Great Expectations

20 Jul 2022 by Steven Giannoulis

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The Great Resignation, also known as the Big Quit or the Great Reshuffle, is a global post-lockdown employment phenomenon that is seeing employees leave their jobs in unprecedented numbers.

As a leader of a small business in the marketing and communication field – an area that tends to be first to experience budget cuts in tough times – I found managing people in 2020 and 2021 very difficult. It’s taken an extraordinary effort from my leadership team to balance the survival of the business with the wellbeing of our people. Now in 2022, the Great Resignation media commentary suggests that many of these people are planning to leave us. Where does loyalty fit into this? In a time when employees are making their move, I feel confident that our team will repay us for the focus we’ve put on them.

Across the country, staff resignations remained low during the height of the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Most people stayed in their job probably because they felt supported by their workplace, didn’t want to risk being the last one in at a new employer, or because there was already too much anxiety in their lives without the stress of a new job. 

2022 arrived and the anticipated great resignation is upon us. The reasons for it are numerous, ranging from open borders, the promise of change, career progression, and the need for more money in tougher economic times. But I suspect there’s an even bigger factor driving the move. Covid reminded us of the importance of focusing on what matters most in life. Those constant concerns about family, health, connecting with friends and wider-family, the lack of travel, the insecurity of work, and the blurred work and home lines led us to revaluate our priorities. This has driven a change – a reset of sorts -  in what we want and expect in all parts of our life, including work.

The Great Resignation comes as a direct result of this great expectation reset, resulting in a flight to doing work we love, that challenges and fulfils us, and gives us a sense of making a difference in these difficult times.

At Insight Creative, we haven’t had any resignations in 2022, which flies in the face of the Great Resignation hype. It’s got me thinking about why we haven’t had the great migration away others in our industry have. Are staff repaying us for our efforts over the last two years? In part I would like to think this is true, as it also reflects the work we’ve done over a number of years. We’ve always been in touch with staff expectations of us as employers and we’ve continued to evolve how we deliver to them as things around us have changed.

So, here are five things we prioritise that I think are helping us retain our people. Before getting into it, I should say we’re not specialists at this HR stuff. We’re a communication agency. Every day we help our clients engage their audiences. We use these very same communication and engagement principles to connect with the hearts and minds of our own people.

Act with Purpose

For the last seven years our purpose has been expressed by the words Create Powerful Work. It’s a great storytelling phrase that allows us to engage staff in the difference we make for our clients, for our stakeholders and our communities. It also speaks to the pride and sense of achievement we all want to feel in our work.

Over the last few years, we’ve also used our purpose as a springboard to push innovation, to grow our peoples' skills and to deliver new ideas and solutions that make a difference to society.

A powerful shared purpose is the backbone of creating a sense of belonging. After all, leaving a place where you belong is like leaving home – hard to do.

A family culture

Along with purpose, the other factor that creates a sense of belonging is culture. We work hard to create an inclusive family culture built on our CLEAR values (Client-First, Leading-edge, Evolving, As One and Real). These shape how we behave, interact and communicate every day. It’s a supportive culture, focused on helping each other succeed, where we celebrate our people, our work and our clients as a team.

Our induction process helps set people off on the right cultural path. Our Mahi Tahi ‘culture club’ keeps our culture activities fun and aligned with what matters to staff. And our annual staff perception survey helps us measure progress and to know what staff think and want.

It takes a big effort to keep building culture but it’s an investment that’s worth it. After all, it creates a situation where quitting is more than just saying goodbye to a job but to people you love and who love you back.  

Meaningful rewards that show care

Rewarding your people is so much more than paying market rates. We offer a range of meaningful staff benefits that speak to the different needs and motivators our people have. It starts with a day off on your birthday, a free ‘duvet day’ to look after your wellbeing or a day to work on the community charity of your choice. We have study support packages, discounts on insurance and medical costs, free access to financial advisers, and even free access to counselling for home or work issues.

And we invest – both money and thousands of hours per year – in individual’s continued development and in internal projects that inspire and teach.

Every year we share a percentage of our profit back with staff, allowing them to feel the direct benefit of their efforts. And for those who want even more meaningful rewards, we offer them the opportunity to buy shares in the company and really own their work.

Recognising individuals

All of us want to feel that what we do is appreciated by our boss and by our peers. We use a number of tools to make sure people feel recognised. It starts with functional elements like a formal performance review process that includes 360 feedback from your colleagues. We also have numerous day-to-day vehicles like Homai te Paki Paki to recognise outstanding work and effort and a monthly ‘Star’ award. Quarterly we have a team celebration looking at recent outstanding work and the people who did it. And annually we run our High Achiever Awards, recognising and rewarding outstanding results, living the values and significant contributions to culture.

Collectively these activities make people feel valued, creating another strong reason to stay.

Supporting the whole-self

Work is important but it’s only ever one part of a person’s life. We have a holistic wellbeing programme that supports numerous life elements including an individual’s physical and mental health, social and financial needs.

In 2016, we introduced flexible work arrangements to help people balance their work and home commitments. And as the pandemic has advanced, staff’s expectations around hybrid working also evolved so we’ve expanded our offering to provide even more flexibility and individual control. This is an area we’ll no doubt keep evolving as the situation and expectations change in 2022 and beyond.


The pandemic reinforced what we’ve always known: communication is the most important aspect of engaging staff and taking them on the journey with you. The team have high expectations of us as leaders to create an environment that allows them to feel they belong, are cared for, recognised and do work with meaning. Having created this environment, it feels realistic to expect a level of loyalty from the team – even in the midst of the Great Resignation. We’re fortunate to have such a loyal team and we’ll continue to work hard to retain it.