6 Learnings from Our Survey on the Great Resignation

Community Blog
Written by Clare Ryan

OCTOBER 19, 2021

I’ve heard it called the “Great Resignation,” the “Great Attrition,” and even this week, the “Great Reshuffle.'' Regardless of what we call it (and why are all the names preceded by “Great,” by the way?), it’s referring to the record number of employees who have voluntarily quit their jobs since April. According to one Harvard Business Review article, there were 10.9 million open jobs at the end of July in the United States alone.

This turnover is not exactly a ‘great’ development for business leaders, as they scramble to fill empty roles and re-examine employee benefits, compensation and ways of working. We wanted to explore how C-level leaders in our Evanta communities are being impacted by the Great Resignation. We started our pulse survey by simply asking if they are experiencing more attrition than in years past. 60% of C-level executives said they are, 29% said it is about the same, and only 11% said they are not experiencing higher attrition in 2021.

Here are 6 things we learned from our pulse survey of more than 900 executives in October. 


1. What’s Causing the Turnover?

C-level executives selected two top reasons for employees leaving their jobs, with 68% saying it’s the competition recruiting people away, and 67% believing that people are making life changes after the pandemic. The next closest choice is “high workloads, lack of resources or burnout” at 59%.

When broken down by role, CISOs and CDOs picked the competition as their top explanation for turnover, whereas CIOs and CHROs chose pandemic-driven life changes. 


2. Not a Short-Term Trend.

When asked how long they thought the “Great Resignation” would last, only 4% of executives said “0 to 6 months from now.” This means if you’ve already experienced a high level of turnover, don’t expect to be done soon.

Most leaders believe the attrition rate will remain this high for 6 to 12 months (34%), followed by 12 or more months (31%). Some executives believe this pattern is here to stay with 19% saying that “attrition will remain this high for the foreseeable future.” This suggests that some see it more as a sea change in behavior than a temporary trend.


3. The Flexibility Factor.

71% of C-level executives said that “offering more flexibility” is one way they are trying to engage and retain current employees. In addition, it is the second choice on how they are trying to recruit new employees (67%), right after promoting company culture (69%). 

There has been so much change in offering remote or flexible work situations throughout the pandemic that most leaders did not see the lack of flexibility as a reason employees are leaving. Only 20% thought that it is a contributing factor – pretty far down the list of possible reasons for employee turnover. This suggests that some C-suite leaders think their companies have changed substantially and perhaps permanently on issues of flexibility.


4. The Importance of Culture.

Company culture and employee engagement are also prominent in the survey responses. As noted above, C-level executives view it as their number one strategy for recruiting new employees (69% selected it). And, “improving company culture and employee engagement” is the second most selected tactic for retaining current employees, right after “offering more flexibility.”


5. A Top Priority.

When given a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 as their top priority, most executives said that the issues of attrition and retention are a 4 or 5. In fact, 78% listed it as a 4 or 5 on their list of focus areas, with 24% saying it is a 5 or “my top priority.” Not surprisingly, CHROs have the highest percentage of respondents listing it as a 5 or their top priority with 33% describing it that way.


6. Remember Office Perks?

Do you remember about 10 years ago when everyone was filling their offices with ping pong tables and offering catered meals and baristas - and generally trying to keep up with the perks of startups and tech companies? Turns out, office perks were deprioritized during the pandemic. They may not totally disappear, but they are not a focus area for executives when it comes to recruiting.

A surprisingly low number of executives (5%!) selected “office perks” as a tactic to attract new employees. Of course, we haven’t physically been in the office for a long time, so it might not seem surprising. But it was not so long ago that companies were differentiating themselves to recruits by the perks that were offered.

There are so many interesting and insightful executive comments in the survey that I’ll have to write another post to share some with you. In the meantime, you can see the high level results of our pulse survey here in our infographic.

Clare Ryan headshot

Clare Ryan

VP, Content & Product Strategy at Evanta, a Gartner Company

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