Most people think the Great Resignation—employees quitting their jobs in droves—is a fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s true that the pandemic opened our eyes to the possibilities of remote work and better work-life balance, but look closely, and you’ll see that the “Great Resignation” has been a long time coming.
The number of Americans quitting their jobs was already on the rise until it dipped to around 2% in 2020 before jumping to about 2.7% in 2021.
The Great Resignation, then, is a culmination of several factors that stem from job dissatisfaction, burnout, and a reevaluation of priorities. According to Harvard Business Review, these five Rs together, exacerbated by the pandemic, greatly influenced the Great Resignation:
- Retirement — older workers retired early to spend time with loved ones and on interests outside of work.
- Relocation — moving locally has remained a trend but isn’t a major contributing factor to the upheaval in the job market.
- Reconsideration — people are reconsidering the role that work plays in their lives.
- Reshuffling — workers are moving jobs within sectors or between sectors, not entirely quitting the labor market.
- Reluctance — employees want flexible work hours and are reluctant to stay with employers who don’t offer remote or hybrid work options, driving resignation rates to an all-time high.
At Resource Guru, we believe there’s a sixth R at play — resource management.
For too long, employees have put up with long hours, constant deadlines, and mismanaged schedules. When humans are literally viewed as inanimate “resources” and expected to produce work mechanically without any breathing room for time off, caregiving responsibilities, or a relaxed pace of work, it’s a failure of resource management. A failure that negatively impacts team morale, job satisfaction, and employee retention.
The bottom line: If you want to insulate your company from the Great Resignation, you have to get a handle on your resource management.
First, get complete visibility of team schedules
When you have complete visibility into what your teams are working on and for how long, you can see which team members are overutilized and which team members have availability. This helps you tackle problems before they snowball.
You need a bird’s-eye view of your teams’ schedules, vacations, and utilization rates to set up your projects for success.
Get a head start by using team calendars to evaluate future capacity. You need to know who works part-time, which employee takes Fridays off for drum lessons, and which co-worker is unavailable after 2 pm. If you’re a distributed remote team or follow a hybrid work model, you will need to consider location and time zones, too.
Even if you’re a team of five, it’s going to be impossible to accurately store all of that information in your head. You could perhaps get by with a spreadsheet, but manual input and the scope for error can prove frustrating as your business scales.
The best way to stay on top of team schedules is to have a single, dedicated view to inform your planning. If your employee’s commitments are split between multiple calendars or aren’t visible to everyone, there’s a good chance you’ll double book someone or assign work when they’re out of the office.
We recommend using a tool like Resource Guru (of course!) because it integrates with any calendar you choose — Google, Microsoft Outlook, or Apple. With our two-way sync in place, all events and bookings are visible in one, centralized place, reducing the chance of anything slipping through the cracks. Plus, you can filter people by location, time zones, skillsets, and departments to get a more precise view of availability over the coming weeks or months.
You can be confident that employees’ unique preferences about how and when they work are automatically taken into account when they are booked for projects. This leads to increased engagement and trust, motivating your employees to stick around with a company that cares about them and lowering your quit rate.
Next, lean on capacity planning to build your iron triangle
Capacity planning is a crucial part of resource management. It helps ensure people aren’t overloaded with work and projects are successful—a combination that keeps people happy and motivated.
Once you have an accurate view of team availability, you can start to build your iron triangle and map out the project scope, schedule, and budget. This helps you create your dream team by booking the right people with the exact skillsets you need to take a project over the finish line within budget and by the deadline.
Most projects fail because of unrealistic deadlines, overdrawn budgets, and poor capacity planning.
If you schedule your lead engineer for a project and promise a deliverable to the customer, but your engineer’s working hours are fully booked when the project is about to start, you will be left scrambling to find a replacement or risk pushing back your deadline.
Even if you pull in another team member or a freelancer on short notice, they may already have a full workload. Adding to their capacity will mean they need time and space to ramp up on this new project, resulting in overtime hours, bloated budgets, stress, and the risk of errors in their work.
Devoting time to capacity planning early on means you only book people when they are available and when they have the capacity to do the tasks you assign to them.
With a capacity planning tool, this part of project management becomes a breeze because you can identify areas where demand (project hours) exceeds availability (number of workers or employee hours). Once you address ways to fill this extra demand (hire more full-time staff, bring in contractors, or adjust timelines), your projects and your iron triangle are stamped with success.
As a bonus, when your teams are successful, they feel inspired and motivated to continue performing and innovating, which bodes well for employee engagement and retention.
“Resource Guru has the perfect balance of simplicity and detail. It’s easy to see where issues might arise.”
Finally, prevent overallocation by balancing workloads
Resource overallocation is a major cause of project failure and demoralized teams. Your most important “resources” are human—they will burn out with constant pressure and unmanageable workloads. Their mental health will take a beating, and they may quit, leaving you with more job openings to fill.
But give them the space and time for creative pursuits, brain breaks, and workplace connections, and you will end up with a thriving workforce that is self-motivated and productive.
A helpful way to prevent overallocation is to build buffer time into employee workloads and “float time” in your project schedule. This idea, known as resource smoothing, includes only booking employees for 70-80% of their available hours and leaves room in your project schedule for tasks that come up unexpectedly.
There are two benefits to this:
- First, employees have time for tasks like status updates, emails, knowledge gathering, and professional development. Or if they need to take time off for healthcare, they will be able to come back and catch up on the backlog without slipping further behind.
- Second, employees have the leeway to handle pivots. Projects don’t always go exactly as planned—there are curveballs and changes along the way. When your team members are faced with unforeseen situations, they won’t get derailed or stressed because they can use those extra hours you left on their calendar.
This means you have to make a conscious choice to add overtime to their calendar or create a waitlisted booking. Waitlisted bookings need to be resolved by adjusting workloads or reprioritizing tasks so that your employees are allocated just right, keeping them happy and productive.
Resource management becomes your shield against the Great Resignation
Long hours, low wages, and toxic workplaces are frequently mentioned in the conversation around the Great Resignation and even the Great Reshuffle. Gen Z and millennials want fulfilment, and they’re ready to look for a new job to find it. They’ll also jump ship for a better work-life balance if their current jobs don’t meet this need.
But your organization doesn’t have to get swept up in the resignation avalanche if you build a culture that truly values the whole person.
Resource management techniques like resource planning, resource allocation, and resource smoothing can guide you toward a better approach to human resource management, one that brings the “human” back into business operations.