The Great Resignation - Fact or Fiction?

16 March 2022 Law Staff

The Great Resignation - Fact or Fiction?

The Great Resignation - Fact or Fiction? (Part 1)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

We wanted to share our observations on the forecasted ‘Great Resignation’ and provide some substance on whether this is a fallacy or a reality. If it is fact, has it occurred or is it yet to come; and, should it influence your thinking on your personal situation.

So is there merit to the perception of a Great Resignation? The short answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’ as people have been removing themselves from a poor or restrictive environment, or they have been seizing an obvious career advancement opportunity when it came knocking. Evidence of this is that an astounding 976 lawyers specifically in Brisbane have changed employers in the last 12 months. And no, that is not a misprint as the data has been collected from a leading platform that identifies change of employment as distinct from change in title.

Without this retrospective data, there have been many ‘theories’ as to what is driving a Great Resignation cycle, but the most plausible leading factor is the lack of career movement throughout 2020 and part of 2021. Underpinning this was a significant drop in resignations during the pandemic, with many junior lawyers shelving their plans to travel and work abroad, and many other lawyers simply concerned about being the last on and first off if that employer had to make cuts.

Apart from catching up on 18 months of suppressed recruitment, we are also seeing work flexibility playing a part in a lawyer’s motivation for making a move now. There is an ever-increasing number of firms offering greater workplace flexibility - many for the very first time in their history. Lawyers have now become adept at working from home over the past 2 years, with many enjoying the WFH option for at least a portion of the week, and some for the whole working week.

In essence, law firms were forced to adjust their systems and procedures very quickly to pivot to flexible work practices, some more successfully than others. The firms that struggled with the concept tended to be those that had an old school mentality of ‘you need to be in the office to be productive’ or ‘presenteeism’ as a bi-product of (a lack of) trust.

Given law firms work largely on a time based model, and most firms have sophisticated systems for capturing productivity, there really should be no reason why an employer cannot adequately supervise and manage their staff for a portion of the week. The reality is an unproductive employee will be underperforming regardless of whether they work from the office or home. In stark contrast, if you have a star performer, they will have the drive and discipline to achieve results regardless of where they work.

Our market feedback would also indicate that firms who rolled out successful flexible work practice policies have reaped the benefits in terms of employee satisfaction and ultimately employee retention. The pandemic has allowed these people time to reflect on what is important to them. With this reflection has come the realisation of the value of being able to work from home and gain an additional 3 to 5 hours a week usually spent commuting to the office, and the importance of working in an environment with a positive culture.

Lawyers leave managers, not firms. Too often we hear someone say the culture of their firm is amazing, but they can’t work with their manager due to poor leadership or a dictatorial attitude. In a candidate short market, employees have come to realise they no longer need to put up with a difficult manager as there are simply too many other choices to work with highly respected managers and in an exceptional team culture.

In terms of money, almost everyone says they’re not motivated by it, but let’s be real … being rewarded financially always helps. In the current market we are seeing firms counter offer crazy amounts of money to keep their star performers, as well as offering sign on bonuses or other benefits to secure new Talent.

If the Great Resignation is influencing you to consider your options, the key is to know who the Employers of Choice are, and also what your worth is in the current market.

But, is this the right time to move? Our answer will always be with brutal honesty - If you’re happy with your work, your team, your manager, your progression prospects, and your salary then it’s a resounding ‘No!’…. stay where you are. If however there is something in your current role that is not making you jump out of bed each day with vigour … then it is an unreserved ‘Yes!’ … consider your options … dip your toe in the water … listen to the market … and when an exceptional opportunity presents itself then do not hesitate. Be fully informed by gaining access to credible information, and ask for guidance from someone without an ulterior motive.

Author: Trudy Reading - Senior Client Advisor

Editor: Craig Ashton-Sward - Director & Senior Client Advisor