The term “Great Resignation” was coined in May 2021, when employees started seeing a spike in resignations. For the most part, the pandemic was to blame – as people got the taste of remote work and realized life is not to be taken for granted, many wanted full control over their lives’ greatest asset – time. Over one year from then, there are few signs of the trend slowing down. About 4 million Americans quit their jobs every month – according to statistics, 30-60% of the nation’s workforce plans to leave their employers by the end of the year.
At the same time, team leaders now have the opportunity to look back at the employees driven out of their jobs by the Great Resignation in 2022 and ask themselves why they left, where they went, and what they are up to.
Going back to the beginning of the Great Resignation in 2022
At the beginning of the year, Hustle interviewed those who could no longer bear their jobs and decided to call quits. Among the key reasons to leave their employers, people cited:
- Better pay at a different company (26.7%): employees felt underpaid at their jobs – women more so than men.
- Sense of purpose (17.4%). Last year, McKinsey published an article titled “Help your employees find purpose – or watch them leave”. It turned out to be prophetic – as looking for a more purposeful job is the second most popular reason for people leaving their jobs.
- Burnout (17.3%) also added fuel to the Great Resignation in 2022. The stress of the pandemic, working from home (which often led to over-timing due to the lack of employer trust) pushed workers to exhaustion – especially those on the frontlines.
- Desire to pursue a new career path (9.9%). A recent report shows that 48% of job leavers went on to work in a new industry.
While these statistics show the key trends that drove employees to give up on their jobs, there were human, subtler aspects behind each decision.
An exhausted restaurant worker interviewed by Hustle cites “lack of respect” as the reason to leave which showed in the pay, the workload, and workplace treatment. A working mother stepped out of her work to have more family time and cut workplace stress. There’s also a high-school student who was able to get a dream job because other people left the place she’d wanted to work at.
These cases don’t necessarily fit into the mold of traditional reasons reports bring up when talking about the Great Resignation of 2022.
As they research Great Attrition, managers should focus on understanding the subtleties of each decision and look beyond generic labels like “stress” or “burnout”. By studying individual stories of exiting employees, leaders will be able to better support the rest of the team through the motions of life.
Resignation accepted: what’s next?
After they quit their old jobs, people ended up at the crossroads of the job market, pondering on what to do next. Most gravitated towards the following paths:
48% of job-leavers switched industries
The pandemic made people realize that the industry they worked in was a bubble on the verge of bursting, as was the case for many retail workers. Others were hit too hard by the burdens of added responsibilities, like education and healthcare professionals.
At the same time, the pandemic introduced new opportunities, like finding a remote job abroad or applying to a company in a cheaper state.
Traditional industries were the most heavily affected by the Great Resignation in 2022, namely:
- Banking and finance: 60% of job-leavers switched fields
- Retail and customer service: 60% of quitters turned to a different industry
- Healthcare and education: 54% of workers who left during the Great Resignation in 2022 made a shift to a different field.
What this means for the job market
The shift fuels a disproportionate gap in some sectors – as more talent is leaving, there aren’t enough new hires to come in. As a result, employers will likely be more open-minded and flexible in selection criteria. McKinsey identifies two trends that will shape the future of hiring:
- The culture of giving people a chance. Before the pandemic, industries like finance had a high entry barrier, with employers carefully considering education, industry experience, and recommendations before taking a hire on board. Talent shortage puts this level of scrutiny to a test and encourages employers to be more open about their hiring decisions. After the pandemic, the tendency to prioritize skills over experience is settling in.
- No expectations for loyalty. Before the pandemic, job-hopping was a red flag – when spotted, it would tell a talent manager to reconsider proceeding with the applicant. With more people quitting their jobs, finding someone committed to long-term employment has become more difficult, encouraging recruiters to keep an open mind to those who change positions.
- Exploring new talent pools. As traditional industries struggle to fill in the gaps, new talent pools come to the rescue. Hiring people abroad to work remotely is a widespread move among team leaders.
35% of respondents found a new job in the same field
Losing faith in their industry encouraged many employers to hop on the Great Resignation bandwagon. At the same time, over one-third of McKinsey respondents stayed committed to their fields and found a new employer.
What this means for the job market:
Organization leaders should not underestimate the impact of intense workload, lack of satisfaction with the compensation, and organization purpose on an employee’s decision to quit.
Data shows that managers are highly responsible for high employee turn-overs. Uninspiring leaders make the team feel suffocated, stall careers, and fuel the desire to quit. Job flexibility is another major factor – statistically, 63% of employees believe a degree of freedom at work will make them more empowered.
As companies compete with other employers in their industries, they need to focus on a broader set of criteria than pay and office benefits. The key drivers of employee satisfaction in the post-pandemic workplace are:
- Career development opportunities
- Strong organizational purpose
- Mindfulness of employees’ individual purposes (statistically, 70% of the workforce define their life purpose by work).
- Compensation in line with the job market and inflation: the average salary increase rate (5.2%) isn’t catching up with the 9.1% inflation of 2022. Anxiety and uncertainty can encourage employees to leave their employers for positions with better financial support.
- Reliable team culture and caring leaders
17% of job-leavers are giving up on traditional employment
For some people, the Great Resignation of 2022 became an opportunity to reinvent their jobs and create new businesses. One of the Great Resignation job-leavers decided to give up on the corporate job to start a logistics company.
He saw huge benefits from working independently – higher income (from $70k to about $120k a year) and reduced working hours.
