Managing people

Is the Great Resignation really coming?

You may have heard about the ‘Great Resignation’ sweeping the US, but what does it mean for Australia? 

Coined by Anthony Klotz, an associate professor at Texas A&M University, the term evolved in late 2020 in response to millions of workers in the US suffering burnout, re-evaluating work-life balance in light of the pandemic and quitting their jobs. 

But is the phenomenon headed down under? With our international borders shut for more than 18 months, we have been stripped of skilled migrants and working holidaymakers in the labour market. Gripped with a major skills shortage, for the first time in a long time, local talent now has the upper hand – and they are demanding change.

With some states in Australia slapped with on-again, off-again lockdowns, many employees chose to reassess their career and lifestyle options. So, when NSW and Victoria reopened at the vaccination milestones, businesses simply didn’t have enough head count to meet customer demands. 

Riding the pandemic – what are employees looking for?

If the Great Resignation really is coming, you need to pull out all stops to retain your existing employees and attract new ones. The most important considerations for employees are flexibility, work-life balance, mental health and wellbeing and earning capacity.


A Qualtrics survey found 51% of Australians said they would stay longer with their employer if the remote working policies introduced during the pandemic become permanent. Flexibility to work around family and other commitments can allow your people to have a career while balancing other requirements.

Work-life balance, mental health and wellbeing

The pandemic has highlighted the need for work-life balance and company support for mental health and wellbeing. Taking commute times out of the equation plays a big part in the balancing act. Employees want to be part of an organisation that demonstrates commitment to promoting work-life balance and mental health and wellbeing. What are you doing to show your commitment?

More money

Job applicants are in a good position to raise the stakes when it comes to negotiating salaries. They are demanding more money and if the budget permits, some employers may have little choice but to agree to above-market salaries to secure the best talent during a skills shortage. 

Hiring and retention: how to make a difference 

Flexible work approaches including part-time, job share, work from home or hybrid options are the way forward. Allow existing staff to have options and make this clear when recruiting for new talent.

Conduct regular check-ins with your team to see how they’re feeling. Are they engaged, motivated, challenged, rewarded? Are they adopting work-life balance practices? Think strategically about solutions you can offer to make changes. If there’s no solution, perhaps you can encourage transparency for external opportunities to be pursued. 

When recruiting, a candidate that impresses you at the first interview is likely to do the same for the second and third interviews. While you’re spending time coordinating interviews with other candidates and internal stakeholders, your preferred choice could be signing an employment contract with your competitor.

While it’s best not to put all your eggs in one basket too soon, have at least one or two candidates up your sleeve. 

It can be easy to rule out candidates based on judgments you make, when there could be reasonable explanations. If a candidate ghosts an interview and won’t answer calls, it’s quite possible there is valid reason. Allow the candidate the opportunity to explain. Provide a follow up call and interview. 

If you’re having difficulty filling a job, take a closer look at what you’re asking for. Is it too junior, specialised, or are you asking for one person to do a three-person job? Re-evaluate and readvertise with a fresh approach.   

When a job applicant possesses the core skills you’re after – but may have experience in a different industry, sector, software tool or machinery, keep in mind skills are transferable and they can still successfully fulfil the job criteria. Naturally, they may require extra training, but chances are they’ll pick it up quickly. 

Time will tell

One thing the pandemic has taught employers and employees is the importance of resilience and taking responsibility.

Time will tell if your employees reassess their values and opt to join the Great Resignation. With many now reluctant to return full-time to the workplace, flexibility and work-life balance have never been so high on wish-lists. It's up to you to make sure your business can deliver. 

Do you need the latest policies and resources at your fingertips? My Business Workplace has over 200 documents ready to download. 

Jenny Dikranian

Content Writer, My Business

Jenny Dikranian is a content writer passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation in inspiring business success.

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