Podcast: What IC pros need to know about The Great Resignation

What is The Great Resignation?

What do internal communicators need to know about what’s happening?

How can we acknowledge and address The Great Resignation inside organisations?

In this episode of the Candid Comms podcast I cover:

  • What The Great Resignation is
  • Why purpose matters
  • How can you retain employees?
  • Renegotiated terms and conditions
  • Microsoft’s recent work trends study
  • An employee engagement model
  • Why sentiment matters
  • Knowledge management.

Candid Comms: What IC pros need to know about The Great Resignation

Do let me know what you think of this episode and don’t forget to rate, review and follow, so other Comms pros can benefit too.

The episode is available to listen to now. You can find the Candid Comms podcast on your favourite player including Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify and Podbean. Or you can listen below.

Candid Comms Is celebrating its first birthday this week. Thank you to everyone for tuning in over the past year.

To mark the occasion, a brand new range of Candid Comms podcast notebooks are available to purchase now via Amazon. They’ve been designed to help you capture your show notes in one place.

They contain sections called one thing to know, one thing to do and one thing to think about.

Further reading: What internal communicators are listening to.

Candid Comms teal typewriter notebook

Candid Comms podcast notebook interior

Resources I’ve mentioned in this episode:

Transcript of this episode

You’re listening to the Candid Comms Podcast with Rachel Miller. Join me every week for practical advice and inspirational ideas to help you focus on all things Internal Communication related.

Hello, and welcome to the show. The Great Resignation is currently impacting organisations around the globe. So this is the focus of today’s conversation, and you will leave with one thing to know, one thing to do and one thing to think about. Are you ready for this one? Let’s get started. 4% of the US workforce resigned in September 2021, that’s according to Microsoft’s work trend index. More than 40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer within a year. This is being coined the great resignation or the big re-prioritisation. I wonder what’s happening inside your organisation. Are you facing this? And if so, how is it impacting the way that you’re communicating as an organisation? What we’re observing now is differences in conversations between employees and employers. Where it feels like things have really shifted because the years 2020 and 2021 happened, we are seeing employees expect more from their jobs.

It’s not just about the nine to five anymore if it ever was, but it’s more about the relationship that people have with their employers. There’s an expectation that employers will speak out on issues like societal issues. They will comment on things that are impacting the world at a global scale and a local scale. Employees look to their organisations to be their voice, to amplify their views externally. I wonder whether your organisation is doing this. For years within the world of Internal Communication, I’ve been attending events and seminars and all sorts, and the conversations have been very focused over the last few years, pre-pandemic on purpose. Being a purpose driven organisation, putting why you do what you do at the heart of your communication. If you’re a fan of Simon Sinek, you’ll know the golden circle theory, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

And that’s been applied to organisations. And we got to the point just before the pandemic, where all the conversations about why people choose to go to certain organisations were linked to purpose. And then the pandemic happened and what I’ve been observing and particularly in light of The Great Resignation and all of the conversations that are now currently happening is that it is the ripe and rife market for employees.

They expect more from their organisations, they’re using their voices in ways that we’ve never really experienced inside corporations. So something I really want you to know, when we’re thinking about how we retain our people, how we keep hold of them and there’s a little bit for me in terms of we need to stay in our lane. So regardless of your reporting structure in your organisation, maybe you’re a part of an HR team, or maybe you work alongside your HR and people, colleagues, and their stakeholders, perhaps or peers, perhaps. There’s a little bit for me as I’m recording this, that I’m hesitating because it feels like lots of these considerations are HR issues.

In fact, they’re broader than that they’re business issues and therefore it falls within the remit of everybody, ourselves as internal communicators included. But I just wanted to share that with you before we dive in further. So what I think we need to know is what are those recontracting conversations that are happening in your organisation? Do you have visibility of that? What I mean by that is when people are approaching HR and I’ve got various clients who are in this situation at the moment where their team members or their colleagues around them are asking for flexible working, for example. This has been a constant conversation inside organisations, particularly over the last year or so, particularly for people who have worked from home because of the pandemic and therefore have been able to prove that they don’t need to be fully present in an office five days a week in order to be productive and to get their job done.

