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The Great Resignation

What Does the Great Resignation Mean for European Businesses?

More than four million American workers left their jobs in the first year of the Great Resignation. When the movement began in 2021, it appeared to be an American phenomenon — employees across the country were finally baulking at long work weeks, short lunch breaks, minimal vacations, and poor work-life balance.

European human resources teams could be forgiven for feeling relatively insulated from the issue. The labour culture on this side of the Atlantic had few similarities with that of the US. The average work week in Europe is far shorter, and many employees enjoy five to six weeks of paid vacation annually.

But the Great Resignation trend was not confined to the US — or indeed to 2021. The post-pandemic “new normal” has not seen a widespread return to the office and the status quo. In fact, a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of more than 52,000 workers across 44 countries indicates that 20% intend to change jobs in the next year.

Europe’s Great Resignation

The Great Reshuffle. The Great Rethink. The Big Quit. Whatever you call it, the movement is alive and well in European countries.


people in the Netherlands in Q1 2022 reported starting a new job in the past year


people in the UK quit their jobs in the Q2-Q3 of 2022


of German workers are currently seeking new employment


people per quarter resigned from jobs in France in late 2021 and early 2022

Workers in many European countries benefit from stricter labour laws and social support systems. So why is everyone resigning?

A lot has changed in the world since the pandemic began. Health concerns, lockdowns, a shift to remote work, economic uncertainty, and factors like the war in Ukraine have driven many people to reprioritise their lives. Hybrid work models that offer workers more freedom and flexibility have become the rule rather than the exception. And an ageing workforce is being replaced with younger employees who want a sense of purpose in their jobs and appreciation for their efforts.

“It’s this recalibration that people have had where they’re rethinking the role of work in their lives. They’re rethinking — not only in terms of things like compensation — but also, clearly, things like flexibility, purpose, balance.”

How to Stem Employee Departures

How to Stem Employee Departures

So what steps can European companies take to counter the widespread resignation trend?

The answer lies in understanding what workers (current and prospective) want from their jobs. Today’s employees are in a position of power, and companies that acknowledge and adapt to the shift in dynamics will be the ones that suffer least from the Big Quit.

Staff demands and expectations will vary from workplace to workplace. Here are some general guidelines on what your employees are looking for, but don’t discount the value of reaching out to workers and asking them what you can do to improve their experience.

1. Basic Respect

82% of employees say it’s important their organisation sees them as a person rather than simply an employee, but only 45% of employees believe their organisation actually sees them this way. A little bit of respect and consideration can go a long way.

2. Flexible Work Policies

Nearly 40% of job candidates worldwide rank flexible work policies among their top three considerations. Employees got a taste of working remotely or on alternate schedules during the pandemic, and most are not ready to go back to full-time at the office.

3. A Sense of Purpose

A growing number of people are seeking a greater sense of purpose in their lives, and research indicates 70% of employees say their work defines their purpose. Employees who work for a brand that shares their values and lets them feel they’re making a difference are less likely to seek other options.

Mental health and work-life balance

4. Relief from Burnout

Mental health and work-life balance take precedence over career success for 73% of European workers. Reduce workloads, provide the resources and support your staff need to thrive, and foster a culture that promotes self-care among staff.

5. Opportunities to Advance

Offering your employees professional development opportunities and the chance to advance their careers with your organisation benefits you in multiple ways. Workers who feel you’re invested in their success are less likely to resign and also more motivated and productive.

6. Fair Compensation

Inadequate compensation is the leading cause of workforce attrition in Europe. Your staff will be less likely to look for other employment if they feel they’re being fairly valued for what they do. Remember that compensation can include wages as well as other financial benefits and perks of the job.

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