR leaders must provide people with opportunities to grow and advance their careers, make internal mobility moves, and gain new skills. Data from a recent HR Grapevine study confirmed that the majority of employers (90%) believe that internal mobility is the key to retaining top talent.

Don’t forget to support all generations in the workforce. There are five different generations in the workforce. This is an exciting time for employees and candidates, but presents an opportunity for employers to empathize, understand and support staff through their careers and unlock the potential of employees across multiple dimensions of diversity. 


Engagement and recruitment crises are two sides of the same coin, yet organizations often treat them as independent processes. This disconnect is fueling the attrition problem. Recent research found that nearly half of UK employees do not see a clear path to progression, with three quarters facing delayed career growth due to a lack of support from their line managers and HR teams. To address this, businesses must create pathways and mechanisms for rapid upskilling. Building extraordinary employee experience and learning environment from the very beginning and up to leaving the organization, should be the main focus for all HR leaders. 



The role of work in our lives has changed over the course of the pandemic. Many of us are now less concerned with job security and care more about the value of our work. Rather than simply ‘producing’ work, we want to feel that we’re ‘contributing to’ something that matters – by sharing ideas, influencing decisions, and being heard. This active participation and sense of inclusion are how we know we’re a part of something. It’s how we feel we belong.


At the beginning of the pandemic, many workers found that the shift to fully remote work blurred the line between their working and non-working hours. Micromanagement increased, measuring the output instead of the outcome, which led to overwork and additional stress. At the same time, the distance made it easier for some workers to disconnect emotionally from their job and prioritize other parts of their life. 

Work from home, remote working, or even flexible hybrid models became the new reality. 

HR leaders have to take The Great Resignation as an opportunity to speak up and create new working models that improve the employer brand, performance, and employees’ wellbeing.

The Great Resignation can transform HR leaders into change catalysts and designers of the future of work. It’s an opportunity to do more than just keep the best practices or make small changes. 


Author: Ilija Popjanev


About the company:

Agile Serbia is the largest Agile community in the Balkan region and the official educational partner (REA Status) with Scrum Alliance. 

The company is fully committed to helping individuals and businesses utilize an agile mindset and focus on practical needs while guiding them through the agile transformation and learning process. 

For the last decade, Agile Serbia has had a pioneering role in organizing Agile conferences and Regional Scrum Gatherings to connect and energize the regional agile community.

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