Now, if you are on a medical ward, if you are driving a train or a bus, the situation will be different granted, but for lots of organisations and lots of workers, they’ve realised that actually they could do their jobs well, if not better from home. So what we’re seeing is a recontracting or renegotiating of terms and conditions inside organisations and it’s created this real sense of uneasiness, where employees who don’t have their flexible working request approve are choosing to leave. I’ll share the links to the Microsoft study with you. But I think if you’ve done any sort of reading around this topic, you’ll see that lots of the reasons that are being given the reason people are leaving their current employers vary from the lack of purpose and the lack of committal to commenting on societal problems and therefore there’s a perceived lack of trust that’s missing between employer and employee.

In fact, I’ll share a link to the Edelman Trust Barometer, because that came out in terms of employees expecting their organisations to have a voice and the level of trust in my employer is extremely high. I’ll share that with you so you can read more about it, I wrote about it audio things I see blog but I digress. And the most important thing for you is to understand what other conversations happening inside your organisation. So how many flexible working requests have there been? Have you been sharing information internally about your flexible working policies for example. Having an understanding of the current sentiment inside your organisation is really important. So something I want you to know is the sentiment, it’s the emotions, it’s the feelings. What are people saying? Is there a huge ground swell inside your organisation of colleagues who are asking HR and asking their managers for flexible working? They want to be able to work differently, whether that’s compressed hours, whether that’s different locations, whether that’s all sorts, all sorts of things are possible in there, it’s flexible as an aim implies.

If we don’t know that, and we don’t reflect that in our Internal Communication and we’re having pockets of people inside our organisation who are putting in flexible working requests and having them denied, and we never front it up. We might get a question in our town hall and we never let it be on the screen. It feels like a topic for another day Comms friends, but the ethics around the questions and answers and how they come in and what we choose to surface and what shown on screen. Let me know if you want me to record an episode on that because I think that’s a topic which probably deserves an episode in its own, right? Let me know if you think that’s the case, but if all those conversations are going on and requests are going on and people are feeling incredibly frustrated and there’s no peep of it, there’s no mention anywhere in our Internal Communication.

It implies, there is a lack of trust. There’s lack of transparency and for our leaders, they can be perceived as having a lack of credibility of not being tapped into the organisation. Not knowing what’s on top of mind for our people. That’s super important, particularly for a leader to be able to demonstrate that they’re listening. So the second part of our conversation today, what I want you to do is to actively listen. I want you to know what the sentiment is in your organisation when it comes to The Grand Resignation. Why is it the people are leaving the company? What is it that the organisation isn’t doing? It could be that actually lots of the reasons that people are leaving and nothing to do with the culture, the way we do things around here, then nothing to do with the communication, nothing to do with the leadership style.

It is due to the fact that people circumstances have changed because of the pandemic in particular. I’ve experienced this with clients of mine, where people have moved away, where they’ve moved away from where head office is, because they could prove that they could do their job working in a different place. I believe that work is a thing you do not a place you go and I know that mindset is true for many organisations. However, from my own observations, I’ve seen that because people have moved away, they’re now asking for flexible working and they’re now having proved the fact they can do their job from anywhere. And then they’re having that request turned down and certainly from conversations that I’ve had with some of my mentoring clients at All Things IC, I can feel their frustration. I can hear what they’re saying, and I can sense that it’s a really difficult position to be in because they’ve proved that they can do their job from anywhere.

And then when there are requests for them to be in person, they may have moves such a different location, might have different schools, different social groups, different everything, much longer commuting times. And therefore the job that they had pre-pandemic just doesn’t suit them anymore because of all those other changes that have happened. So I think what we need to do is to have a real clarity when it comes to our people inside our organisations to really understand what has changed. If you are looking at how to retain your employees and how to help the great resignation, the most important thing I think for us is to do so with our evidence at hand. So what are the difficulties that your organisation’s facing? What is it that’s keeping your leaders awake at night? Is it that you have a competitor who is also in the same area as you, in the same part of your country and therefore they’re poaching your great people because they can choose to leave with their feet.

