The great resignation, one marketer's struggle

Some cite low pay and a lack of development opportunity; others say meaning and human connection in the wake of the pandemic are the catalysts to move on. Whatever the reason, the Great Resignation isn’t showing any signs of slowing.

In the UK, Sales, Media and Marketing are some of the most affected industries with 40%[i] of workers considering a new job in 2022. Mass migration of staff has left businesses reeling, reviewing policies and increasing benefits. But what about the day-to-day struggle of losing almost an entire team? Marketing Director and CIM London Board Member Cara McFadyen had to deal with just that.


How did the Great Resignation impact you and your team?

In mid-2021 we went from 8 to 6 staff and increased agency support, as a considered move. Fast forward to the end of Q1 2022 and it’s just two of us left on the team.


What was the main concern for you when people handed in their notices?

Keeping the remaining team balanced and not overworked! When you are strapped for resources, it’s all about survival so it’s difficult to find the time for many things, including development. From a management perspective it becomes about the logistics of interviewing to be able to hire people as quickly as possible. Strategy has also taken a backseat, with so many resignations it has been impossible to keep on track.


You mentioned not overworking the remaining team, how have you managed that?

I had a few frank conversations with the Executive Committee about capacity over the next few months – and they were understanding, which was great. I was able to push back on some activities until replacements were onboard. Thankfully, I had budget set aside that meant I could increase agency support. Mostly, I’m just glad for 3-month notice periods because I have had a cushion with one of the leavers. I don’t know how they function in the US with only 2 weeks notice, its madness!


What kind of pressure did you feel when hiring?

I felt the pressure to get the right people in. When you’re hiring one or two people, they need to fit in to the current team. But when you’re hiring a whole new team, you have no idea how people are going to interact. So the pressure to get the right team who will gel, and work well together, is tough.


Did you have any tactics there?

I really wanted to hire for fit. I think you can train people in marketing theory, but you can’t train people to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in. And that’s what I wanted, people who want to help create and build something new and aren't afraid of the journey.


How was the hiring process? I expect with so many people moving roles you had a lot of candidates?

I used a recruitment agency as well as our internal team, they gave me a few good candidates, but the market wasn’t as saturated as I expected. What was noticeable was the change in salary expectations and the focus on wellbeing and culture. A lot of the questions from candidates were about what the company could do for them – it was the first time I’ve seen such a shift.


I take it you’ve now filled the roles. What are you going to do differently?

Yes, the roles are filled but not everyone has started yet.

I think a lot of businesses are considering their policies, but my hands are tied there. I work in wholesale insurance which is a very traditional industry that hasn’t previously embraced hybrid/flexible working or interesting perks. What I am going to do is switch to a semi-agile methodology for working, having daily stand-ups and attempting to follow project sprints; I hope these make the team feel part of something, be more collaborative and give them a better understanding of projects across the whole business.

Whilst we will be hybrid working, all our monthly team meetings will be in person and will involve lunch or drinks. We’re also part of a wider business development team so everyone will be in the office at least two days a week to get to know each other better. The Director of that wider team has also decided we’ll give people their birthday off and a day off for shopping in December – as I said, it’s a pretty traditional business so those are quite big steps for us.


So, what's the next challenge with the new team?

Team building in a hybrid working environment. Some people have asked about culture in their interviews, and I've been transparent with them and said that I think we’re creating a new culture, not just our team, but everyone. Post-Covid I don’t think we can try and return to what we had before. We need to find a new way and we’re all still figuring it out.

We’ve been working at crazy productivity levels for two years now and we need to find some balance again. I used to get into work at 8.30am, take an hour for lunch or go to the gym, then finish at 5.30pm and go out for drinks multiple nights a week. Now I can barely get through 2 days in the office I’m so feeling the burnout, I'm used to just ploughing through back-to-back Teams calls, it has to stop.

Whatever comes next, I’m excited for it! I’m looking forward to building my new team in this new working environment and helping them grow and develop. I just hope I’ve hired the right people and they’re on the journey with me.

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