What Do We Do with the Great Resignation?

What Do We Do with the Great Resignation?

March 22, 2022

Are You Ready to Talk Compensation Structure?

Employers have faced enormous challenges with COVID, especially from a human resources standpoint. By now, you’ve likely heard a mention of the Great Resignationwhat exactly is that?

Since the winter of 2021, The Wall Street Journal has continued to report that resignations throughout the country have been at their highest levels in over 30 years. While it looks like it may be losing steam now, the pandemic has dramatically impacted the nature of work, possibly for good. As a result, compensation is becoming an increasingly important player in an employee’s sense of job satisfaction.

On REDW’s Human Resources Consulting team— in our 20 plus years of practice in compensation and particularly with Native American tribes and their enterprises—we’ve never seen a market like the one we have right now. Employers all over the nation and Indian Country are looking for solutions to address the changing nature of compensation structure and have growing concerns with the Great Resignation. As the health crisis has pushed people to rethink their priorities, employees are reassessing the nature of their work and the compensation they’ve received for it up to this point.

The Compensation Conundrum

So, we face a compensation conundrum. Between management and employees, there is a huge readiness gap between what is expected by employees in terms of compensation and, for management, the strategies needed to leverage compensation to accomplish organizational change.

“72% of executives in the world identified the ability of their people to adapt, reskill and assume new roles as a priority for navigating future disruptions. However, only 17% of these same executives in the world said that their organization was very ready to adapt and reskill workers to assume new roles.”

Source: Deloitte 2021 Global Human Capital Trends

This gap becomes a tremendous constraint for organizations and businesses to be able to hire the type of talent that they need.

Redefining Compensation Structure in the Great Resignation

For years, employers all over the country have treated compensation as a spot market, looking at key competitors and using resources to determine average compensation for a particular position. When a position becomes available, the typical practice has been to update the position description, prepare a job posting, assess the market, then price the job. But, to evolve and become an employer of choice in the Great Resignation, organizations must approach compensation in a more holistic way.

Employers can implement these necessary, deep shifts by taking broader strokes, ensuring that compensation is externally competitive and internally equitable; they must also administer compensation in a transparent manner.


We are also fortunate that, presently, millennials are almost 50 percent of the workforce. As a result, there are some significant changes occurring in regard to work, organizational structure, the nature of work, and compensation. Now, compensation needs to be tightly aligned with social objectives and organizational structure. Business leaders must have a clear line of sight not only between the compensation their employees earn and what their positions are paid in external markets, but also to the goals they are seeking to accomplish in organization culture and strategy.


If you’re a Simon Sinek fan, you know he talks a lot about asking “why.” In everything we do as an organization, we need to be able to answer the question why – why are we doing something? Why is it important? Why is it important to our customers? Particularly when we’re talking about Indian Country, why is specifically relevant to the ability for tribal members to flourish and thrive now, with respect to the seven generations following.

Asking why gives us immediate access to aligning compensation with expanding responsibilities, fair pay, and employee engagement. In one employee survey after another, compensation is often listed as the third or fourth factor that is the most important. Areas of importance that rank higher than compensation include  “having a manager that believes in me,” “having the opportunity to work with people that I like and respect,” and “doing interesting work that I think is meaningful and serves a common purpose.” Communicating these rewards is equally critical.




The Changing Nature and Value of Work

The other part of the compensation conundrum is that most organizations are currently in the process of redesigning compensation, or they’ve recently made changes to their compensation strategy. The vast majority of organizations change their compensation structure and strategy every three years or so, and the Great Resignation requires that we consider this even sooner than that. This shift merits our attention.

As the nature of work shifts, it creates compensation challenges in the labor market. Consider the work that you’re doing right now for your organization and think about what you did three years ago —how you approached your work and what your responsibilities and accountabilities were. It is likely that you have substantially more responsibility now and have also been asked to do more with less, as is the case for most working professionals over the past five or 10 years. Chances are your job structure is radically different than it was even three years ago.

At both the employee and management levels, these dynamics have led to widespread dissatisfaction with compensation. Management is dissatisfied because they do not see that compensation is helping accomplish organizational goals or working the way it should for the sizable investment required. Employees are dissatisfied because they feel that their compensation is not an accurate reflection of their value to the organization. The dissonance in these perspectives results in both groups eventually experiencing radical shifts in where people want to work, how they work, why they’re working, and how much they’re earning.

More Labor Disruption on the Horizon

Especially in Indian Country — where so many employees wear multiple hats — the roles are also changing and shifting with team members taking on more responsibility. Some of these trends can be clearly communicated and some remain difficult to understand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics employment survey suggests that between one half to two thirds of jobs are ripe for disruption. Future jobs will likely be very different than what we are doing today. That being said, compensation structures need to address all of these factors — employee desire, greater transparency, and fairness — when it comes to compensation, how employees can progress in their career, and ultimately surviving the Great Resignation.

Key takeaways: If we think about what employees really want from compensation, it’s really quite simple:

  1. employees want to be treated fairly and compensated appropriately for the external value of their experience, education, and skills
  2. compensation structures must be perceived as fair, or equitable, internally.

If an employee’s job responsibilities, educational requirements, accountabilities, background, and job nature are similar to others in the organization, they expect the compensation structure to be similar, too.

Most employees accept that just fulfilling basics in their job description isn’t enough to advance. But what they really want to know is how they can take on additional responsibility and progress in their job while gaining rewards and increased compensation that reflect their heightened investment in the organization.


Let Us Help You Rethink Your Compensation Structure & Recruitment Strategies

We welcome your compensation questions. Please contact Carol Cochran or Mini Antony from REDW’s Human Resources Consulting team to discuss how you can use compensation to attract high-quality candidates and retain your best employees.

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