If you are not offering them what they need anymore, because their conditions have changed. That’s what I mean by the recontracting of relationships, where actually what they expect from you and what you expect from them has changed. Therefore, they feel the need to go and if you just so happen to have a competitor, who’s in the same area and they’re offering what they’re looking for, you’re going to lose those people. Let’s be really candid Comms friends, because this is the Candid Comms Podcast after all. Normally, I would say things to you like you need to demonstrate why your organisation’s really amazing and you can use the power of peer-to-peer communication. You can share great stories. You can say what a good place it is and you can make sure that your employer brand as your reputation and promise as an employer, you can make sure that that’s on point.

Make sure there’s no disconnect between what you say and what you do, be aware of your Glassdoor profile and there’s nothing wrong in any of that at all. But because we’re being candid, sometimes the way that our organisation’s work, just aren’t compatible with the expectations that people have. We’re seeing a rise in employee activism. We’re seeing a rise in employee advocacy, they’re done well.

Our people are saying positive things to use the Aon Hewitt model. They want to say, they want to stay, they want to strive. I’ll link that in the show notes if you want to know more about that. It’s an employee engagement model from years ago, but it’s a good one, it’s a decent one. I’ll link to that so you can check it out if you’re not aware of that study and that work and what I’m talking about and there’s nothing wrong in doing that.

Aon Hewitt stay say strive

There’s nothing wrong in thinking about how do we communicate the good stuff that’s going on in our organisation. But when there is a gap, when things have changed in the outside world and we haven’t changed internally, we will lose great people. You know I say, every episode, what happens inside is reflected outside. And if what’s happening inside your organisation is it’s a bit toxic and it’s a bit frustrating and people feel under pressure and they feel burnt out and they feel emotionally unwell, they feel physically unwell, they feel psychologically unsafe. Then your culture, the way we do things around here will be impacted by that. So it’s critical as internal communicators, if we are thinking about what happens inside being reflected outside, it’s being mindful that if all of that toxicity is going on inside our organisation, it will seep out. We will see it on social media profiles of our employees.

We will see it and the lack of people who want to join our organisation because they’ve read Glassdoor reviews for example, that’s like trip advisor for organisations if you’re not sure what Glassdoor is. There’s always a blog post, I was joking with my in-person masterclass attendees recently. There is always a blog post, I’ve got a blog post on Glassdoor. I’ll pop it in the show notes, allthingsic.com/podcast. I encourage you to really think about your organisation. Something I want you to do is to know what the current reality is. How concerned are your leaders about The Great Resignation? Is it something that’s happening to other people and not happening to you at all? Marvellous, if that is the case, what is it that you’re doing? What is it that is keeping your people where they are and whatever it is, make sure you capture it and do more of it and make sure you communicate what’s going on inside your organisation.

What are the reasons why people choose to stay? If you don’t know that, they’re great questions to ask on a regular basis in a controlled environment. So something like, and I’m in controlled, not a negative way, but in a safe way if you like. So an environment where maybe it’s your eyes and ears group, your editorial board, your culture champions, or your value champions, essentially trusted people around you, who you can ask for their input, that your eyes and ears across the organisation, where you can ask them, “What are you hearing? What are people worried about? Or why do you think people are choosing to stay here?” And I mean, this is the controlled bit because when you start asking people about whether they’re happy at work or not, it can just set a cat amongst the pigeons and upset people. So be really mindful and know that you will Comms friends, but be really mindful of the sorts of questions that you’re asking. So be really clear, what’s the purpose behind what you’re doing?

What do you want people within that group to do, say, think or feel as a result of your questions? What is it that you are trying and to get out of them and how do you want or need them to behave and use that mindset? You’ll know that’s my intentions framework. Use that mindset to write questions and to steer the conversation towards how you need it to go. I wonder what your notebook looks like right now. Have you made lots of notes as a result of this episode? Has it brought up things that you’ve not actually thoughts about before anything? Oh gosh. Thank you Rachel, another thing for my to-do list. Sorry, but this is really critical. This is where our world is right now. People are talking about the fact that our people are leaving. So we need to be really conscious of it and really mindful and think about how we can use our Internal Communication to help bring some clarity actually to the situation and help guide our leaders towards how they need to show up, be accountable and be visible.

We are going to take a short break and when we come back, I will leave you with one thing to think about. See you in a moment.

