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Between April and June of 2021, 11.5 million people quit their jobs, according to the US Department of Labor.

As employees continue that trend in record numbers, the Great Resignation is affecting businesses of every size and industry. No department is unscathed, and Marketing is no exception.

Defining the Great Resignation

Organizational psychologist and Texas A&M University Associate Professor Anthony Klotz predicted the "Great Resignation" roughly a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As companies closed down operations during mandatory lockdowns, employees were forced to re-evaluate their careers and lives.

"During the pandemic, because there was a lot of death and illness and lockdowns, we really had the time and the motivation to sit back and say, Do I like the trajectory of my life? Am I pursuing a life that brings me well-being?" Klotz said.

The pandemic changed the employment status of millions of workers, in addition to redefining roles and working conditions. In some cases, that redefinition resulted overwhelming workloads and burnout.

Although layoffs and closures contributed significantly to employment changes, many employees sought to forge their own paths, looking for income streams outside the traditional workplace.

People between 30 and 45 years old have experienced the greatest increase in resignation rates. Healthcare, technology, and the service industries have been hit especially hard, but nearly every industry has been affected in one way or another.

Because of ongoing concerns about COVID, the aid of unemployment and stimulus money, and a desire for remote work, many Americans simply aren't returning to their previous jobs.

Four Strategies to Lessen the Impact of the Great Resignation

A full 75% of marketers predicted a year ago that marketing would experience a surge in resignations within months, according to a MarketHire survey of 25,000+ marketers. The same study also found that nearly half (48%) of respondents were planning to leave their jobs.

So, what can companies do to prevent the negative impact of losing vital marketing talent?

Here are four ways businesses and marketing departments can rethink their approach to operations in the wake of the Great Resignation.

1. Tap into the growing numbers of freelancers and outsourced vendors

Although the Great Resignation led to a massive reduction in jobs, the freelance and gig economy experienced a boom. In 2020 alone, 67.6 million Americans were freelancing—up more than 10 million from 2017.

Because freelancing is so prevalent, working with third-party marketing vendors has become a viable option. In fact, 80% of respondents to the MarketHire survey said they had worked with a freelance marketer recently, and 63% reported working with at least one in the past six months—outsourcing nearly half of all marketing responsibilities to gig workers. Such an increase helps companies with fewer internal resources achieve their marketing goals while tapping into the expertise of varied vendors without the associated risk or capital investment of hiring full-time staff.

2. Reduce marketing staff churn and attract high-quality talent

The Great Resignation has led to a new understanding of what high-quality talent is and does. To retain the high-quality talent you already have, leaders need to foster a positive corporate culture that grows talent from within.

Invest in professional development to enhance the skills of current marketing staff and let them know its contributions are recognized and appreciated. Offering and embracing flexibility will also be essential.

To attract new employees, companies are offering hiring incentives like never before. Use your company mission as a guiding light to ensure employees, old and new, know the work they do matters.

3. Consider specialization

In 2021, 68% of business leaders admitted they'd struggled to hire an in-house marketer, and 67% indicated that hiring will only get harder as time goes on. Many companies haven't returned to full-scale operations, and some are choosing to narrow their target markets and refine their product or service offerings.

A specialized approach helps marketers become more effective, efficient, and productive at what they do best.

4. Get back to basics

As the focus and culture of your company evolve, it may be time to reassess your organization's core values, vision, and mission. Major changes in society, politics, and the economy have transformed the way we do business in every industry. Corporate and individual purposes have shifted, goals have been revised, and the marketplace is more competitive than ever before.

Your corporate vision statement articulates what your organization looks like once it achieves success. It is the big-picture expression of what your business hopes to become and accomplish.

Rather than explaining what your company is and does, the vision statement communicates your contribution to customers, society, and the world at large. For example, Amazon's vision is "to be Earth's most customer-centric company, Earth's best employer, and Earth's safest place to work."

On the other hand, a mission statement is a concise statement that identifies what you are in business to do. It reflects the "who," "what," and "why" of your company. It should be short and easily understood and memorized by everyone in the organization.

A well-written mission statement informs and guides the decisions, actions, and communications of the organization. It also sets the stage for marketing tone, brand, and image. Amazon's mission is to "offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience."

Together, your vision and mission statements represent your company's purpose, objectives, and values.

To determine whether your vision and mission need an update, answer these questions:

  • Why does your company exist?
  • What makes your company different from the rest?
  • What do you hope to inspire?

Your answers will help you craft and articulate your vision and mission.

From the Great Resignation to the Great Reimagination

Although the name "Great Resignation" has a chilling ring to it, there are many positives that are coming from a dramatic change in the workforce.

The pandemic forced marketers to learn new skills, whether tackling remote meeting software or learning a new language. The drive for self-improvement is more than a fleeting trend. People have reevaluated and redirected their lives and are returning to work with renewed energy and passion. Organizations and individual people have become more flexible, changing how, when and where work is performed.

As organizations rebuild, address challenges, and make necessary changes, marketers are in a unique position to reimagine their approach and measures of success. Keeping its eyes wide open and a strategic perspective, the marketing workforce will come back stronger than ever.

More Resources on Employee Retention and the Great Resignation

Maintaining Morale: Nine Tips to Keep Employees Happy and Engaged When Things Feel Out of Control

The Future-Proofed Career | MarketingProfs Webinar

Employee Retention: How to Keep Your Top Talent [Infographic]

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image of Gerri Knilans

Gerri Knilans is president of Trade Press Services, a marketing communications strategy company that provides B2B writing, media outreach, and general marketing support to help clients accelerate growth and generate more visibility, credibility, and name recognition.

LinkedIn: Gerri Knilans