My doomscrolling surfaces article after article about a wave of resignations supposedly coming to organisations worldwide. It seems that because of the safety measures for avoiding the spread of COVID-19 and its variants we, the workers of the world, have realised we can work from home and enjoy flexible working conditions while remaining productive.

But some employers are hesitant to make the shift to more flexible working conditions, and their workers are thinking about looking elsewhere. This isn’t just anecdotal. A recent global survey conducted by EY found that over half of surveyed employees worldwide would consider leaving their job post-COVID-19 pandemic if they were not afforded some form of flexibility in where and when they work.

Several organisations have posted similar stories with equally disturbing numbers, predicting about half of workers across all sectors will exit their current employment in search of more flexible, accommodating positions over the next year. Forbes, CNBC, and many other large and reputable organisations are publishing articles saying the same thing.

How to weather employee resignations

Voluntary turnover can be an expensive and productivity sapping process, even under the best of conditions. If a tsunami of resignations hits the global marketplace, the impact could have devastating consequences for even large established organisations. Clearly, new thinking and strategies are in order. The way I see it, either HR teams can try and stem the tide by offering flexible working conditions, or they can take a different angle, perhaps concentrating on offering employees new career directions, or mentoring and training programs to enhance their skills beyond what they would get doing their day job. By offering a clear career direction or opportunities people wouldn’t normally have, employers might entice employees to stay, even if flexible working conditions are not on the table.

What flexible working conditions actually mean

The Australian Fair Work Ombudsman defines flexible work as the ability to decide, within certain conditions, where and when work will be done. In Australia, workers employed at the same company for at least 12 months can apply to adjust their hours, patterns, and most important, their location if their employer is amenable to the changes.

During the COVID lockdowns, workers appreciated unexpected advantages from working from home or other non-office locations. These included better work/life balance, less commuting stress, money savings, and location independence, especially for people who lived in rural or very remote locations. What’s more, employer diversity got an uplift where people with socioeconomic challenges like affordable transportation or food were equalised with other workers because they could work from home.

In many cases, workers have received subsidy payments from their local governments to compensate for the economic impact of COVID. For the first time in a long time, people have some savings to ‘bridge the gap’ from one employer to another. This freedom allows them to think more holistically about their happiness and wellbeing, in other words – does their job allow for quality of life, and if not, can they obtain work/life balance elsewhere

Entice with career opportunities

In my previous blog, I described the emergence of Opportunity Marketplaces. These software solutions match skills, competencies, and employee desires with existing opportunities including jobs, learning and mentoring options, external training, skill-building seminars and workshops, and more. With a service like this, employers are telling employees ’we value your skills and want to leverage them in the best way possible.’

Diversity can head off mass worker exodus

Diversity programs are another way to keep top talent. Diversity programs help organisations find rare skills more easily by widening the pool of candidates. Once onboard, a strong diversity commitment encourages workers to stay.

Richard Howell, tribal leader for diversity at ANZ Banking Group, recently spoke at SAP’s HR Connect event about his company’s internal development program for employees that uses skill matching technology. Like many organisations, ANZ Banking Group is acting on a variety of workplace diversity commitments for business results. Racially diverse teams perform better by as much as 35 percent. Better performance translates to higher job satisfaction and reduced turnover. Companies that practice diversity produce 19 percent more revenue.

Real or not, employee resignations are a business opportunity

If the wave of resignations does happen, the good news is that there are tools, programs, and philosophies that can help. The flip side to this apocalypse story is that if there are mass resignations, the labour market will be flooded with talent. The strategy for capturing all that talent to perhaps – fill some recent vacancies…well that is a topic for another blog

This article also featured on SAPBrandVoice on Forbes