There was a mass societal shift bubbling beneath millions of Zoom calls and at-home workplaces. As a pandemic charged across the world, so did a train of thought, pushing through years of static and comfortable stigmas. The Great Resignation: a chance for people to reevaluate their values of both life and work.
Sandwiched between pandemic-forced isolation and at-home working policies, people had more time for introspection. After a year-long bout of battling against boredom and seclusion, a mass thought process swept the nation like a refreshing broom. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, 47.8 million U.S. workers quit their jobs in 2021.
Ultimately, people decided that they were no longer happy with getting by. Workers realized with rightful thought that they are worth more than paid. Why work a job you don’t enjoy when life is so short and crucial? Why waste precious life doing something you don’t like just to get by?
Consider it a renaissance, if you will. A great awakening in the minds of the common employee. Workers have taken over the power, holding higher and reasonable expectations for future employers. Regardless of your opinion on the matter, it’s impossible to overlook the numbers. A sizable shift in the job market did happen. The Great Resignation truly lived up to its title.
Is the Great Resignation Positive or Negative?
As a staffing agency, we mainly deal with the opposite side of the Great Resignation battle. We speak majoritively with employers, helping companies find exceptional staffing with efficiency. The pragmatic nature of the country-wide shift has both increased staffing needs and decreased staffing pools. It’s a problematic and paradoxical battle: more companies need employees. Fewer employees are ready to settle for jobs.
Consequently, we sit directly in the middle. Ever-important is the understanding of the employee’s needs. While as a business or organization, the widespread movement toward higher working standards seems unfortunate, it’s anything but. Putting aside money-and-business-based statistics, employees truly deserve better, regardless of its negative effects on an organization. It’s important to remember humanity at its core.
The Great Recession of 2008 saw employees staying at jobs. The lowest monthly average for workers quitting their jobs was in 2009. 1.75 million workers quit their jobs a month that year, less than half of the monthly average in 2021. People needed work. Therefore, people were willing to stay at their jobs, regardless of negative conditions.
The drastic difference between the two eras lies within the mortality of it all. The Great Recession saw people struggling with finances; the Great Resignation saw people struggling with physical and mental health. While both problems may seem life-changing, only one threatens actual life.
A Microsoft study found that compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic, 53% of workers are more likely to prioritize mental and physical wellbeing over work.
To think of this shift as negative in any way is to focus more on numbers than humanity, a mistake that caused this movement in the first place.
Employers Have to Get it Right
Within the Microsoft survey came a surprising list. According to the survey, the top five aspects of work that employees view as “very important” are positive work culture, mental health benefits, a sense of purpose, flexible work hours and more than two weeks of yearly paid vacation.
Gia Ganesh, the vice president of People and Culture at Florence Healthcare, told CNBC about the matter, stating, “As a society, if we begin to shape our practices around how we treat people, how our work environments are structured, the Great Reshuffle will end.”
The problem is deeply seeded in work culture. A root holding and growing since Henry Ford created the five-day 9-5 work schedule in 1926. A culture that has been accepted as the norm by both sides of the Great Resignation. Employees considered it a practice that was written in rule, never to be changed. Employers saw it as a benefit to both sides, keeping efficiency and production afloat and successful.
Great Resignation Calls for New Priorities
The issue is that while one side is asking for change, the other is focusing on the wrong aspects. The majority of employers believe that providing higher wages will build and retain their workforce, which is the opposite of the entire movement. The movement of the Great Resignation begs for employers to see workers as more than just numbers. While higher wages are always nice, they continue to prove the point for which employees are fighting. Workers are more than just paychecks and payroll tabs.
Henceforth, to see a change is to adapt to it. Employers must adhere to the new priorities of their employees. Unfortunately, there are no one-size-fits-all changes to be made. For example, some companies realized that remote work is possible and functional during the quarantine. Continuing to allow this mobile workplace is more beneficial to employee needs than pay raises. But some industries simply do not function with mobile work, so the movement to meet employee needs does not fall into mobile workplaces.
Companies need to listen and be willing to adapt to employee needs. Otherwise, the astounding numbers of the Great Resignation will continue.
Experts Speak Out on the Future
Now comes the big question: Will the Great Resignation continue?
Overall, yes. It seems as if the work-culture shift will not slow down. In fact, PwC completed a survey of more than 52,000 workers in 44 countries in 2022. In this survey, PwC found that 1 in 5 workers say they will change jobs in the next year. Furthermore, 69% said they would change employers for better job fulfillment.
Robert Kelley, a professor of management at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, told Forbes, “I prefer to see The Great Resignation as the first shock-wave of what I call the ‘Big Sort’ that will have trailing aftershocks. All echelons—from CEOs to front-line workers—are sorting out their relationship with work and how work fits into their overall life-work balance, as well as how much they want to get paid for their work.”
The Great Resignation Will Continue
Ganesh also told CNBC, “This phenomenon will continue for a while because employees still want to be paid fairly. They still want to have the right work environment and get the right job opportunities. As a society, if we begin to shape our practices around how we treat people, how our work environments are structured, the Great Reshuffle will end.”
To wrap this all up: the Great Resignation will continue. Ultimately, it is not a shift that was caused by the pandemic directly but accelerated by it. With a new generation rising up as the main workforce, the ideas were slowly shifting into motion. The quarantine and remote work only accelerated things, not fully causing it. Therefore, the shift will continue long past the pandemic. It will continue until a new norm is formed.
Trust Radius’ 2022 HR Trends Report found that 76% of surveyed human resources professionals believed that change in the labor market accompanying the Great Resignation is permanent.
Furthermore, 4.3 million U.S. workers quit their jobs in January of 2022. There were also 11.3 million job openings according to the latest report from the U.S. Department of Labor. These are not signs of the shift slowing down.
I feel as though the opinionated and essayistic nature of this article deserves a bit of a conclusion. More of an explanation, if you will.
After all, we are an employment agency. We deal with both employers and employees. So, understanding and attributing to these concepts is crucial for our line of work and our future. We have always stood by the concept of company culture being crucial for hiring and staffing. This ideal is why we spend so much time communicating with our clients. We believe that finding the perfect employee is more than just a great resume. We work to make sure that we know your company’s culture and team and find employees that fit in with it. Round peg and square holes are often found within the staffing community. We work to avoid this.
Regardless of your thoughts on the Great Resignation, it does exist and it is continuing to exist. It is a learning experience for both employers and employees, and we must work together to figure it out.
As a staffing agency, it’s our job to understand the middle ground and work to accompany both sides directly. As experienced and expert recruiters, we will continue to do so, acting as fluid with the changing tides.