From April to September 2021, more than 24 million people in the US quit their jobs to seek new opportunities. The “Great Resignation,” a term coined by Associate Professor of Management at Texas A&M University Anthony Klotz, is a phenomenon that describes the record numbers of people leaving their jobs after the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was an unprecedented move that forced employers and staffing agencies alike to rethink how they do business. It also fundamentally changed the way we think about work today. TIME called it the dawn of employees’ revenge after we saw the loss of 20.5 million jobs in April 2020.
What drove this many people to leave their jobs? In this article, we shed some light on the impact that the “Great Resignation” left on the labor market and the lessons that employers and employees can use to move forward.
What Drove the Great Resignation?
One of the most notable trends that arose during the great resignation is that turnover rates affected all age groups. Historically, younger generations are more prone to leave their jobs. Bobby Duffy, the author of The Generation Myth and director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, told Bloomberg Businessweek that people in their 20s and 30s seek different things from work than their older peers. This includes prioritizing learning new skills over stability.
According to Forbes, employees aged 30-45 years old have had the highest increase in resignation rates, while those ages 20-25 saw a 20.3% decrease. Harvard Business Review explained that this decrease was likely because the 20-25 age group experienced more financial uncertainty and there was a lesser demand for entry-level workers and not necessarily because they wanted to keep their jobs.
Economists said that there is no single factor driving workforce behavior. Instead, a number of factors come into play.
- Wages aren’t keeping up with surging prices.
- Low-wage jobs don’t offer opportunities for career growth.
- Work is unaffordable for people needing childcare.
- A shrinking workforce forces people who remain in their jobs to face increased responsibilities and subpar work conditions.
- Many people experience pandemic fatigue and burnout.
In retrospect, these factors are not new to any of us. In truth, this resignation trend has been happening since before the pandemic. Duffy also said that what’s often portrayed as a change in young people’s attitudes is simply a manifestation of longer-term trends. This tells us that we all should have seen the Great Resignation coming sooner or later, notwithstanding the pandemic that exacerbated it. However, we were unaware and ill-prepared.
The Lessons We Learned
Even though staffing agencies, employers, and employees are not walking away from the Great Resignation unscathed, there are also lessons to be learned and work we can do moving forward.
1. Be Proactive in the Face of Disruptive Change
During the height of mass resignations, we were all forced to adapt. Today, organizations, staffing industry professionals, and employees continue to face disruptions in our work, such as a talent shortage, digital disruption, supply chain issues, and even climate change. How well we proactively adapt our business models and work structures dictates the success of our endeavors.
We are all called to be collaborative, innovative, agile, and flexible. If 2020 and 2021 were years of forced reactive change, 2022 is where it gets intentional. As we find the suitable working model that best supplements values and work quality, we must welcome new ways of working with open arms. Let’s consider fluidity in our organizational structures and priorities where we allow non-hierarchical structures and project-based work to flourish.
2. Employee Well-Being Comes First
With pandemic stress and burnout being one of the main reasons people quit, employee well-being takes on a deeper meaning in the workplace. Today, employee well-being is a valuable proposition and an opportunity for employers to support their employees in all areas of their personal and professional lives.
Today’s labor market calls for employee-centricity. This shift also calls for employers to develop a personalized approach to well-being benefits. Employees put more significant weight on taking care of their mental and physical health. Additionally, the pandemic has expanded the scope from just employees to entire family units to include financial, social, and career wellness.
3. Embrace Flexibility
The mass resignation also led to the “Great Re-Evaluation” and the “Great Reshuffle.” These terms were coined to drive conversations that have greater meaning and tackle the fallout of the Great Resignation. This is a time of rethinking the way we work and what’s important to us. As employees and employers alike understand the importance of work-life balance on a deeper level, workplace flexibility has turned into an employee expectation – rather than a work perk.
According to a 2021 Forbes article, 56% of workers said flexibility was their main reason to look for a new job, even more so than pay. A flexible work setup has shaped the way we work significantly and has led to nontraditional work structures being introduced to the workplace. Dr. Isabelle Welpe, a professor at the Technical University of Munich confirmed this during a talk with the World Economic Forum by saying; “overall, virtual and remote work is here to stay.”
4. Jobs Need to Hold Greater Meaning
We learned during the Great Resignation that millennials, the largest generation in the workforce, are looking for more than just a paycheck. They want meaning and purpose in the work they do.
According to the Cone Communications Millenial Employee Study, 88% of surveyed millennials say their jobs are more fulfilling when they get opportunities to impact social and environmental issues positively. Also, they found that 64% of respondents will turn a job down if an organization doesn’t have strong social responsibility values.
In today’s era of work, jobs need to hold greater meaning. Whether it’s focusing on an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) framework or a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), sustainability efforts, or any purpose-driven initiatives, giving employees opportunities to make a difference has become an employee expectation.
5. Build Meaningful and Authentic Human Connections
The isolation that the pandemic made us all go through only emphasized the fact that we are all social creatures. In a world of virtual and remote working, how can we build meaningful social and emotional connections? These weaker connections make it easier for employees to leave their jobs, as it reduces the social pressure that encourages them to stay.
Additionally, employers must be proactive with having authentic conversations to create a workplace where employees feel respected, heard, and valued. When we build these connections in the workplace, we can better understand each other on a deeper level and build trust that could hopefully turn the tide on the Great Resignation.
ABOUT ACS PROFESSIONAL STAFFING
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