The Great Resignation – Is the grass really greener on the other side?

Hannah Pritchard
By Hannah Pritchard | 2 November 2021
Hannah Pritchard.

Hannah Pritchard, NSW Agency Sales Director, oOh!media

The last two years have been a trying time for many Australians. From bushfires and pandemics to lockdowns and riots, home schooling and Zoom fatigue, there are plenty of reasons why people are self-reflecting and questioning all aspects of their lives, including work.

It’s been especially hard for the media and advertising industries, among others. Businesses have asked employees to do more for less at a time of serious commercial challenges, causing substantial mental health strains. In addition, many employees have found they are waking from their COVID slumber hungry for the next chapter in their careers, frustrated with the lack of progress made as a result of the pandemic.

What has been coined ‘The Great Resignation’ is an international post-pandemic trend set to hit our shores. Many Australians are supposedly looking to leave their current roles in search of better working conditions, better company cultures and better remuneration. The trend suggests that the time we’ve spent working from home has helped us really think about what truly matters to us as individuals when it comes to our work. Personally I’m not surprised by this, and I think most people, if honest with themselves, would agree that they too have asked the question – is this all worth it?

However profound that thought, another question must also be asked – is the grass that much greener?

As a people first leader in the media industry, I’m interested in exploring this as I reflect on the many conversations with colleagues, peers, industry friends and coaches over the past 18 months.

While it’s been tough, we can take a lot of positives amongst all the uncertainty. Many media businesses have been forced to balance the bottom line, while protecting and retaining their people from all the external elements. The shift to an emphasis on the employer to listen to their people, understand what’s important to them and how they can be supported, is at the heart of it. The age old saying of ‘look after your people and they will look after your customers’ couldn’t be any more relevant right now.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work in a business that has invested in leadership development, mental health courses and business coaching to upskill our people at a time when we really need it. Taking in the realities of the last couple of years and embracing the complex world of mental health, we have taken a much more personalised and dynamic approach to people and leadership, and this has been key to our teams’ success in getting through the pandemic.

As we unpack the motivational drivers of our people, their needs and wants have evolved. Shifting from salary to fulfilment, and from fun times to meaningful connections, all of the answers sit with our people and it’s time for employers to put the tools down and listen.

From my perspective, businesses choosing to invest in the development of their people, in an authentic way, will set themselves apart and will be people’s choice in the future. This is about the long term, not the short game.

This focus on fulfilment has been complemented in other areas where businesses have been implementing successful approaches to attract and retain employees, such as diversity and inclusion policies, and flexible and remote working arrangements. All of these have edged up higher on the priority list more than ever.

So, for the employee, what does this all mean?

In my opinion, in light of these trends, now is the time to ask ourselves, is the grass that much greener? The answer really comes down to you, and how a career move ladders up to an overall goal or path.

For those making kneejerk, escapist decisions that only fix what’s happening now, the question I’d ask is what additional skills will I learn to best position me in the future? If one outweighs the other, then perhaps it’s worth considering. Or to put it another way, while the media industry has been through a tough time, is this ‘Great Resignation’ potentially a mistake for some people, because they wouldn’t be resigning for the right reasons?

Across the industry we have seen employee culture take a strain with an abrupt and forced working from home situation. We should all be very proud of ourselves for how we got through it. We have now reached the cusp of regaining control of our real-life interactions, and that should give people pause to really think about what comes next.

Our industry is built on connections, relationships and trust – and there is no doubt the pandemic has been holding us back from driving true meaningful engagement with our people and our customers. When this returns, perhaps some people will feel more satisfied with where they are now.

Sure, there will be a shift as we start to accept flexibility as a major part of work/life balance, but as we regain this control, I urge employees to see this as a huge opportunity to be a part of the rebuild and recovery.

The last two years have been very tough, but before you make a snap decision, make sure you’re asking the right questions for you and your long-term goals. Yes, we have all made decisions to fix an immediate need, but you can also pay for that in other ways too. Lack of fulfillment, lack of connection, and lack of growth could be the consequences of an ill-considered choice.

My view is that the grass might be green on both sides, but loyalty and equity in the right company will pay off in the long term, and those willing to stay the course will consequently develop and grow exponentially.

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