London UK 2025

Dates and Venue

23 - 24 April 2025 | ExCeL London

17 - 18 April 2024 | ExCeL London

The Great Resignation

Thursday 7 April 2022

The Great Resignation

AJ O'Connell
The Great Resignation
AKA The Big Quit, forces learning cultures to take a long hard look.

In the last year, a record number of people have left their jobs. Some workers have left the labour market entirely leaving businesses scurrying to fill positions and retain current workers. Meanwhile, reports indicate that more people plan to leave their jobs in the coming year. 

Why the exodus? Workers have been run ragged by the pandemic. Studies list reasons for quitting as being caused by pay cuts, a lack of benefits, or a desire to pursue a long-held dream of changing careers, but a BBC article ‘The Great Resignation: How employers drove workers to quit’ puts the problem succinctly: workers quit as a result of the way their employer treated them during the pandemic

Employees, according to a Microsoft study, ‘Great Expectations: Making hybrid work, work’ now put health, wellness, and family above work, and they have to feel their job is ‘worth it’ to stay. That means job satisfaction is important: work-life balance, opportunity for advancement, and the ability to develop relevant skills that will help them in the future.

All of this means that it’s now time for companies to take a thoughtful look at their internal culture of learning.


What is a culture of learning?

At its simplest, it is whatever beliefs and practices surround learning and development at your organisation. There are several different cultures of learning that might have grown up around learning in your company:

  • Culture of training: The traditional model of learning – your learners are given the training your organisation decides they need to do their jobs. This includes onboarding and skills training.
  • Culture of compliance: Your organisation provides the training mandated by law so that your workers follow regulations. This sort of training keeps your firm out of legal hot water while not necessarily providing skills to your workforce.
  • Culture of continuous learning: Continuous learning describes an approach to learning in which individual workers and the organisation as a whole are encouraged to continually improve themselves. Learning opportunities are provided, but often such opportunities are self-directed. Employees are encouraged to identify the gaps in their learning and help one another learn.

These three cultures of learning have very different focuses. The first two are much more company-focused, and in many ways, feature a more traditional approach to workplace learning.

Think of it this way. In the old days, an organisation’s L&D department decided what employees needed to learn and then sent workers to a corporate university to learn it. This means that every course and learning module was centred on the needs of a company, not the needs of the learners.

This may have made sense 20 years ago, when corporate careers were seen as a static progression — a worker would have to learn certain things and accomplish certain objectives to advance to the next defined stage of their career — but whilst values around careers are shifting, learning must change as well.


Why a culture of continuous learning is critical during The Great Resignation

The ambiguity and uncertainty caused by the pandemic caused a mindset shift amongst the workforce. For some, the stress caused workers to re-evaluate their careers — were they really happy in their jobs? For others, home life and their health became more important. Research by Personio and Opinium How businesses risk a post pandemic talent drain reveals that others don’t feel their employer offers enough career development support.

While quitting is one way employees have responded to these concerns, they are still hungry for opportunities. McKinsey’s Great Attrition research report shows that one third of people who quit in 2021 left their jobs to start their own businesses.

A culture of continuous learning places the individual at the centre of learning and development. When an organisation commits to continuous learning, people are put in charge of their own development. This model is good for the people, who know what they need to learn in order to do a good job and remain viable in the job market, and it’s good for organisations, as they benefit from the increased job satisfaction derived as a result of self-directed learning.


Learner centric

The Mind The Workplace Survey conducted by The Faas Foundation and Mental Health America, shows that workers are happiest when development opportunities are provided. 69% of employees at ‘mentally healthy organisations’ are offered the opportunity to learn, to acquire new skills and to diversify their work. In addition, they experience autonomy at work.

Employees who receive the training they would like, feel that their employers are more caring and are less likely to leave.

Creating a learner-centric training environment means that managers have to be willing to relinquish some control. Does this mean that compliance courses and mandatory onboarding modules are now a thing of the past? No. However, it does mean taking a more thoughtful approach, thinking deeply about the content your people may want and serving it up alongside the resources you want them to consume.


AJ O’Connell

Learning Expert & Writer, SAP Litmos .


Visit: Stand K20, Learning Technologies, 4 – 5 May 2022, ExCel, London.

Attend: ‘Mitigate the Workforce Exodus through Targeted Learning & Development’ 4 May, 14:00– 14:30 and ‘SAP Litmos in three short acts’, 5 May, 13:35– 13:50, presented by Mike Martin, Bitesize Learning Zone 2.

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