Small Businesses Facing Up to ‘The Great Resignation’

DigitalCFO Newsroom | 18 August 2022

Instead of working late hours, slogging away for the good of the company, many workers are now doing just enough in the office to keep up.

Over the past couple of years, the working world has been forced to adapt to a massively transformed and restrictive environment. This year, however, sees a slow return to how things were, but as we emerge and move forward into ‘The New Normal’ it is becoming clear that things are far from normal.

A clear sign of this is what has become known as “The Great Resignation”, where employees are leaving roles to find new opportunities or for a change in environment. Businesses the world over are suffering the fallout of the Great Resignation but one of the interesting results that have come out of it and, incidentally, one that has manifested itself across several small businesses within the MBH Corporation, has been a radical change in the two ‘R’s – Recruitment and Retention.

The term “great resignation” was coined in May 2021 by Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at University College London, when he predicted an exodus of American workers from their jobs, prompted by burnout, and the taste of freedom while working from home. Ranjay Gulati of Harvard Business School has instead characterised it as a “great rethink”, where people evaluate their lives and options.

Whichever way you phrase it, the results are the same. Instead of working late hours, slogging away for the good of the company, many workers are now doing just enough in the office to keep up, then leaving on time or they are simply leaving their jobs for something more satisfying.

Getting No Satisfaction

According to Maria Kordowicz, an Associate Professor in Organisational Behaviour at the University of Nottingham and Director of its Centre for Interprofessional Education and Learning, in an interview with The Guardian Newspaper, the rise in this sort of behaviour is linked to a noticeable fall in job satisfaction.

The global workplace report for 2022 by Gallup showed that only 24% of workers in Southeast Asia were engaged or enthusiastic about their work while 40% felt it was a good time to leave or change their jobs.

“The number one issue for all of us is employees, attracting them and retaining them,” states Jim Burton, CEO of Boulder Sausage and part of the MBH Corporation.  “Recently, a 5-year employee handed in her resignation because she wanted to go back to being a full-time mother.”

One of the reasons for the Great Resignation is that people have had time, while working from home, to re-examine their work lives, which has led to questions such as, “Am I happy?”, “What should work mean for me?” and “How can I do a role that’s more aligned to my values?”

Thriving, Not Surviving

Naturally, The Great Resignation has not gone unnoticed by employers, and many have taken steps to address the ever-expanding unhappiness, however, despite our best intentions, the old trope of monetary rewards is not the answer.

According to Gallup’s Global Workplace Report for 2022, organisations need to think about the whole person and not just ‘the worker’. The report states that leaders need to add wellbeing measurements to their executive dashboards as it can alert them to critical warning signs that do not show up on traditional spreadsheets. They also need to prioritise employee wellbeing as part of their employer brand promise. When leaders take responsibility for the wellbeing of their workers, the result is not only productive organisations, but thriving individuals, families and communities.

Callum Laing, CEO, MBH Corporation plc said “When employers show concern for the development and wellbeing of their employees, it makes a huge difference across the board. Whether it is helping with the development of their career or ensuring they have a good work/life balance so that they can put in a productive day’s work and have time with their families, it makes a difference to the employees and it develops a strong connection to the company and the brand.”

Unsurprisingly, this is something that small businesses have shown an aptitude for. This is possibly because of the higher tendency among small organisations to develop a family-like culture within the company.

“One of the great things about small businesses is you can be a family culture,” states Burton. “You can bring people together and you can really get through tough times together when you behave like a family and work like a family.”

David Hunter, CEO of ADT Taxis in the UK, is well-versed with the changes around staffing that have been brought on by the Pandemic. The change in dynamic and priorities has forced ADT to entirely re-evaluate how they manage recruitment and retention.

“Before 2020 we were very much customer-focused, and all our marketing budget went into the customer. Now, 50% of it goes back towards the driver and we are regularly running academies across the UK near where we have sites to recruit drivers,” states Hunter. “We have had to take a good look at ourselves and how we operate to realise that drivers are revenue earners for us.”

Mind Space vs Work Space

Beyond the immediate concern of directly engaging employees, organisations are now also looking towards how they can create more engaging environments that can draw their employees back to the office.

According to Gauri Talathi-Lamb, CEO of Du Boulay Contracts, another MBH company, office spaces are becoming more experiential. “Employers are making their offices more attractive and giving staff a reason to keep coming into the office,” states Talathi-Lamb. “You see this more in the Space-As-A-Service industry, which has become more of a hospitality-led office space. You see a lot more hospitality related elements like good barista coffees, a pool table, and other similar things”

However, whether it is engaging employees in the business, giving them greater meaning in their jobs or creating an engaging, experiential environment that will inspire them, it is becoming clear that organisations are recognising the importance of employee engagement, wellbeing and morale and the role those factors play in retaining great staff.

“Over the past couple of years, we have started doing one-to-ones with the drivers, we’ve even set it up so that part of the call centre is now speaking with drivers on a weekly basis to make sure they’re ok or if there is anything we can do for them,” shares Hunter. “Without our drivers, we can’t sell a journey and without those staff members representing you, you don’t have a business.”

“Small businesses have always been about everyone pulling together to get the job done,” according to Laing. “That hasn’t changed over the years, and it is not surprising that they embrace the idea of taking care of their employees holistically. Small companies are exceptionally reliant on their employees being engaged and passionate about the business and a small business that is focused on solving problems and achieving success will embrace this idea wholeheartedly.”