- The pandemic has resulted in some of the highest rates of workers leaving their jobs on record, and a ‘buyers market’ for job seekers.
- Working from home showed employers and employees their schedules could be flexible, and that they could operate well without as much supervision.
- Businesses in the future will need to provide workers with more autonomy, purpose, equity, and flexibility — along with better pay and benefits — if those businesses wish to attract and retain top talent.
The pandemic ushered in major changes in the way employees performed their typical duties. Now, after months of disruption and uncertainty, many workers are considering leaving their positions in a trend that’s been termed the ‘great resignation’.
But what’s caused this shift, and what will the future of work look like? Before delving into the whys and hows, let’s get to grips with what the ‘great resignation’ will look like.
What is the ‘great resignation’?
The term ‘great resignation’ was recently coined by Anthony Klotz, a Texas A&M University associate management professor, during an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.
He explained that people who decided to put off quitting their jobs during the pandemic due to uncertainty are gearing up to leave.
“When there’s uncertainty, people tend to stay put,” he said, “so there are pent-up resignations that didn’t happen over the past year.”Anthony Klotz, Associate Professor of Management, Texas A&M University
Data from various sources give weight to Klotz’s prediction.
For example, in June, The Wall Street Journal reported that more US workers are resigning than at any time during the last two decades. Another study found that 41% of the global workforce would consider leaving their current employer within the next year.
According to data from the workforce analytics firm, Visier, the healthcare and high-tech industries are experiencing the most resignations, with resignations in tech increasing by 4.5% between March 2020 and March 2020.
Of course, employee turnover isn’t always a bad thing — but failing to retain top talent can be detrimental to an organization’s bottom line.
How did Covid impact job satisfaction?
When it comes to the issue of job satisfaction during the pandemic, everyone’s experience was different. Covid allowed many workers — particularly those with office-based roles — to achieve a better work-life balance.
Working from home showed employers and employees their schedules could be flexible, and that they could operate well without as much supervision.
In other sectors, essential workers realized the importance of their jobs.
In some cases, this led to increased job satisfaction, but in others, it had the opposite effect, because many felt that they were viewed as expendable.
There’s been a lot of media attention around the benefits of working from home. However, it’s important to recognize that some people didn’t like working remotely, and desperately longed for a return to the normal social interactions of pre-pandemic operations.
What we can say is that the pandemic provided workers with an opportunity to reflect.
Some realized their jobs weren’t important, didn’t line up with their values, or were simply too demanding and overshadowed other elements of their life.
It’s this period of reflection that led to where we are now.
Although many of us want to resign for something better, only a fraction of people have the guts or are proactive enough to do so. That’s why some experts are sceptical about the notion of an impending ‘great resignation’.
Millennial Career Strategist Adunola Adeshola says people seeking better opportunities should take a proactive and strategic approach instead of acting on impulse:
“Before you even update your resume, take some time to think about what you want to do next in your career. After all, the whole point of quitting your job should be to end up somewhere better.
“So, first, determine what you’re looking for in your next position so that you can look out for it when you do start applying for jobs and putting yourself out there.”
Employee satisfaction and company success are closely aligned. Satisfied workers with a clear sense of purpose are more likely to say positive things about their employer.
Employers, in turn, save time and money by experiencing lower turnover.
Finding qualified employees isn’t quick or easy.
A study by the Society for Human Resource Management states the average cost to hire an employee is $4,129, and it takes organizations around 42 days to fill a position.
Happy employees are also more productive (and profitable) because they’re motivated to fulfill their responsibilities for the sake of their team and the wider company.
With these things in mind, it’s no surprise that employee retention remains at the top of the business agenda.
What’s influencing the ‘great resignation’?
Shahar Erez, CEO of the freelance talent platform Stoke, told Fast Company that while many freelancers were able to weather the storm of the pandemic by leveraging their extensive networks, employees who were ‘let go’ tended to struggle more.
He said freelancers “had the skills, structure, and internal DNA to fit themselves into the changing landscape” and employees “realized being stuck to a single employer is not the best advice. They don’t want to rely on performance reviews and pay raises.
“They want to take control of their own future.”
Many workers also realized they could get their work done more efficiently outside of a structured work environment. Workers began engaging with their work more directly, leading some to realize the redundancy of certain elements of their typical day.
Not having to commute also helped reduce stress levels.
Having an additional hour to prepare for the day and to enjoy time outside of the office is something many want to hold on to. Now that many employers are calling for a return to office, some are hesitant.
