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The Great Resignation
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The Great Resignation

Written by Darren Timmins

Darren is a Co-founder of Animate Search and recruitment industry elder (sadly). Living in Barcelona and working across Europe he is inspired by the different challenges the diverse region brings up every day for his clients.


You may have heard plenty about the ‘The Great Resignation’ in recent months. In this article, we explore what it is, the misconceptions, the facts and figures behind what’s happening, and most importantly, what your business can do to best prepare for the future.

So, what is the Great Resignation?

Anthony C. Klotz is an Associate Professor at Texas A&M University and is the person who first coined the phrase. Here, he discusses the four key trends that he believes have led to this phenomenon:

  1. A backlog of resignations.
  2. Burnout.
  3. A shift in identity for employees.
  4. An aversion to changing work habits.

All of these factors are pandemic-related to some extent.

Is there a misconception about what it means?

BBC News feature writer Bryan Lufkin challenges this thinking in his article ‘What we are getting wrong about The Great Resignation‘.

Lufkin presents evidence that we are making incorrect generalisations about the link between The Great Resignation and the pandemic:

“Now, as the economy rebounds, it’s not perfectly clear whether pandemic-related changes are the primary driver of continuing resignations or if higher quit rates are more linked to an increasingly stabilising economy.

“A historical parallel is the 2009 Great Recession – once the economy strengthened throughout the next decade, resignation rates went up, too.”

Lufkin also discusses how assumptions are being made about employment data when it is more nuanced than it appears at first.

“In the most recent US Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the sector with the most quits by far in August 2021 was food and hospitality, which made up 157,000 of the 242,000 total resignations.

“This isn’t necessarily surprising – or necessarily entirely pandemic linked.”

Lufkin then quoted Jay Zagorsky, a senior lecturer in markets, public policy, and law at Boston University, who said, “the service industries have historically high quit rates, anyway.”

How concerned should we be? What are the figures?

While the reasons behind The Great Resignation are in question, nobody disagrees that people have quit in record numbers.

In March 2021, Microsoft published a report named ‘The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work – Are we Ready.’ It indicates that “41% of the global workforce is likely to consider leaving their current employer within the next year, with 46% planning to make a major pivot or career transition”. These are staggering numbers.

Leading European HR firm Personio surveyed 500 HR decision-makers and 2,000 workers. The findings of their report were equally as concerning. They found that 45% of HR decision-makers are worried that employees will leave once the job market improves.

Personio also attempts to quantify the financial implications of that mass talent exodus. Their financial analysis shows that the cost of additional staff turnover in the next 12 months could cost the UK and Irish economies almost £17 billion.

The latest report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics, shows that the number of job vacancies from July to September 2021 was a record high of over 1.1 million, 318,000 more than the January to March 2020 pre-pandemic level.

However, ONS data does show that the unemployment rate has continued to recover slightly. The latest figures show a decrease of 0.4 percentage points, down to 4.5%.

How can businesses prepare to mitigate these problems?

Businesses worldwide are not just sitting on their hands. A Forbes survey found that 57% of CEOs said attracting talent is among their biggest challenges, and 51% said retaining talent is theirs.

Dr. Ben Laker discusses how businesses can mitigate issues in a Forbes article with Buck (Charlie) Rogers, VP of Keyston Partners North Carolina Office.

Rogers said, “Whether a company is impacted by some major wave of resignations will depend on each organisation’s ability to acknowledge and address the concerns of their employees.”

Rogers then outlined some key areas employers should consider. These include allowing employees to continue working from home, evaluating compensation packages, and closely evaluating the economy and job market.

In early November 2021, the Portuguese government enacted new legislation making it illegal for employers to contact employees outside regular working hours.

In addition, the new laws state that businesses need to reimburse employees for expenses incurred when they work remotely, and it also prevents companies from monitoring remote workers. Other countries may follow Portugal’s lead in time.

But employers based in other countries shouldn’t wait for their hands to be forced. Hybrid working is here to stay. If businesses can adapt their working practices with this in mind, it will create a happier workforce and, ultimately, will help with staff retention.

Animate encourages employers to address recruitment at an early stage. Staff shortages and the skills exodus mean that demand for talent is unusually high. This inevitably leads to increased salary expectations.

A proactive approach to recruitment means businesses can avoid overpaying for talent. In doing so, they can evolve with the times rather than react to them.

Businesses that stay ahead of the curve are the ones that will weather this storm the best.

A bit about Animate

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Animate, the talent management company, is a collective of recruitment gurus, research masters, and employer branding experts proud to bring you the best in sales, marketing, and technical talent. Every day, on every project.

We enable software and technology companies to enter new markets. We can also help increase market share through the power of people in an ever-evolving and competitive marketplace.

Written by Darren Timmins

Darren is a Co-founder of Animate Search and recruitment industry elder (sadly). Living in Barcelona and working across Europe he is inspired by the different challenges the diverse region brings up every day for his clients.