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Employee Engagement vs the Great Resignation


The Great Resignation is a phenomenon that doesn’t seem to be going away. A recent report has suggested that close to three quarters of workers in the US are thinking about quitting their job and in the UK, an article from Bloomberg reported that nearly half of employers surveyed are seeing higher staff turnover than in 2019.

I wrote about The Great Resignation back in September when I shared my view that the pandemic had led to many people, including myself, re-evaluating their lives and, with that, their work/life balance. I suggested that this was one reason why organisations willing and able to embrace hybrid and remote working would gain a competitive advantage. 

Whilst a desire for a change in lifestyle probably tells part of the story around staff turnover, I think there is something else at play too - employee engagement, or, more accurately, a lack of it. Are more and more people reflecting not just on how and where they want to live, but also the organisations they are willing to work for?
According to Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workplace Report, just 20% of employees across the world feel engaged at work. That figure hides some significant variations - in the UK, for example, the figure is a staggeringly low 11%.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, poor employee engagement is not a symptom of the pandemic. Although, globally, employee engagement fell in 2020, it only fell by two percentage points, and it’s still 1% higher than it was in 2018. 

But, whilst a lack of employee engagement might not be a new problem, the fact that more than four out of every five employees where not engaged when we entered the pandemic is probably significant.   

Because what then happened? Huge swathes of these disengaged people were furloughed. 

Throughout 2020 and 2021, we pleaded with customers and anyone who would listen not to ignore furloughed employees. We explained that learning and development activity could continue under the terms of the furlough scheme in the UK and made the point that this would be vitally important to employee engagement, retention, and team effectiveness after the pandemic. And yet, many people I talk to who were furloughed had little, if any contact whilst they were away from the workplace. Even fewer benefited from any remotely delivered learning and development. 

This anecdotal evidence seems to be supported by a poll I ran on Linkedin, where only 25% of respondents said they’d benefited from regular contact with their employer and ongoing learning and development whilst on furlough. 60% said they’d had little or no contact with their employer and 30% said they’d had no contact at all. 
For me, this feels like a wasted opportunity. After all, how often, in normal times, do we battle to get people released from the business for important learning and development activity. 

But, more important than this, the pandemic gave organisations an opportunity to show how much they valued and cared about their employees. Inaction can speak as loudly as action. 

Employee Engagement is a two-way relationship. It’s about valuing our people and what they do and it’s about them, in return, valuing the organisation and what it does. If we didn’t seem to recognise, care about, take pride in and value our people when they needed us most, how do we expect them to care about, take pride in or value the organisations they work for again now?

If any of this resonates, now is the time to look at how employee engagement can be rebuilt and then maintained in order to strengthen teams and build resilience for whatever challenges the future throws up. 

Because we never know what’s around the corner, or the impact those changes will have on individuals, teams, organisations and even nations. When I wrote the previous paragraphs, just over a week ago, who knew that by the time my insight went out, Ukraine would have been invaded and that the rest of Europe, and much of the world, would be in a state of economic war with Russia? (Or that, perhaps, Ukraine and its leader, resisting a much more powerful enemy, would be providing a powerful, but terrible and brutal example of what can achieve against the odds when people are engaged.)

If you’re looking for training material on Employee Engagement for the organisations you work for, I’m really proud of the following materials in Trainers’ Library and the lightbulb moments they create for learners.


Ukraine Footnote
Whilst you’re here, we’ve been thinking about what we can do to support the people of Ukraine at this terrible time. So, we have set aside 35 packs of our two ‘full length’ training films, ‘The Ineffective Meeting’ and ‘Why do I Always Get Them’ on DVD, which you can buy for £50.00. We will cover the costs of postage and every single penny of your £50.00 will go to the International Committee of the Red Cross’s Ukraine Appeal. Put another way, in exchange for your donation, we’ll send you two free DVDs. To order your copies, please email [email protected]

** - Remote Delivery versions available.

Until next time…

March 1 2022Rod Webb



Rod Webb





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