By Charlotte Kemp

All around the world people are talking about the Great Resignation, the unprecedented and unexpected wave of employees resigning from their jobs and seeking more suitable employment. 

This shouldn’t happen during a time of uncertainty such as we are experiencing during this pandemic, but many people are trying their luck on finding better options rather than remaining tied to a job that does not meet their needs. 

So who is resigning? Skilled employees who have successfully worked from home have sought out employers from other countries that can satisfy their needs better. And unskilled labour, especially in hospitality, are finding the uncertainty of this sector and the unsuitability of working conditions enough to find their own alternatives. And it is across the globe. While it was identified and named first in the USA, stories abound in the UK, Australia, Singapore and South Africa. 

There is a range of reasons why employees are resigning ranging from burnout at work, the hardship of extreme lockdowns in some parts of the world, the uncertainty of employment when others were being retrenched, the experience of a different lifestyle while working from home, and the existential reassessment of the meaning of life when death statistics become a daily conversation topic. 

What can we learn? 

The main issue for companies is the challenge to attract and retain valuable and necessary numbers of employees. Much of the advice given online is directed to employers encouraging them to focus on company culture, employee benefits and relevant incentives, over and above a decent salary. Of course companies should be doing this already, but with the need to put more pressure on the employers to attract good talent, it means that potential employees can interview employers instead of the traditional way employers choose from a good range of potential staff.

If you want to take advantage of this shift in priorities, there are a few things you can do.



Develop the necessary skills 

There are some professions where talent is always sought and the employees can successfully work from home for the right company, anywhere in the world. 

I have two friends who work from their homes in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa and work for companies far from home; one in North America and one in Europe. They are paid well, really enjoy the company culture, can take their children to school in the morning and walk their dogs in the evening. One is qualified with post graduate certifications while the other literally turned his side hustle into his main line of work when the pandemic restrictions prevented him from continuing what he had been doing for the last three decades. 

So not all skill set require a degree but being able to demonstrate your skill to a potential employer is necessary. And these days learning a new skill does not necessarily mean that you need to attend universities or expensive courses; there are open online learning programs and relatively inexpensive training on platforms like LinkedIn Learning. 

The important issue though, is to never stop learning and always seek out ways to increase your knowledge, skills and experience in related topics to your field so that you never become irrelevant in the marketplace. 


Look further afield

With the right skills and the right job, you could literally work anywhere in the world (with good internet). There is nothing tying you to a country or a city. We can be more intentional about where we want to live and what kind of lifestyle we want to experience. 

At a recent conference for private schools marketing departments, we talked about how the competition from any of the schools were not only in the room, but were actually good schools anywhere in the world. Parents who could afford private school fees often had skill sets that were in demand and many could work from home, wherever they chose to call home. So these schools could attract families from the Northern Hemisphere to enrol their children in the family’s best choice for education and the parents could relocate with little disruption to their work life. Equally though, it means that families could leave these schools to place their children somewhere else in the world. It was no longer the employer’s location that determined the radius of choice of school, but the right school, internationally, could now determine where the family was located. 


Know that there are choices

Of course there are always exceptions and there are people desperate for employment and employers who can offer little in the way of a quality work life. But more people than ever before are intentionally realigning their lives with their values; they are choosing how and where to live and many are disregarding the temptation of more money for poor life choices. Perhaps two years of social distancing, online meetings and green screens, means that we don’t have to try and keep up with our neighbours anymore. 

Simpler lifestyles, home schooling, moving away from urban centres, choosing more suitable work hours and doing work that is appreciated and rewarded appropriately, means that employees with the right skill set and attitudes literally have their choice of employers, worldwide. It may take some time on LinkedIn or other platforms to find those jobs, but the choice means that we are no longer obliged to only consider local employers. 

The Great Resignation is an opportunity for all of us to reevaluate what kind of work we want to do, who we want to invest that work through, and how we want to live our lives. It may be one of the best things that has come out of the turmoil of the pandemic. 


Charlotte Kemp is the Futures Alchemist, a futurist keynote speaker who works with organisations to co-create preferred futures. Charlotte is also the author of a number of books, including ‘Futures Alchemist’ which presents a narrative of how to use her Map, Compass and Guide model to navigate unknown futures. For research and insight, Charlotte hosts a podcast series called ‘Futures Facets’.