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Talent Management

The Great Resignation: The Way Organizations are Engaging Talent is Broken (and How to Fix It)

Jonathan Heath

Jonathan Heath is a Sales Manager at Educe focused on building relationships with organizations implementing the Cornerstone or Saba…

The Great Resignation Amidst a Pandemic

After nearly two years of living in a worldwide pandemic, there is little doubt that the world of work has fundamentally changed. Entire industries have been disrupted, from airlines to hospitality and businesses have had to rapidly adapt and think differently to survive – unfortunately, many have not.

Digital transformation, which has been knocking at the door for years, is suddenly an imperative that requires immediate attention and in no area is that truer than HR. Employees have re-evaluated their relationship with work, having been required to adapt to working from their homes without notice, and challenging long-held beliefs about the efficiencies and effectiveness of remote work.

Furthermore, adding to the pressures and challenges facing organizations, we are now seeing what is termed ‘the great resignation’ – people choosing to leave their jobs in unprecedented numbers. The phenomenon is not only seen in the U.S. For example, in the UK, according to the Institute for Employment Studies, resignation as a reason for leaving was 60% higher from July-Sept 2021 than pre-pandemic averages. The Office for National Statistics shows 979,000 job-to-job moves in the same period.

While no single reason has been identified as the cause for the great resignation, there are several contributing and related factors to consider:

  • Pent-up resignations have been deferred due to uncertainty during the pandemic. In the U.S., the largest proportion of voluntary resignations have been made by mid-career employees who have the ability and financial means to change jobs.
  • New job opportunities in the market are greater than they have been for some time.
  • Working from home has proven that flexible (and entirely remote) engagement is feasible. Employees now have new expectations for their current and future positions. Businesses can no longer ignore this reality.

Given the current challenges, now is the time for organizations to assess how they are engaging talent. Below are three key areas where organizations are failing to meet the needs of today’s talent and ways that talent management software can help.

What’s Broken: Jobs focused on titles rather than skills acquisition

Employees are increasingly seeing companies as stops along their career journey, rather than a destination for their career. Career growth for these individuals has become much more about acquiring new skills that can be applied to diverse roles, rather than moving along a traditional career path within a single company. Yet many organizations have not adapted to this new reality. Skills development is still tied to job roles, and promotions are aligned to traditional linear career paths.

While this can be frustrating for organizations it also presents an opportunity to think differently about engaging talent. With the competition in the market for skills and increased mobility, talent will migrate to companies with cultures that align with their goals. Organizations that value skills development and non-linear career growth opportunities will be attractive prospects.

A modern talent management technology platform can help. AI-driven skills mapping and curated learning make it possible to engage employees with personalized development tracks and enhance individual career growth opportunities at scale. Reduce the gap between employee expectations and organizational needs through the thoughtful use of technology, giving employees the means to acquire new skills rather than only job titles

What’s Broken: Performance management

Leaders have known for more than a decade that a different approach to managing people and performance is needed. In 2007, Tony Grub was already arguing that performance appraisals needed to be abolished as they drove the wrong behavior. And yet, even post-pandemic, many organizations still rely on annual performance appraisals and legacy technology.

Bearing in mind the shift to skills acquisition and a highly mobile and remote workforce, leaders need to reflect on the overall approach and fundamentals of managing performance. The new remote workforce requires a new performance management strategy. In-person management strategies simply do not translate effectively. One of the best ways to adjust is to introduce performance check-ins to review cycles. Annual performance cycles are too infrequent and cannot provide effective feedback that is timely and relates to current work challenges. Performance check-ins provide a continuous feedback loop that allows for greater agility at an individual and organizational level. In addition, performance check-ins allow managers to link development discussions to skill-building opportunities, helping employees improve and acquire new skills.

Modern talent technology can help support this transition by allowing for ways to manage performance check-ins along with an annual review process. In addition, these platforms allow managers to link goal setting and alignment, development recommendations, and learning together as outcomes of the discussions.

What’s Broken: Digital transformation of the HR/Talent function

While it is true that many companies accelerated the adoption of discrete remote learning systems and meeting tools in response to COVID-19 forcing remote work, the implementations were reactive rather than a strategic, considered approach to the transformation of HR’s digital infrastructure. HR is one of the most visible functions to employees throughout the employee lifecycle, including:

  • Recruitment: One of the first interactions candidates have with an organization is through the recruiting systems that support the candidate process. How many organizations have invested to create a modern, engaging, and mobile-first experience as they court new talent?
  • Onboarding: Does the first digital experience of a new employee reflect the expectations set during recruitment? Are process flows with forms, background checks, etc. seamlessly provided to the new employee?
  • The first day: Is the employee now working within the same system to manage their self-service needs, development, and career, or are they required to learn an entirely new set of systems and re-enter information previously provided during recruitment and onboarding?
  • Current employees: How are current employees empowered to manage and develop their career through talent technology. Are performance reviews, development conversations, and learning opportunities connected to individual and organization-wide goals. Are systems modern and skill-centric?

With a job market that is highly competitive for talent and demand greater than supply, a remote workforce (up to 45% now), and the emergence of the skills economy or fourth industrial revolution, Bersin makes the observation that:

Employees are migrating from “crummy jobs” to “better jobs” and from “companies that don’t seem to care” to “companies that really, really care.”

Digital transformation and investments in HR and talent infrastructure are one way to show that an organization values its employees. Alternatively, a lack of investment indicates otherwise.


Just as cryptocurrency is disrupting finance and the way we think about investments, the skills economy and great resignation cannot be ignored when thinking about talent management. The technology-enablers are readily available, to enable a digitally transformed end-to-end talent experience that meets the changing needs and expectations of employees while delivering the strategic objectives of the business.

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