The Great Resignation: Perspective from the Tech Industry

Tek Experts -

5 min read

The term “great resignation” has been thrown around a lot recently, not to mention the accompanying phenomenon of “quiet quitting.” But all of that noise can make it extremely difficult to understand the real forces behind these buzzy phrases.   

Fortunately, as tech support leaders with a long history in technical talent solutions, we have a few of our own insights into what the “great resignation” and “quiet quitting” are and how you can see the opportunities for your organization.  

What is the great resignation?  

The Covid-19 pandemic brought an onslaught of novel challenges to businesses and their employees alike. All of the new pressures from working from home while managing childcare to people simply feeling that this was a good time to start something new, led to a record number of people quitting their jobs.   

In May of 2021, Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, coined the term “great resignation” in a quote featured in an article for Bloomberg. The flood of data showing that people were leaving in record numbers met an effective phrase to describe the phenomenon and the media was soon speculating endlessly about this “great resignation.”

The great resignation in tech 

It’s important to note that people did not leave all kinds of jobs equally. The greatest numbers came from people leaving low-paying and insecure positions in industries like leisure, hospitality, and food services. This is why the tech companies should be viewing the phenomenon as an opportunity. But first, let’s also understand the related trend of “quiet quitting.”  

What is quiet quitting?  

The major trend accompanying the “great resignation” began not with a university professor but with a young engineer posting on TikTok. The term had been percolating prior, but that video went viral and soon the concept of quiet quitting was everywhere.  

What was causing all the buzz? In short, quiet quitting is deciding to do the bare minimum required at a job instead of quitting outright. It’s a rejection of workaholism and careerism in favor of a greater focus on work-life balance and mental health.   

Obviously, the unsaid aspect is that quiet quitting applies far more to industries that expect lots of overtime and extra work in exchange for less than fair wages and conditions.  

How should tech companies be responding?  

The hints to this answer are in the definitions listed above. Both of these phenomena stem largely from jobs that feel exploitative and without clear paths for future growth.  

1. Provide Clear Career Paths  

To take one example, proponents of quiet quitting are expressing a clear frustration with being expected to consistently go “above and beyond” standard work duties in exchange for a vague and often unfulfilled promise of advancement. In our experience, this can be addressed by offering clear career development paths.   

By making explicit what is expected of employees and how they can expect their careers to progress if they meet those expectations, the desire to pull back and do the bare minimum is greatly reduced, and therefore retaining talent becomes easier. In many ways, the frustrations which produced the “quiet quitting” phenomenon come directly from career ambiguity.  

This is played out in studies like one from The Execu|Search Group which found that a staggering 86% of professionals would change their current job for one with better professional development opportunities. This is particularly salient amongst Generation Z, 59% of whom list reskilling and upskilling as number one priorities.  

2. Invest in Upskilling and Reskilling  

Responding to the “great resignation” should take a similar approach. If retaining talent is proving to be difficult for tech companies, it is likely because their employees feel unfulfilled, unappreciated, and generally that the paycheck isn’t worth what’s asked of them. The response should be to make those jobs better.  

That means, in addition to the clear career path we just mentioned, investing in people through upskilling. Enhancing their skills and showing them how those skills will advance their careers is a powerful combination.    

Upskilling also boosts confidence, empowering workers to do more and showing them the benefits of investing in their position. Because this kind of investment in people shows longer-term commitment to them, it also reinforces the benefits of providing a clear career path. This includes improving employee retention, performance, and loyalty.  

3. Trust Your Employees  

People thrive in environments where they feel trusted and supported. That’s why attempting to address phenomena like quiet quitting with remote work tools like monitoring software, only serves to create an adversarial relationship. This risks building a relationship on a lack of trust and encouraging employees to engage in an endless game of one upmanship with their employers.   

Instead of asking yourself “how can I stop this” ask yourself “how can I create an environment where this is less likely to happen.” A positive approach is more likely to get you better results over the long term.  

 Applying these strategies has had tremendous benefits in our experience. As our Rwanda country manager, Gary Bennett, put it:

“In Rwanda we don’t have the great resignation, we have the great application.”

In other words, while many companies are struggling with retaining talent and attracting talent, providing the right combination of skilling and opportunities in strategic locations has enabled us to experience the opposite problem.  

Seeing Opportunity  

The most important takeaway here is simply that it’s possible to not just avoid the Great Resignation but thrive during it. That said, developing successful teams of technical talent requires a proven strategy.   

Curious to learn how we’re able to thrive during the “great resignation”? Download our eBook, How to Survive the Global Tech Talent Crunch, or contact us to discuss how we can help you source, skill, grow, and scale your talent.  

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