Many similar stories unfolded during the pandemic: according to a White House press release from April, new business applications grew by 30% during the pandemic.
What this means for the job market
If employers want to keep non-traditionalists from leaving their jobs, they need to double down on flexibility, engaging tasks, and sense of purpose. Commitment to flexibility should not be a one-off event – rather, it should penetrate all processes: from recruitment (allowing candidates to express themselves in a way they see fit) to interviewing (flexible schedules and locations), onboarding, and day-to-day work.
Independence and individuality are in the mix as well: team leaders can motivate do-it-yourself-employees to commit to their position by assigning them tasks that can be easily accomplished alone or let them pick teammates.
Leaving a job is normally a life-changing decision with financial, social, and other repercussions. With all-time high quitting records, one can help but wonder if some of those were not last-minute decisions job-leavers would eventually regret.
This falls in line with the story numbers tell. According to Bloomberg, 25% of Americans regret leaving their jobs during the Great Resignation in 2022, with the leading reasons being:
- Anticipating the rough job market – according to experts, the tables on the job market will turn in the next 6 months, as inflation and recession encourage business owners to cut costs.
- Missing the relationships they built at work and struggling to build connections as fulfilling at new companies.
- Not getting enough satisfaction from their new roles.
- Reconsidering the benefits of their old positions.
What this means for the job market
Team leaders shouldn’t see employee resignations as a permanent move and tweak their approach to employee exit to increase the odds of valuable professionals coming back. Here are a few strategies managers should consider:
- Checking in with the employees who left one, three, and six months after their resignation to see if they are not planning on coming back.
- Not rushing to fill in the empty spot unless absolutely necessary – according to SHRM, hiring a new employee costs about $4,700 on average. If the losses of keeping an open spot for a few months are lower than the cost saved on hiring and onboarding, waiting it out in case a job-leaver changes their mind is well justified.
- Creating a culture of acceptance around taking those who left the company back on board. To some, asking for their old job is uncomfortable – it’s up to team leaders to show that there are no grudges. In some cases, managers welcomed people back with a pay raise to give employees what they deserve.
What is the future of the Great Resignation after 2022?
Two years after the onset of the pandemic, the Great Resignation is still going strong. Making predictions about its end is a complex task and there’s a high risk of getting it wrong.
Still, Forbes shared the opinions of talent management experts across several organizations on the future of the Great Resignation in 2022 and onwards.
- Some believe it is likely to stay, as the culture of job commitment, popularized by baby boomers and maintained by Gen X is out of vogue right now. Millennials and Gen Z want more autonomy, including the freedom of changing their workplaces. Also, cross-border hiring popularized by the pandemic makes finding a job in days an easy task for qualified professionals.
- Others see the Great Resignation as the beginning of the greater shift that shows our desire to understand where work fits in the greater scheme of things and redefine career goals and aspirations. Experts believe that the post-pandemic aftershocks will reverberate for a few more years until the job market settles into a more or less permanent new normal.
- Yet some believe that the Great Resignation will come and go in cycles, with quit waves and long-term commitment. Some experts believe The Great Resignation will go on for about 8 more years, after which it will die out for a while only to resurface about two decades later.
What can companies do to stay afloat during the Great Resignation in 2022?
With unclear timelines and long-term damage to organizations, team leaders need a handbook for mitigating the challenges of the Great Resignation in 2022.
Luckily, the last two years showed that intention and open-mindedness in employee culture go a long way, with companies like Airbnb and Spotify winning the talent battle through their flexible, innovative approaches to workplace management.
Here’s what smaller-scale leaders can learn from these and other trailblazers:
- Listen to the employees who stay to have fewer of those who leave. According to Harvard Business Review and Gallup data, employee engagement is strongly linked to overall organizational success. The latter focuses on ongoing conversations as one of the key components of building an engaged team.
- Personalize the way you pursue employees. McKinsey defines five employee personas: traditionalists, do-it-yourself-employees, idealists, caregivers, and relaxers. Understanding what appeals to each category and offering each pool tailored roles will help improve retention and reduce attrition.
- Follow market trends and test new technologies. Employees are often vocal about their demands on social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, or TikTok (a platform of choice for younger generations of workers). If they are not stating their needs online, managers should create channels for feedback sharing and act on their team’s suggestions. Google’s and Apple’s turbulent hybrid work experiments showed that mandating organizational change from above does more harm than good in the long run.
- Use technology to improve the employee experience. Data shows that digital-first companies were more resilient during the pandemic, as they had the tools needed to stay connected under any circumstances. Having an online toolset that covers employee experience needs – for example, a virtual office space that connects employees and reduces workplace isolation – puts leaders in control and encourages them to interact with employees creatively.
For many employees, the pandemic was an eye-opener on the scarcity of their time and the importance of previously overlooked values – health and well-being, family, and purpose. As they contemplated the meaning of life, workers made impactful choices in their work environments – quitting their jobs, changing fields, or leaving a 9-to-5 to start a business.
Given the profound individual transformation people underwent, organization leaders should expect no less from their teams and operational models. To deter the Great Resignation, they should be ready to tear apart legacy models in favor of flexibility, purpose, and innovation.
Communication is an important component of employee retention – yet, it’s harder to form a long-lasting culture in a heavily remote or hybrid setting. That’s why progressive organization leaders use tools like virtual offices to align teams, move on from Zoom fatigue to less straining tools, and bring the human component out in distributed teams.
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