Navigating the ‘Great Resignation’: what workers want

Recruiter Advice - Navigating the Great Resignation -

The collective recruitment industry is facing continued challenges with uncertainty in the jobs market and significant skills shortages across a multitude of sectors, with no immediate sign of this changing. While Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic are two obvious reasons behind this situation, growing empowerment among workers shouldn’t be ignored. Significant numbers of workers reassessed their career options over the course of the pandemic and made decisions to: become self-employed, change sectors, take early retirement, and so on.


This backdrop is behind what’s been coined ‘The Great Resignation’; the prospect of mass resignations being a constant threat to in-house and external recruiters. Our latest research reveals the reasons that might lie behind people resigning from their jobs*, as well as what employers can do to hold on to, and attract, today’s talent.


Are we really facing ‘The Great Resignation’?


The pandemic has impacted the career options and choices of many. 


A third (33%) of employed adults say they’ve stayed in their job longer than planned because of the pandemic and, perhaps down to instability in the labour market over the last 18 months, almost half (46%) say they’re sending off more speculative applications than they were before the pandemic. For many businesses, this means they’re facing a ticking time bomb of their employees moving onto pastures new – indicating that ‘The Great Resignation’ (a mass exodus of talent) may indeed be on the horizon.


Unsurprisingly, not all employed adults are feeling or acting the same. Men (47%) are far more likely than women (34%) to be looking for a job right now. And young workers, aged 18 – 34, are the most likely age group to be looking for a job – with a staggering two-thirds (66%) of this demographic either actively or speculatively searching for work. 


What workers want


As with when last surveyed UK adults about their job search behaviour and sentiment (February 2021**), salary remains the most common reason for people to be looking for a job right now – with almost four in 10 (39%) saying this is the case for them. And, when asking what employers can do to make workers more likely to stay, over half (53%) say a salary increase, followed by 31% who say flexible hours. 


Survey respondents also suggested a number of other things their current employer could do to make them more likely to stay with the company:


  • More perks and benefits would be a good enough incentive for almost three in 10 (29%) people
  • More annual leave is mentioned by a quarter (25%) of respondents, with those in the East Midlands (38%) wanting this the most out of all regions
  • Over a fifth (21%) say a promotion would make all the difference, with 18-34 years olds (27%) the most likely to be influenced into staying at their current employer by this


When asked a slightly different question – that being what the single most important thing to them in a job is – the highest proportion (28%) of people said that work-life balance is most important to them.


Building an employee value proposition (EVP) fit for post-pandemic working


A large number of people may resign from their jobs in the coming months for all manner of reasons, and there will be nothing that their employers can do to prevent this from happening. However, especially for the 30% of workers who say that they’re not currently looking for a job (but are open to opportunities), businesses have an opportunity to craft a new employee experience that will enable them to thrive as an employer of choice for the modern worker. 




While flexible working can seem like an impossible challenge to get right, the key thing is to ensure that employees have a certain level of choice and autonomy over how, when and where they spend their working day. Keeping front of mind the fact that what works for one group of people won’t necessarily work for another.


With much debate over how employees should, or shouldn’t, be treated differently when it comes to working remotely or in the office, 35% of workers are willing to vote with their wallet; taking a pay cut if it meant they could work from home permanently. That’s not to say that businesses should cut everyone’s wages and tell people to work from home, but it’s certainly a dynamic that should be explored with separate groups of employees to understand, from a flexibility and compensation perspective, what would be the ideal scenario to keep them at the company for longer.


Perks and benefits


Almost three in 10 (29%) active jobseekers say that more perks and benefits would make them more likely to stay with their company, with a further 25% calling out more annual leave as a specific benefit that they would want. For businesses to stand out as an employer of choice in a candidate-driven market, perks need to factor in completely remote, hybrid and fully in-office staff, while also appreciating different personality types, situations and lifestyles of individuals.


Soft perks’ are those that employers can offer staff to complement their compensation and benefits packages. Offering these are natural happiness boosters in the day-to-day life of workers, the power of which shouldn’t be underestimated. These can include:


  • Prizes and monetary incentives
  • Team building and away days
  • Late start, early finish 
  • Spontaneous gifting
  • Subscription-based perks (e.g. music, wellness, fitness subscriptions)


As perks get bigger, they venture into benefits, which together all form the complete package of a desirable place to work. In a post-pandemic world, increased annual leave entitlements (though not necessarily unlimited), enhanced childcare benefits, medical and life insurances, official wellbeing programmes, and so on are the practical and emotive perks that future employees will be looking for.


Career development


Career development – especially long-term opportunities – is another crucial area for businesses to invest in over the coming months, so that they’re in a position to retain employees for a sustainable period of time. This is because 70% of employed adults say that they consider long-term development opportunities available within the company when applying for a role. And almost a fifth (18%) of active jobseekers say that increased training and development opportunities would make them more likely to stay with their company.


For information about’s Recruiter services, and to learn more about how we can help with your post-pandemic recruitment and retention strategies, visit: 


*Online survey conducted by Atomik Research among 2,002 adults in the UK  –  all employed full (80%) or part-time (20%) – between 17th – 20th August 2021. Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency that employs MRS-certified researchers and abides by MRS code.

**Online survey conducted by Atomik Research among 2,001 adults – aged 18-64 in the UK who are either employed (full- or part-time), furloughed or unemployed – in February 2021.