Photo shows a team day with All Things IC. Four people are sitting at a table in the office, surrounded by paper and workbooks. They are smiling.

Welcome back in the final part of today’s episode. I want to share something for you to think about given the context of The Great Resignation. There is a risk for organisations to lose great people. I wonder what the impact would be for your organisation. What would happen if you lost some of your top performers? What would happen if you lost all of your high performers inside your organisation? Something for us to think about is how to retain knowledge inside our organisations. This is also known as knowledge management. The knowledge management is something that is really important for internal communicators. We don’t talk about it a great deal, but it’s huge, it’s part of the Institute of Internal Communications, Masters in Internal Communication Management course that they run in conjunction with Solent University here in the UK. And for the last five years, I’ve been invited to go and speak on the course as a guest speaker and I’ve been sharing thoughts on knowledge management.

That’s been one of the topics that I’ve been sharing thoughts on with students over the past five years and from the perspective of The Great Resignation and what we are currently facing in this year and beyond, it calls to mind for me, some elements of knowledge management and it’s around how do you maintain and retain the information that you have inside your organisation? Whenever I share thoughts in knowledge management for people who perhaps not studied it before or heard about it before.

I often share this quote by the former CEO of HP and he said, “If HP knew what HP knows, we’d be three times more productive.” If they knew what they know, there’d be three times more productive, that’s massive. Internal Communication has an incredibly important role to play in uniting an organisation. We sometimes call it the glue inside an organisation.

We sometimes call it the conscience. We sometimes… There’s a great article by Richard Bailey that was published in about 2018 I think, in where he described Internal Communication as being the golden thread inside an organisation that I really like. I’ll share with you a link to that from the show notes. But the key there for me is how do we help our organisations help themselves? If we know, we’re going to be potentially losing our great people, how do we retain that knowledge? What happens when you have incredible midwives, who’ve got 30, 40 years experience and then they retire. What happens to all that knowledge that’s not in a textbook? Some organisations have already got things in place like reverse mentoring, or maybe they’ve even got things like Wikis, internally where people share content and they have their own libraries of information.

There’s all sorts of different ways that you could approach this situation. But my advice to you and something I want you to think about is if your organisation is facing the very real possibility and threat, therefore, of losing some really valuable, I mean, all employees are valuable obviously, but some really valuable employees when it comes to the knowledge that your organisation has, this is where Internal Comms can play a really critical role. So I want you to think about that. What is it that is at the heart of your organisation when it comes to your knowledge? When I was a journalist, I was known, my unmarried name was Allen and we had a bit of a joke in the news desk, particularly on my first paper. I was there for about three years and on my second paper for a year. And on my first paper, I became known as Allen archives.

So just for context to Comms friends, I am old enough that there was only one computer in the newsroom that had the internet. We all had email.

We had cameras that weren’t digital. We turned digital while I was there. We didn’t even have a TV until the day before 9/11. It was a very… Well, I can say it was very antiquated newsroom, it wasn’t, it’s just that was a tech that was available from ’99 to 2002. And during that time, because I’d been there for quite a few years, I’d been doing work experience for many years before that for two years before that.

So I’d got to know the paper really well. I lived in the area for years, went to church in the area, had fantastic networks and I was known as Allen archives and it was a bit of a joke, but my knowledge of the area and the people, particularly for my church, when a situation happened, I would normally, as a result of all of the friendships and relationships I developed over years with my family as being part of my local church, if we needed a vet or if we needed a funeral director, I would normally know one because of that amazing community.

And it became a bit of a thing where I was known as Allen archives because I could recall information and I could say, “Oh yeah, we’ve done a story on this in the past. I think it was such and such.” And it was literally clippings we had, I’m aware how dated this sounds and how old this makes me, but just bear with me. We didn’t have a digital archive system. Nowadays, you’d have your own version of like an internal, internet or Google style site where you could pull up old stories.

Everything was print, so when you had to recall back, I would remember the cuttings and the clippings I had to remember, or we roughly did a story about this topic and roughly when it was, and then by hand, we had to go to the huge filing cabinets that were held in the editor’s secretary’s office and lined the whole of the newsroom and you’d rifle through or you’d get the Microfiche.

