The Great Resignation….Really?? Or Is This A Convenient Excuse For Poor Leadership!!

When I first started reading about “The Great Resignation” that was hitting North American businesses I was more than interested, mainly because there was a high probability it would also impact Australia. But then I started asking myself some simple questions:

If there is a great resignation, where are all of the employees going? Surely most of them have to earn money to live, they just can’t all be going up into the mountains and living off the land.

Then, as I dug deeper into The Australian Great Resignation I found that it was not across the board, it was very much sector-based. Employees weren’t leaving employment, they were either leaving the sector or leaving their manager (remember the old adage: People don’t leave companies, they leave managers!!)

Let’s look at a few of the sectors that are blaming The Great Resignation for their retention woes:


When the pandemic hit this sector was one of the greatest casualties and the result was that most international workers went back home and most domestic workers were laid off. Yes, there was government support, but the question has to be asked: did the employers step up as leaders? Did the employers demonstrate high levels of empathy to their employees?

I would venture to say that those employers that did exhibit high levels of leadership and empathy have had no problems with getting their employees back behind the bar/counter. There is no doubt that the restriction of international hospitality/retail personnel will be having a substantial impact, but most likely only on those employers that did not treat their employees with respect in the first place.


I am not sure whether employees from the healthcare sector are actually part of the Great Resignation, I think it is more about them suffering from burnout. There is no doubt that employee turnover within this sector has increased, especially aged care, nurses and physicians. And recent surveys indicate that over half of these professionals intend to leave their employer and 36% of physicians are opting to retire early.

Everything I read about the challenges facing this unbelievably important sector revolves around employee retention. And at Peoplogica we know that the best way to improve employee retention is to improve leadership and people management capability at all levels (not just at the senior executive level). It is the middle managers that have the greatest impact on employee engagement levels, this is where the investment in leadership capability needs to be dramatically increased.


Professional services, especially accounting firms, are being smashed at the moment. The Great Resignation is happening and the biggest beneficiary is the banking/finance sector.

But why are these professionals being lured from professional services to the commercial financial sector?

Well, we did some research. We asked some junior accountants and graduates why they are more attracted to the commercial sector, their responses were enlightening:

  • + The billable hours system to measure productivity is too stressful
  • + Career progression means that they will have business development responsibilities (and they don’t want to be a salesperson)
  • + Their managers do not trust them when they are working from home
  • + Commercial pays better with none of the above issues

We see two issues here, the first is the appropriateness of a billable hours system for grads/intermediate accountants, and the second is the leadership capability of managers, principals and partners to retain employees (yes, employees will stay if they have a great manager even if they could earn more elsewhere).


If you are dealing with high employee turnover rates the solution is surprisingly simple, you need to improve your retention rates and then use this new environment to attract employees from your competitors and other sectors. There are lots of great employees out there, you just have to work hard to get them. Try following these steps:

  1. Self-Reflection
    Ask your employees how you can provide a better environment for them to be happier, more engaged, more respected and more productive. The best way to achieve this is to conduct a confidential, customized, employee feedback survey. Ask them to rate your leadership and people management capabilities. Be brave!!
    (We use to develop these employee surveys)
  2. Acceptance
    Objectively review all of the employee survey results, don’t take offense and don’t take it personally. Your job is to be a strong leader and sometimes that means having to cop it on the chin.
    Be bold!! This is the time to challenge the sacred cows (like billable hours)
    Remember, the outcome you are looking for is the action items that will deliver reduced employee turnover and increased employee engagement/productivity.
  3. Implementation
    The time for promises is over, it is now time to act.
    Include your employees in the action plan, you will not be able to achieve the desired result without their input and support.
  4. Review
    Every quarter conduct a short (max 4 minute) employee pulse survey measuring the progress of your action items and ensure all employees are provided with the results. Fine-tune action item strategies as required.

If ever there was a time to focus on improving leadership capability at all levels, 2021/22 is it

For further information please email

Written by Mark Purbrick

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