The Great Resignation… or not?

January 12th, 2022 post featured image

We’ve been hearing a lot about the Great Resignation – the tidal wave of employees leaving their jobs – over the last 12 months and the impact it’s had on employees and employers alike. At the end of July 2021 in the United States, four million employees had freshly resigned and a record 10.9 million jobs were open. For many right now, hiring new employees has proven to be difficult: many people are asking for compensation significantly higher than industry standard. Hiring certain people might be a risky investment because they want a level of flexibility certain companies aren’t comfortable with. Between employees leaving in droves and difficulties hiring their replacements, employers across industries are being forced to reconsider their retention strategy. 

Purportedly, many countries around the world are facing the same issue, including here in Canada however, recent data from Statistics Canada paints a different picture. The report found that while the labour rate dropped sharply at the beginning of the pandemic, it has since recovered to – and in some cases exceeded – pre-pandemic levels for all ages in October 2021. Moreover, about two-thirds of people who returned to work within a year did so in the same industry they worked in before.1 

While the resignation exodus south of border isn’t necessarily translating in Canada, there are still a number of lessons business owners should learn from to keep their top talent and reduce turnover.  

The Harvard Business review reported US resignations were highest in industries that had experienced extreme increases in workload demand due to the pandemic – like healthcare and technology. They also found it is being led by mid-career employees – those 30 to 45 2 – and is thought to be fueled by several different factors from an increased demand for specific skills/experience to dissatisfaction or burnout.  

This pandemic has revealed many weaknesses in our various interconnecting social and economic systems and made us more aware of what stress and burnout tangibly feel and look like. Employees don’t necessarily need to be in “high-stress” industries like healthcare or technology to realize their feeling overwhelmed or dissatisfied. Surviving two years of a pandemic has made many people realize how precious time is and just how short life can be. Employees in the mid-career range who have often achieved a relative level of stability might be realizing they aren’t fulfilled or feeling appreciated for the work they do and that they have the means to change their situation. 

It’s a hot topic right now but the truth is, retention is an important part of overall business strategy and succession planning, not just a band aid solution in times of crisis. Time and effort should be put into determining reasons behind turnover in your business and then, if necessary, professional help should be brought in to help tailor a plan to address them. Here are three key things to reconsider when it comes to retention.  


While we’re lucky to have universal health care in Canada, not having things like universal dental care or coverage for big ticket medications are reasons why some employees make choose to stay in a job or career, especially if they have dependents. Having a good benefits plan that not only covers the basics but goes above and beyond to include things like a healthcare spending account – which can be used to cover the cost of uncovered expenses on a case-by-case basis – or vision coverage, can go a long way to retaining staff.  

Also important to consider for long-term retention is insurance: life and accidental death insurance, disability and critical illness insurance. Approximately one out of every three Canadians experiences a health emergency, like heart attack or stroke, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have a safety net through their employer brings a keen sense of relief that can be hard to part ways with. 

2-Recognize and reward top talent  

Top performing employees or high potentials (HiPos), according to a 2020 HR Exchange Article, are the drivers of success in any business. In complex occupations, they’ve been found to be 800% more productive than their counterparts, more likely to take on additional work and participate in extra projects and maintain and adhere to company values while doing so. 

Identifying these HiPos and recognizing their outstanding performance is one thing. Supporting them and making sure they have the necessary tools and resources to grow into more senior positions is another. Assisting them in mapping out their career paths within the company, helping to prevent burnout and overwork and removing concerns about job security are all ways an employer can work towards bolstering retention, and in doing so, create viable opportunities for succession. 


While COVID may eventually become endemic and “fade away,” some of its effects, namely remote working, likely won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. There’s been a global shift in mindset about the correlation between in-person work and efficiency/productivity and many now consider it a requirement when looking for a new job.

Employers (in industries and businesses where it makes sense), are going to have to embrace flexible work arrangements if they want to prevent losing employees to competition. Drafting a work-from-home protocol outlining the logistics of who can work from home, how often, and with what materials is the first step to adopting a more flexible work environment and ensuring employees are more productive at work because they are less stressed about their own safety and competing priorities (i.e. constantly changing health mandates, school age dependents, illness, etc.). 

Canadians may not be involved in the Great Resignation the way Americans and others around the world are, but employers on this side of the border would be wise to take note of the factors fueling this tidal wave and address them in their own businesses. Having a retention strategy that accounts for current, real-world employee stressors and seeks to mitigate them isn’t just good for them, it’s also good for your business.  

Connect with us to discuss any employee benefits, insurance, or business succession planning questions you may have.