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The world has changed tremendously as a result of COVID-19, especially the workforce, which is why more associations should pay attention to the Great Resignation. Coined in 2019 by Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Texas A&M, the great resignation has been a long-time coming and was only exacerbated by the pandemic. Whether workers are looking for a change because of financials, culture or flexibility, there are plenty of opportunities for companies and associations to learn something from this exodus. 

Who does the Great Resignation affect the most?


In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Ian Cook, vice president of people analytics at Visier, pointed out that “employees between 30 and 45 years old have had the greatest increase in resignation rates.” For many organizations, this affects their mid-level employees and those in leadership roles. 


There is no industry that has remained unaffected by worker shortages, but some are faring worse than others. Some of the industries being affected the most include: 

  • Retail and hospitality
  • Manufacturing
  • Technology
  • Healthcare 

The healthcare industry alone has seen a 3.61% increase in resignations from March 2020 to 2021. These industries also happen to have some of the largest association groups, which means knowing how to empower leaders and members can be crucial. 

5 lessons associations can implement to support members

1. Work culture is more important than ever

Traditionally, workers spent more time in the office than they did at home. Then, with many roles going remote because of COVID-19, the line between work and home blurred even more. What was once a place for relaxation for workers, has now become an extension of the workplace. 

So, how do you create a healthy work culture? 

For starters, making an environment where workers can speak their minds is essential — especially with fully remote and hybrid workplaces. Have an open forum where everyone can speak freely and ensure your leadership team welcomes frank discussion. Another important factor is helping your staff feel like part of the team. Scheduling virtual happy hours and team-building activities can strengthen the camaraderie among your team. 

Of course, making that break between working hours and home hours is also important. Set specific “on” hours for all workers and try to coordinate times where everyone has availability to handle those day-to-day touchpoints and meetings. Not only will this ensure everything that needs to get done gets done, but also it will allow workers to create that personalized schedule they’re looking for. 

2. Check in on leadership

According to a recent Fast Company article, “Gen X leaders now hold more than half (51%) of leadership roles globally.” They are also the demographic that is more likely to explore new opportunities and consider their priorities. Pair that with the fact that resignation rates among managers are up 12% over last year, and companies could find themselves in a leadership void. 

One way to keep these valuable leaders in place is understanding what drives them. According to Small Business Trends, prioritizing their goals and needs is key to retention. In their research, they found that for Gen X leaders, being able to make a difference is important. 

That same study also found that these employees would consider the “belief in the reputation and vision of the (business),” when choosing a new role or deciding whether or not they want to stay. This is particularly important to purpose-driven organizations, as they will not only have an easier time retaining workers but also finding new, qualified leaders when hiring. 

3. Education and training play a factor in retention

One way to empower your association members is by focusing on growth and education. Not only will this help keep those mid-level workers in place, but also it will help more junior staff grow in their roles, ensuring you have someone in place in the event of a resignation. While professional development is always going to be an important part of helping your association members grow, non-work-related training is also key. 

With burnout being a major factor as to why workers are looking for new opportunities, empowering them to also deal with their own health and mental welfare is more important than ever. 

4. Workers are looking for flexibility

Whether you’re looking to attract new talent or want to make sure your existing staff stays on board, flexibility is essential. 

After losing three longtime employees, Rafael Rivera, CAE, CEO of the Professionals in Human Resources Association noted in a recent interview that when faced with going remote or asking workers to come back to the office “that’s when the employee may question you: ‘We’ve been working from home for 13 to 15 months. Why do I need to be back in the office?’ And you need to have a good answer as to why that is a business necessity. If the answer isn’t good, you’re very likely to lose an employee.”

Of course, if fully remote roles are not a fit for your organization because of community involvement, for example, then opting for a hybrid environment, where workers can choose what schedule works for them, will go a long way to keeping everyone happy. 

5. Focus on thoughtful onboarding and hiring

With the Great Resignation also comes plenty of hiring, which means finding new workers is a top priority for many associations. One tactic is to use the four cornerstones for equitable hiring, which include candidate focus, consistency, coordination and courage. Not only will this allow you to ensure equitable hiring, but also bring on the best talent available. 

And with plenty of talent out there, associations need to focus on making the onboarding process streamlined and successful. The focus should be on making your new staff comfortable, so focus on giving them a thorough understanding of their role, expectations and future plans for the organization. Additionally, assisting them with any needed technology or supplies can also strengthen the relationship right off the bat.

While a term like the Great Resignation can seem like doom and gloom for many organizations, there are plenty of opportunities to also change the way we work. Whether that means refocusing on outlining your organization vision or bringing on more diverse talent without geographic limitations, there are plenty of positives, too. 

Jose Triana
Post by Jose Triana
September 29, 2021
Jose Triana is a writer and creative focused on helping purpose-driven organizations learn and find value online. When he isn't working on content, you can catch him going for a run or resting with a good book.