Of the 38% of Americans who worked from home at some point during the pandemic, 57% said it had a positive impact on their personal finances, a survey from Bankrate.com found, with millennials and Gen Z most likely to experience this uptick in financial health.
It makes sense: employees weren’t spending money on commuting and didn’t pay for lunches out.
Of course, it’s important to understand that not all resignations take place because the individual wants to find a more fulfilling opportunity.
The workforce is seeing higher levels of resignations among women, who have been disproportionately impacted by caregiving during the pandemic.
Instead of quitting to move to a new role, some women had to leave employment altogether.
Approximately 2.2 million women have left the US workforce since the start of the pandemic.
In May, AllWork explored some strategies employers can use to bring women back into the workforce, including offering on-site childcare and extending parental leave policies.
What will workers look for in jobs moving forward?
In the future of work, employees will have to create jobs that are truly meaningful, regardless of sector or the skills required to execute them.
Employees are tired of feeling like drones. They want to feel like their work is contributing, that they are important, and that they make a difference.
Flexibility will be key, and hybrid or remote work will be pivotal in attracting talented workers. Many employees are voicing their desire to work remotely, even if just on a hybrid basis.
Employers that don’t exercise flexibility will need a compelling case as to why, or risk falling victim to the ‘great resignation’.
The pandemic made us realize that the office isn’t the only place where quality work happens. However, workspaces are great resources when it comes to training, collaboration and learning. That’s why many firms — large and small — are adopting a hybrid office approach, where employees divide their time between working from home and in the office.
Speaking with Fast Company, Cassie Whitlock, head of human resources for the talent management software platform BambooHR, says it’s important for companies to clearly state the purposes and goals they’re driving toward, and share these with existing and potential employees in meetings and across marketing channels.
Doing this consistently will enable employees to understand how they fit into the bigger picture, and help provide them with a sense of purpose.
As a society, we’ve realized we want our work to feel meaningful and to fit into our lives rather than consume them. The workplace of the future will have to accommodate these desires in order to attract talented individuals.
“You need to be great at telling stories in your organization,” Whitlock says. “How are you making a difference? And are you sharing those successes with team members to help them feel good about the goals and outcomes you’re driving?”
“Pick things that are true to you. You do your best when you’re running your race and not someone else’s.”
Today’s employees are also looking for opportunities to reskill and upskill.
Mercer’s Global Talent Trends report says employers that don’t prioritize reskilling won’t be able to access the talent they need to fill new jobs. “Companies that unlock reskilling at speed and scale will transform at a pace that leaves their competitors behind.”
The report also found that “globally, reskilling is seen as the top talent activity most capable of delivering results in HR’s eyes” and that 78% of employees are ready to reskill.
- What is the best career to start at 35?
- After a decade or more in the workforce, it’s not uncommon for people in their 30s to reevaluate their career choices. It’s never too late to change careers. The first step is to decide what you think will make you happy and start working towards it. If you’re business-minded, there are lots of opportunities out there. Likewise, there’s no shortage of roles in other sectors, such as healthcare.
- What career is the happiest?
- According to a survey by PayScale, dental hygienists rank in the top 50 for job satisfaction among more than 500 professions. ‘Dental hygienist’ also ranked second on Glassdoor’s 2019 job satisfaction survey.
- What is the least stressful job?
- According to CareerCast’s study, ‘diagnostic medical sonographer’ is the least stressful job, followed by ‘compliance officer’ then ‘hairstylist’. That said, people’s stressors differ, and just because these jobs correspond with the lowest levels of stress doesn’t mean that they can’t be stressful. While the role itself might not be stressful, a manager’s behavior might induce stress.
- What is the number 1 job in healthcare?
- It’s a matter of opinion. The highest paid healthcare jobs are ‘physician’ and ‘surgeon’. Dietitians and nutritionists, occupational health and safety specialists and technicians, chiropractors, and registered nurses also rank as top healthcare jobs for different reasons.
- What are some careers with low satisfaction ratings?
- According to Business Insider and CareerBliss, ‘analyst’ has the lowest satisfaction rating, followed by ‘dispatcher’ then ‘program coordinator’.
- How can employers retain their workforce?
- In order to retain their workforce, employers must support workers from the start. An effective onboarding program is a must, and employers should make employee engagement a key priority. They should also offer tangible benefits, treat everyone equally and provide plenty of training opportunities and routes to progression.