The Great Resignation or The Great Wake-Up Call? How to turn your talent problem into a golden opportunity

by Bita Taghavi-Stevens

You don’t need to be an expert to know how challenging talent acquisition and retention is right now.

Last year, around 8700 retail stores closed in the UK; an average of 47 a day. To compound the problem, the number of retail openings dramatically dropped, creating the biggest net loss since 2014. This bust was fuelled by employees leaving in their droves.

Post-pandemic, the problems aren’t going away. If anything, the landscape is becoming more complex – and brutal – than ever before. So how do you survive?

The good news is that with a bit of pivoting and agility you can unveil these challenges for what they really are: opportunities in disguise.

Let’s take a look at the big talent problem – and how you can turn it into a competitive advantage…

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The problem


Zooming in on the retail sector is a good way to illustrate how it started and how it’s going.

While talent attrition is a constant in retail, it's currently reaching new highs – or should that be lows…

Last year, the US saw the biggest mass exodus of retail workers on record, with 640,000 employees quitting in just one month. In the UK, 28% of retail workers say they want to leave their job. And it’s not just retention that’s the issue.

According to a report by McKinsey, 83% of retailers are struggling to recruit the right people.

Add these problems to the usual retail recruitment challenges (fluctuating seasonal needs for staff, competition to acquire locally-based talent, high turnover rates), and it’s easy to see how this could spell the end for some retailers.

Although retail is one of the worst hit industries, the talent gap is impacting businesses in every sector – from eCommerce and IT to media and hospitality – nobody is safe.

So, what’s the solution?

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The opportunity


For companies who are listening, The Great Resignation is actually The Great Wake Up Call.

The world has changed, work has changed, people have changed. The balance of power has shifted.

Candidates used to have to sell themselves to you, now you have to sell your Employee Value Proposition to them – and what an opportunity to create a killer EVP.

If you can tune into what employees really want – and then offer exactly that – you’ll have the edge on your competitors.

So what do employees want? Well, it’s simple. They want more than before. More money, more flexibility, more opportunities for growth, more focus on wellbeing and inclusion. In other words: they want to feel more valued.

If you want to turn your big talent problem into an opportunity, you need a compelling Employee Value Proposition. It goes a little something like this…



Mo’ money


Who doesn’t want more money? In a recent study by Gallup, higher income and better benefits topped the list with 64% of employees saying it was their number one priority. And right now, they have the market on their side.

As an employer, you need to recognise that this is a jobseeker’s market – it’s not a time to low-ball anyone you want to hire. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

Candidates know exactly how much choice they have, and they have the confidence to ask for more money. If you’re not competitive enough, they’ll just go somewhere else.

Bonuses are another way to attract talent. More companies are offering bonuses these days – some even offer a golden hello. In many industries sign-up bonuses are still uncommon, meaning brands that adopt this tactic could gain an advantage.



Prioritise Learning & Development


According to The LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if there was better investment in their learning and development. And here’s another one for you:

76% of Gen Z believe learning is the key to a successful career. 'Nuff said.

If you want to attract and retain talent in 2022, you need to develop a strong L&D offering – and you need to do it fast. How will you help your employees reach their personal career goals? And is your L&D strategy actively connecting the dots between skills, internal mobility, and retention?

If you think L&D is a worm-on-a-hook acquisition tactic, think again. Upskilling and developing your staff is crucial to the future-proofing of your business.

Companies that adopt skills-based planning now have a unique chance to become learning-first trailblazers. You’ll have a head-start on all the hottest trends – the convergence of learning, talent development, and the biggest one of all: internal mobility.

It’s simple: Employees want to diversify their skills with on-the-job learning opportunities. Companies that excel at this are able to hold on to their staff for an average of 5.4 years – nearly twice as long as companies with poor learning and development strategies. Win:win.

However, LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report found that only 10% of organisations have a skills database with profiles for all employees. For companies that are agile enough to act fast, there’s a clear chance to turn the skills crisis into a skills opportunity.

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Get with the (people-first) programme


In 2022 culture is king (or queen). If you want to successfully recruit and retain talent, you need to build a talent strategy with wellbeing, flexibility, and DE&I at its core.

The past two years have shown us a different way of working. Now employees want flexible jobs, working for companies that really care about their wellbeing.

However, a recent study found that employee wellbeing is continuing to decline – and in the UK, retail staff are the worst affected. While 91% of managers in the retail space said they noticed mental health and wellbeing problems amongst employees, nearly a third said they didn’t have the resources to do anything about it.

So what happens if you decide to become one of the unicorn brands who seriously invest in the health and wellbeing of their employees? You close the gap between employee expectation and reality – and who wouldn’t want to work at a company like that?



Focus on Gen Z


Younger people want to work for brands that reflect their values and morals. So who are you? What do you stand for?

It’s no surprise that some retailers have continued to attract and retain talent even in the midst of all the despair. Just look at Crocs.

Apart from their commitment to sustainability, anti-slavery, and equality, the global shoe brand also invests a lot of time and money in their employer branding – and it pays off.

Across all of their hiring areas – shop floor to corporate to distribution – their message is loud and clear. They put people and culture first. They celebrate the individuality of all of their employees. They want their employees to be their best, most authentic selves at work. And of course, they prioritise diversity, equity and inclusion.

For Gen Z in particular, diversity and inclusion has the power to be a deal maker – or deal breaker. 77% of American Gen Zers say a company’s diversity has a direct impact on their decision to work there – so you do the math.

Gen Z are now the largest generation – and by 2025, they’ll make up 27% of the workforce. Reach them with an EVP that ticks all the boxes, and you might just resolve your big talent problem.


We all know that you can’t do the same thing and expect different results – and it’s perhaps never been more true. In the current climate, it’s adapt or die. But that doesn’t have to spell doom and gloom – quite the opposite. If you see the talent crisis for what it is: a moment for change, you won’t just survive – you’ll thrive.

If you’re an HR decision maker, we want to hear from you. Drop us a line or click here to see our full list of Virtual and In-Person global Masterclasses.

With special thanks to:

Bita Taghavi-Stevens