The Exceler8 HR Happenings Blog

Is it the Great Resignation?

Emma leaves The Wiggles to reassess and realign


That’s the collective cry of anguish (expletives deleted) of parents and grandparents around Australia at the earth-shattering news when Emma Watkins announced she was leaving The Wiggles.

Of course, like most kids under 4, my kids quickly moved on to asking, “what’s for dinner?” or “he’s got my teddy”, but I certainly took a moment to value the contribution Emma has made to our family memories.

Emma spent 11 years with the colourful group and broke new ground for girls and boys, although I notice there are still not many boys wearing big, colourful bows in their hair (maybe that’s a step too far).

However, I thank her for being such a strong character in what was previously a genetically uniform group. Her contribution in that domain has been outstanding and will be a big gap to fill.

All that aside, I can understand her need to take some time to refresh and realign. Interestingly, a Guardian article suggested that The Great Resignation has claimed a big name.

What can we learn from this?

Without debating the intricacies of The Great Resignation, is resignation the right word?

Or should it be considered reflection, or realignment or reassessment? It is clear from Emma’s announcement that she doesn’t describe her departure as a resignation as most people would understand the term.

And yes, Emma leaving The Wiggles is a big shock to us, but I have a feeling the shock (if any) to her castmates, managers or bosses occurred some time ago. Let’s break this down.

No surprises . . . maybe

It seemed to me, but of course I can’t be sure, some conversations occurred a long time ago between Emma and The Wiggle people. I don’t want to focus on the finer details (because I clearly wasn’t there) but, for people managers everywhere, inviting and encouraging the ‘what do you want’ conversations is vital to reduce resignation shock.

Do you have retention interviews?

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It’s not a stretch to say that 80% of our ‘people management’ time is spent interviewing people when they commence a job, managing underperformance and conducting exit interviews (you do have those, don’t you?). But that involves only a minority of our people. What about the majority – those who aren’t coming or going and are performing to expectations?

Do you pay attention to those? Are you aware of how each of those team members are feeling? What are their career/life plans? How can your organisation assist? This is valuable information for any people manager looking to minimise time spent in recruitment and performance management.

Take away for business leaders: Spending time on retention interviews, understanding what people need in their job and life should be where we are spending more of our time to reduce the surprise resignations that can derail the best business plans.

Cast members involved

‘Where’s Emma?’……said no one ever because her departure has been proactively managed and communicated. Again, I can’t comment on what happened, but how often do you see staff resignations ‘here one day, gone the next’ and no explanation. Or worse still, the boss tells one story but the grapevine tells us something different.

Take away: Be open and transparent and work with the exiting staff member to manage the separation. You need to follow legal advice in a termination scenario, but separation shouldn’t be a shock if you have conducted the retention interviews well. Tips to help here:

  • Have a process that everyone is aware of BEFORE anyone resigns outlining how communication to staff and customers and how the handover process will work internally.
  • Discuss with the exiting staff member what they are happy to share and what messages will be communicated
  • Don’t leave a gossip gap. Even if you have no new information, share all that you know (again). If you are silent, a gossip gap will develop to be filled with misinformation.
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Succession planning

The Wiggles went through a significant values and market realignment activity earlier this year by introducing Wiggles Fruit Salad. They announced four new members to reflect (successfully, I might add) society and our young people’s community. In this group was Tsehay Hawkins, and she will now take the Emma reins, albeit a little differently.

Take away: succession was well planned, and The Wiggles appropriately communicated with the stakeholders (let’s face it, the kids) so the impact of the exit and recruitment was lessened.

Take this public figure’s departure and contrast it to the departure of the new QLD Chief Health Officer – chalk and cheese.

It can still go badly for anyone, so do all you can to reduce the surprises.

So what?

Let’s change the conversation about The Great Resignation.

Instead, let’s talk about the Great Realignment or Great Retention of the Right people. Being able to manage (or avoid) key people leaving your organisation will give you a significant competitive advantage.

Replacing your ‘Emma’ may not be as smooth as The Wiggles process but, by avoiding the left-field disruptions, you won’t end up with mashed potato!

If you are looking for the right retention tips for your business, download our employee retention checklist.

It’s time to get talking – either with your team or me.

Melissa Langton - Exceler8

Hi! I'm Melissa

I'm a sought-after HR coach, advisor and strategist. I'm also the director of Exceler8. My clients call me their people paracetamol because I help them say 'goodbye' to HR headaches and 'hello' to the perfect people formula to support their business. If you're ready for HR help or transformation, please get in touch. 

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