Listeners, I’m quite aware. Some of you might even know what a Microfiche is. It’s like a black and white reel that you put on this machine. Google it, it will come up, I’m quite embarrassed. And I’d have to literally scroll through and then the stories would pop up. It’s like antiquated Google, if you like, we were using… What are we using Ask Jeeves and Babel Fish and AltaVista, what we’re using to search back in the day.

So my knowledge, without sounding arrogant, my knowledge was important because Allen archives, I could recall… Oh yeah, we did this sort of story and then I dug out the files and then we would always be able to refer back to old stories and just signpost from current stories, current news, in terms of, or there was another big crime in this area before, and then look back at the old stories, for example.

But what if you don’t have systems and processes in place?

Like when I left all that knowledge left with me, there wasn’t a way to capture it, there just wasn’t. It wasn’t the technology probably at the time either to be frank, but nowadays we have the opportunity to be able to capture and retain the knowledge of our people that will help others and be beneficial. So how could you do that? If you really are facing the possibility of fantastic people or fantastic knowledge about your organisation, walking out of the door. How can you make them stay first of all. How can you create the conditions that they can thrive? Even though they’re not able to have the things that they might want to have, like flexible working or different hours or different responsibilities, whatever that may be. What’s compelling enough to make them stay?

I hope you found this episode useful. There was quite a few different elements in here for you to think through. So we looked at what you need to know, and that’s really understanding the contracts that people have in place inside your organisation in terms of the emotional connection with your organisation, how they feel, whether they’re frustrated, what the rumours are, what people are saying on the ground. It’s knowing therefore where the problems are, knowing where the risks are, understanding what’s going on in the wider market. So do you have local competitors where actually your real risk of them whisking people away and something to think about, which is really drilling down in terms of knowledge management inside your organisation. If you really are at risk of people leaving at any point, even if your organisation is not facing The Great Resignation. You feel like actually, do you know we’re doing all right? And people aren’t going in the droves. Marvellous, brilliant, but still consider knowledge management, still consider how you retain the information that your employees have inside your organisation.

So as we draw this episode to a close, I encourage you to contact me with what has stood out for you. What is it that’s made you think differently as a result of listening to this episode, something you going to go and do a conversation that you want to have perhaps, all the information that I’ve shared today. The studies that I’ve mentioned are linked to in the show notes, allthingsic.com/podcast, and the show notes for this episode. You can find me on Twitter, if you want to leave me a comment @AllthingsIC. You can find me on Instagram, rachelallthingsic. Look me up on LinkedIn, Rachel Miller, or you can comment via the website, allthingsic.com/contact. And remember what happens inside is reflected outside. See you again soon.

Thank you for stopping by


Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog 29 January 2022.


  1. helen stretton says:

    Great episode and really relevant to what we’re facing (8/2/22)

    As a result, I’m sitting down with our HR Team and chatting about our response to flexible working requests and reviewing exit data

    Depending on what comes out, I’ll speak to our Exec Team and recommend that we talk about this in our next all company conversation – I love the idea of not shying away from difficult conversations.

  2. […] Further reading via the All Things IC blog: What IC pros need to know about the Great Resignation. […]

  3. Thank you for your comment Helen. I hope the conversation goes well. Do keep us posted! Rachel.

  4. […] seen many posts on social media in the last 12 months about ‘the great resignation’, and the report highlights that this perhaps isn’t the case for our […]

  5. […] Further reading: What internal communicators need to know about The Great Resignation. […]

Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How can we help?

All Things IC helps practitioners around the globe increase their knowledge of internal communication.

There’s a variety of ways we can support you including trainingconsultancy and mentoring to boost your skills and confidence.

Or visit the shop to see everything we offer.

Who has hired All Things IC?

Clients say working with All Things IC leaves them feeling inspired, motivated, full of ideas and ready to turn plans into action.

We’re proud to have been invited to work with, and advise, some of the world’s leading brands.

Get in touch...

Would you like to work with All Things IC? Do get in touch below. Please note we only accept guest post ideas from in-house IC pros who have read the blogging guidelines.

Asking for advertising, back links or pitching services? We do not offer these and will not reply. Thank you.