The Great Resignation on Q&A

Last week I was in the audience at Q&A. The topic for exploration was The Great Resignation, a subject I’ve been researching and writing about quite a bit lately.

“Tonight, The Great Resignation. Are Aussie workers about to quit their jobs in droves? Or are they just thinking about their work/life balance? What’s driving this shift? And what will it mean for the way we work?” was the opening teaser from host David Speers.

When I received the invitation to be an audience member, I immediately enquired as to whether I could be on the panel instead. Alas, I was too late. The experts had already been locked in, but I was welcome to ask a question. With the help of my friend Kath, I crafted and submitted what I considered to be a suitably provocative question.

“As a purpose educator and writer, I’ve observed a dramatic shift in peoples values. Meaning is fast becoming the new money. We’re seeking more from life and are hungry to make our work matter. The pandemic has accelerated our search. Other than the bog-standard employee engagement surveys, what are employers doing to bring real meaning and purpose to the working lives of their employees? Why should people stay?”

Alas, again. My question didn’t make the grade.

No matter. Regardless, I was pleased to be a part of the live audience, the first at the ABC in six months. If you didn’t catch the show, it’s worth watching.

There were interesting stories and questions from audience members and a thoughtful and lively discussion on what we might expect to see in Australian workplaces. While the outcome was inconclusive, what was conclusive (and yes, I know I’m biased), was the recognition that humans need meaningful work. Time and again, the panellists dropped the words ‘meaning and purpose’ into their deliberations. However, it was a point that didn’t seem to get off the ground.

My own great resignation occurred 20 years ago.  I quit the corporate world of banking to start my own marketing consultancy. The shift was precipitated by a divorce and the realisation that single-motherhood would require more of my time to care for my 3-year-old son. A small business with flexible working hours, seemed like the only option. Little did I know it was also the beginning of the pursuit of my purpose to become a teacher and writer.

I don’t believe we need to quit our job to find our purpose though. And I don’t believe that if we choose to stay, we must direct all our attention to fulfilling the company purpose either. I believe we can bring our own why to work while also working towards the company why. That’s what Talk on Purpose does. It brings the company why together with the personal why. It’s a course I’m teaching at a community bank right now and I’m thrilled with how it’s coming together.

So, if the search for meaning is one cause of The Great Resignation, what can leaders do to help their people stay? I think I have some answers. I sincerely hope it’s a topic very soon on Q&A and that this time I’m invited to the party. Watch this space.

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