The Great Resignation is Equally Frustrating for Employers, If Not More

March 17, 2022

SINGAPORE: Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, employees are getting more frustrated at work, fuelling the great resignation wave.

But so are employers.

Besides managing costs and profits, some have gone beyond what’s asked of them to demonstrate care for their employees during this difficult period, but still see a flurry of resignations.

Many employers are still on survival mode

A major challenge for employers during the pandemic was to keep jobs intact even as they struggled to keep their firms afloat.

Take the badly hit aviation industry as an example. Singapore Airlines had axed 4,300 positions about a year ago to survive, and redeployed some remaining staff as care ambassadors in hospitals and contact tracers to supplement their lost earnings.

As air travel reopened in September, the airline stated that 92 per cent of pilots and 86 per cent of cabin crew were back in service.

Still, it faces the huge challenge of motivating existing employees. These are employees who experienced a prolonged period of devastation and anxiety. It would take time for them to transition to a new stage.

But time might not be on the side of some employers if rules don’t change. Cathay Pacific has to take care of burnt-out aircrew, some claiming they spent about 150 days in a vicious cycle of quarantine that kept them separated from their families and society.

While the airline provided support such as “electrical appliances, amenities, support groups, financial incentives, and additional food supplies”, many aircrew still thought support wasn’t forthcoming.

Some told the BBC their “perpetual state of quarantine” was killing their mental health and morale. “80 per cent of those I fly with are actively looking for work elsewhere … it’s all we talk about,” one pilot said.

Employers have made big strides towards improving employee welfare

Indeed, employers are walking on a tightrope as they balance safety guidelines with what employees want.  

Some companies have managed better. Stories like these during the last two years have sparked a swing towards better employee welfare.

In Oracle’s recent study, 77 per cent of Singapore respondents said their employers were more concerned about their mental health now compared to two years ago.

Medical technology firm Medtronic Asia Pacific initiated virtual family reunion programmes to support foreign employees. They also introduced upskilling programmes and special bonus incentives to recognise employees’ efforts all of which culminated in a 14-point increase in employee engagement according to their latest internal survey.

This post is adapted from Channel News Asia by NUS Business School’s Wu Pei Chuan