Reframing the Problem: What the Great Resignation Should Tell Us About the Shifting Values of Employees - Spring2 Innovation

Reframing the Problem: What the Great Resignation Should Tell Us About the Shifting Values of Employees

August 15, 2022

A few years ago, one of our public sector clients wanted to know how they could increase their retention of new graduates. They had noticed that both their interns and new hires tended to migrate to private companies and to other departments within the public sector. What we discovered was that the best and brightest grads were leaving because they felt undervalued as employees. They had limited interaction with their coworkers, weren’t sure whether their contributions were welcome in meetings, and had trouble seeing how their role fit into the organization’s greater purpose.

If that sounds familiar, then you aren’t alone. Over the past decade, we have seen an increasing need for a shift in the way organizations approach their people. It is no longer enough for leaders to sit their employees down in isolation and expect them to work on a task-by-task basis. Organizations need to start embracing their people and trusting that they have so much more to offer.

This has only been made all the more glaringly evident in the past year.

In Singapore, almost a quarter of workers reported intending to quit their jobs in the first half of 2022. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a staggering 17 million people resigned from their positions in the United States from January to May 2022. Those figures make up nearly 15 percent of the US workforce and more than the majority of Canada’s. Appropriately termed “the Great Resignation,” this trend indicates a larger transformation at play that is quickly becoming a challenge for all organizations as 2022 continues to unfold.

However, for leaders to start focusing on these major losses in the workforce and fearing resignations would see them reacting to the symptom of a larger issue. As the first step of Design Thinking emphasizes, any complex problem must be addressed from its root cause – it must be understood from a people perspective.

Following the trail of this empathy-focused approach, we can uncover some insights and reframe the problem:

As we all know, COVID-19 has put all our old habits to an abrupt standstill. In the quiet isolation that has followed, we have found ourselves reflecting on our pre-pandemic lives and selves and questioning whether we want to return to them. According to Gartner’s Chief of Research, the pandemic has been a catalyst to elevate personal purpose and values – “What makes me happy? What truly satisfies me? Where have I given away too much of myself for little return?” In fact, in October 2021, Gartner researchers found that over 60 percent of 3500 employees around the world said that the pandemic has made them rethink the place that work should have in their lives and made them long for a bigger change. Enormous foundational changes in human behaviour and outlook have happened in the last two years, and with employees being the #1 stakeholder in any organization, it is time for organizations to catch up.

“The fastest way to disengage an employee is to tell him his work is meaningful only because of a paycheck. You can have the best job in the world, but if you can’t find the meaning in it, you won’t enjoy it whether you’re a movie maker or an NFL playmaker.” – Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work

Gone are the days when monetary compensation ruled the workforce; leaders must start designing for the personal needs and expectations of their people. Employees want acknowledgement and growth opportunities; they need to feel valued, trusted and empowered. The best way to do that is to build a positive work culture founded on a human-centric understanding of the people that form your organization. Create communities conducive to collaboration and connection, have faith in the knowledge and abilities of your coworkers and establish processes to ensure that people understand their impact at an organizational level.

Turn the Great Resignation into an opportunity to design for the experience of your employees with our advice on the importance of leveraging empathy with your colleagues and driving your organization’s innovation capacity through impactful leadership practices

Our Design Thinking training can help your organization modernize, pivot and build resilience internally and externally. Check out our upcoming training sessions or contact