The Great Resignation is here.

Robin Emiliani  /  Aug 30, 2021

The Great Resignation is here. What does that mean for your team?

This April, more than 4 million Americans quit their jobs.

That’s right: 4 million.

That’s also right: quit.

Not laid off. Not fired. Not “the industry collapsed, and now we’re all scrambling.”


AdAge and many experts say the reasons behind this mass exodus are burnout and a workforce that has realized its own value. When companies pivoted during the pandemic to provide work-from-home options and flexible schedules…when parents realized they could do their own childcare and work…and when more and more people started realizing that life is short, and they don’t want to spend every minute working…a large-scale shift hit the American workforce like a tidal wave.

Now, talented people are looking for jobs or contracts that give them the lifestyle they want. And they are happy to take a hike from their current positions.

In fact, 40% of people who haven’t quit yet are seriously considering it, according to research by Microsoft.

In other words: If you aren’t already feeling this world of hurt, it’s probably coming for you soon.

So, what’s a CMO to do when the Great Resignation comes knocking? How do you keep your best talent and take advantage of a robust, new talent market just out of their former jobs (and with their robust, new demands)?

The first part of the answer is this: hire like an agency.

In our experience, agencies are all about the portfolio, while many companies (and the third-party recruitment services they hire) spend a lot more time on lists of job requirements. The latter is probably holding you back.

Agencies don’t care if a candidate took a gap year and their resume has a corresponding blank spot. We don’t care if their degree is in something other than design (as long as they are a kickass designer). And we’re certainly not scouring resumes for GPA. Because the truth is that those things don’t actually matter.

A resume gap might tell you someone is brave and adventurous (having traveled the world for a year!) or compassionate and thoughtful (having taken time off to care for a sick relative); it doesn’t make them lazy or out-of-touch. GPA is a full-on nothingburger of      criteria (and some of the best programmers I’ve had the honor of meeting had no degree at all).

Hiring like an agency means ditching traditional thinking and hiring people because they have good ideas, the skills to get their job done, and the personality that fits your culture.

So, here’s another part of the answer: assume your talent is ready to quit.

Now, we don’t mean go around begging perfectly happy people to stay. But we do mean that if an employee who is doing a great job asks for something, do what you can to give it to them.      Does your top marketing analyst want to work full-time remotely? Why not let them? Does your designer need more flexible hours? Why not give them to them?

Despite the research that tells us remote workers are more productive (47% more productive, according to this article), traditional organizations are still feeling the resistance. But with studies like that and a workforce ready to quit at the drop of a hat, you just don’t get to be picky about things like remote work, flex     time, or four-day workweeks—unless you actually see a drop-off in productivity.

Or, rather, you do get to be as picky as you want. And you might lose your best people because of it.

Finally, it’s also time to embrace agencies and freelancers.

Some of the quitting that’s hitting American companies so hard is simply inevitable. The pandemic taught a lot of people that they really want to take a chance on their own business or take a few months off to write a novel or find a part-time job instead of a full-time one.

Some of that talent isn’t coming back.

And that’s okay. Because there are other ways you can fill those gaps.

You can hire an agency to partner with you—and (bonus!) they often have a whole stable of talented freelancers they can bring in on a project-by-project basis to fill in niche skill gaps. They’re also often full of people who’ve worked in-house, agency side, and freelance—so you get a wide variety of perspectives, including people who understand your internal business models.

Not to mention that some of the talent that’s quitting is going to go it alone—and that doesn’t mean you’ve lost them. It means you now have the opportunity to work with them on a freelance basis. One of our own writers reports that when she quit an old job to go freelance, said job put her on retainer for the next several years. She got the freedom and the business growth opportunities she was after, and they still got the ideas and deliverables they needed from her. In the end, it was a win-win, even though at first, that employer panicked.

So, if you’re in the midst of a wave of notices (or thinking it might happen to you soon), let’s talk. We are happy to step in any time and fill the gaps that you need.


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