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The great resignation and what employers can do about it

November, 2022
Adam Richardson

Since 2015, demand for skills across the construction sectors has exceeded the availability of qualified candidates and driven rampant salary inflation. Even comparing placements we made during the last six months with the previous six months, like for like basic salaries are up anywhere from 8% to 37% with an average of 18%. 

Unsurprisingly many candidates want to ensure that they realise their value while the market is hot and the game of musical chairs continues. For employers this undoubtedly provides a headache but here are some thoughts on how to approach the challenge. 

Make the decision to leave tough!

Employee value proposition has become a buzz phrase in HR circles in recent years, highlighting that companies have a range of tools beyond money to attract and retain staff. While financial remuneration is often a central factor in a candidate’s decision to stay or to move, it is not the only one. Job satisfaction, happiness at work and work-life balance also have significant impacts. 

Improved technologies and the remote working ‘experiment’ enforced by the pandemic have reimagined what is possible in terms of flexible working. As a result employees’ work-life balance hopes and expectations have also shifted. Many assign a significant premium to roles that are able to accommodate working patterns that dovetail around their lifestyles and other commitments. Listening to which aspects of flexible working really matter to each employee and prospective employee can make a huge difference both to attraction and retention.

While flexible working policies have changed significantly in recent years, most companies have long recognised the importance job satisfaction plays in retaining staff. Employers providing employees with a defined career path, clear performance metrics and support to assist their professional growth certainly experience less attrition than their competitors. However, a factor that many employers undervalue is the role that a forward-thinking social and environmental commitment can make. In the battle between conscience and wallet, ethics are in the ascendancy. 

Employees who are happy at work, are far less likely to move companies and while a strong company purpose and sense of job satisfaction contribute to this so do positive relationships and friendships with colleagues. A clearly defined and proactively nurtured company culture often make a tremendous impact to improving these social bonds. 

In short, the happier and more satisfied employees are at work, the greater the gap will need to be between what they are currently paid and what they are being offered for competitors to successfully attract staff away. However, salaries continue to change fast and so it is important to benchmark them annually if not every six months.

Counter-offer strategies

However good a company’s employee value proposition, some attrition is inevitable and losing a team member always causes a degree of disruption. While this may normally be an inconvenience, the amount of time spent recruiting and training up new staff as a result of the current volumes of resignations can cause genuine problems as can the loss of tacit knowledge. 

Counter-offers can be used to help spread out the resignations and so dilute the challenges that the great resignation may otherwise create. Successful counter-offering is an article in itself, however the key is to understand the full range of reasons why an employee wants to leave and to convince them that you will address those issues better than their other suitor(s). It can also be useful to highlight aspects of their current position that they enjoy but which the new role might not be able to match. 

Plan for their exit

Irrespective of whether or not a counter-offer is successfully made if the employee is important to the smooth and effective running of their team then plan for their exit. The need to do this even if they decide to stay is reflected in the fact that 90% of employees who accept a counter-offer leave within 12 months in any case. 

If the counter-offer was successful then consider how to minimise disruption should the employee decide to leave in the coming months. This will likely be a two pronged approach. The first element should be to encourage them to share their tacit knowledge and involve colleagues in their key relationships to maximise continuity should they later leave. The second element will be succession planning. For example, identifying and grooming internal candidates ready to step into the position and also scoping the market externally so that there is a longlist of candidates ready to approach should they resign again. 

If the company chooses not to try to keep the individual or the counter-offer is unsuccessful, then start to recruit their replacement immediately to minimise the period of disruption, condensing normal timeframes to reflect how critical their role is. Assuming that there isn’t an internal candidate suitable to step into their shoes, then consider dividing the role among other members of the team while the employee is still in place. Not only will this help to retain their tacit knowledge but by identifying which internal and external stakeholders are likely to be most affected by the individual leaving it may be possible to transition those relationships before the employee departs. 

If you would like further details about any of the trends or would like to speak with us about how we can support you then please email me: or call 07795 148 182.

About the author:

Adam Richardson - Managing Director

Adam has over 20 years’ experience recruiting procurement and commercial professionals across the construction sector.

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