The Great Resignation: What can employers do to retain staff?

The term ‘Great Resignation’ was coined by organisational psychologist Dr Anthony Klotz. He used it to describe the current trend of a vast number of employees deciding to leave their employment either to find a new job within their existing industry or begin a new career.

Why is this happening now and is it just happening in Ireland?

Since the pandemic, people have had time to stop and reflect on their lifestyle and working life. Personal responsibilities and health have taken priority over work and so the need for flexibility whilst having job security is key for employees. Also, employees are more aware of what other businesses can offer in the form of benefits, support, career development opportunities etc., factors that are equally important as salary for many people.

According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, where a global workforce of 30,000 were surveyed, 41% said they were likely to consider leaving their jobs within the next year. We’re also seeing this trend on a local level. For instance, the results of a survey of Irish workers conducted by the Work Futures Lab at the Kemmy Business School were identical, with 41% of 1,000 workers saying their future career lies outside their current business.

What makes an employee think about resigning from their current role?

Reasons why an employee may resign from their current role can vary:

  • Lack of progression or opportunities
  • Salary
  • Dissatisfaction with management or working environment
  • Desire to either work remotely or fully in the office

How do employers monitor and manage the situation?

Employers need to be aware of employee turnover rates and understand how these affect their business’s performance and ability to achieve its strategic goals. Employers should strive to address any issues and seek to ensure their employees are happy in their roles. Preventing issues before they arise is crucial to avoiding dissatisfaction among staff.

This can be done by:

  • Holding regular reviews with employees in addition to promoting an ‘open door’ policy for discussing any concerns they may have.
  • Being reactive to post-crisis reactions and pre-empt difficulties that employees may face.
  • Having transparent and fair internal recruitment and disciplinary processes in place that will avoid feelings of unfairness and dissatisfaction with the working environment.
  • Conducting exit interviews: Often employees are reticent to state their genuine reasons for leaving. Engaging an independent third party to carry out exit interviews can help the business gain honest feedback and learn from the experience of the departing employee.

What can employers do to retain staff and encourage job satisfaction?

To counteract the incoming wave of employee turnover, businesses need to focus on employee engagement. Engaged employees perform better, experience less burnout, and are more loyal to supportive managers, thus staying with the business longer.

Here are some ways you can retain staff:

  • Flexibility: Wherever possible, accommodate individual preferences on working hours and times. As part of this, it’s also important to monitor workload and ensure it’s manageable within working hours.
  • Fair treatment: A perception of unfairness, whatever the management view of the issue, is a major cause of voluntary resignations. For example, perceived unfairness in the distribution of rewards is very likely to lead to resignations.
  • Wellbeing: Support managers to help their teams thrive and manage issues such as workplace stress and absenteeism. If you don’t already offer one to employees, consider introducing an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
  • Compensation and benefits package: Provide guidance on realistic salary increases and timeframes. Benefits to consider include pension contribution, healthcare contribution, education sponsorships, gym membership, discount canteen facilities.
  • Progression: Maximise opportunities for employees to develop skills and careers. It’s also important to understand and manage people’s career expectations. Where promotions are not feasible, look for sideways moves that allow employees to gain different development experiences. Facilitate and financially support training and education. This can also benefit a business’s succession planning.
  • Consultation: Ensure that employees have a ‘voice’ and feel a sense of custodianship. Review grievance policies, conduct performance reviews regularly and consult with employees where necessary on changes in the business.

Employee retention is underpinned by effective recruitment and induction processes. Follow through on what was offered at the job offer stage and provide your staff with continued support and training.

Article: Top tips for attracting and retaining great staff

Looking for further advice on retaining staff?

For instant advice on how to retain employees during the Great Resignation, speak to an expert HR consultant now on 01 886 0350 or request a callback here.

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Nora Cashe


Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

Nora has extensive experience representing clients at Employment Tribunal hearings, Conciliation / Mediation meetings before both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. 

Nóra is a member of the Irish Employment Law Association and engages with the WRC Adjudication Service as part of their stakeholder engagement forum.

Deiric McCann

Genos International Europe

Deiric McCann leads Genos International Europe – The EU division of a world-leading provider of emotional intelligence solutions. 

With over two decades experience at the highest levels of management, Deiric supports clients to develop the resilience, emotional intelligence, psychological safety and engagements of their employees.

Rhiannon Coyne

Graphite HRM

Rhiannon Coyne is a Senior HR Consultant at Graphite HRM and will be providing an overview of best practice on how to deal with complaints of bullying and harassment in the workplace. 

With a number of recent updates to employment laws, Rhiannon will take a closer look at employment equality and how it is interlinked to Health & Safety and what employers can learn from recent case laws.

David Begg

Workplace Relations Commission

David Begg was appointed Chairperson of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in January 2021.

David is also a professor at Maynooth University Institute of Social Sciences. Mr Begg’s extensive history in the trade union movement included leading the ESB Officers Association and Irish Congress of Trade Unions, stepping away from the latter in 2001 to chair international aid agency Concern.

David Begg was also previously a director of the Central Bank of Ireland between 1995 and 2010.