Small Businesses and the “Great Resignation”


By Josef Woodward, Chair Recruitment Director, Vistage


According to the Office of National Statistics, Brits left their jobs in record numbers in 2021. Job-to-job moves totalled 979,000 between July and September alone. This growing trend dubbed the so-called “great resignation” highlights a changing attitude towards work as UK workers make empowered decisions to seek more fulfilling and purposeful roles after the challenges of the pandemic.

This changing attitude has resulted in a talent crunch across many sectors, including hospitality, retail, logistics and construction. Small businesses are hit the hardest as competition for talent heats up. According to a survey by Vistage, the world’s leading business performance and leadership advancement organisation for small and midsize businesses, 62% of UK SMEs said that their current hiring challenges mean that they cannot operate their business at full capacity.

With the New Year approaching which typically marks a time when people evaluate their careers, timing is ripe for small businesses to maximise this opportunity to improve their organisational culture and workforce, thereby making their business a more attractive option for recruits.


Here are some ways small business leaders can transform their businesses to change ‘the great resignation’ to ‘the great attraction’.


How can small businesses cultivate loyalty amid this period?

It is evident that employers who come out on top understand that investment in their staff makes good business practice. These leaders recognise that the loyalty built through employer-offered training is a massive driver of employee retention.

Upskilling and career advancement programmes cultivate loyalty and improve performance because staff feel their advance is a priority for the employer and perform better because they have the necessary skill and knowledge for their job. According to Deloitte, employees who describe their companies’ talent programs as “world-class” or “very good” are nearly twice (42% to 23%) as committed to remaining at their jobs than employees who work at companies with “fair” or “poor” talent efforts.


How can small businesses leverage technology to create an employee-focused workplace?

As workplace operations evolve to remote or hybrid working, many companies have to assimilate new practices to maintain employee engagement and keep their organisational culture alive.

The best way to accomplish this is by adopting new technologies and keeping their employees happy. Gallup’s 2021 report revealed that employee engagement decreased globally by two percentage points following a steady rise over the last decade, from 22% in 2019 to 20% in 2020.

Why is this important? Gallup argues that improving employee engagement increases a host of positive organisational outcomes, including retention, safety, sales, productivity and profitability. This relationship is even more pronounced under challenging times.

So, leaders should leverage new technology to cultivate a continuous, timely and ongoing feedback culture within their organisations. With the help of a continuous feedback mechanism, it becomes easier for companies to engage their employees because communication is transparent and accurate. This provides an opportunity for managers and staff to work together to improve their work-life and stay motivated in the workplace.


How can small businesses find opportunity in the Exodus?

The great resignation can allow businesses to attract new talent and compete with larger organisations by providing a better workplace experience and flexibility.

It is important to use exit interviews to understand why people are leaving your organisation and take measurable changes to retain existing staff. This could allow businesses to gain an advantage in the race to secure the best talent in the post-pandemic business world.

Additionally, business leaders must recognise that the skills needed to lead effectively has changed since the pandemic. The new skills required to thrive in this new era includes sift skills, including coaching, mentoring and building effective teams, have become critical traits for workers.

If you do not find why staff are leaving your organisation, you are putting your business at risk as a business leader.



The shift in the employer-employee dynamic caused by the pandemic will likely continue as the COVID-19 situation persists. Therefore, business leaders should see the great resignation as a wake-up call to take workplace flexibility and employee well-being seriously or risk losing the best talent or new talent. 

Akeela Zahair

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