The last year and a half has manifested a sea change in the business world. In what has been coined “The Great Resignation”, people are ready to leave both pandemic restrictions and their current jobs behind.

The size and scope of the problem is of epic proportions. Record levels of Americans are voluntarily leaving their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Microsoft Work Trend Index has found that 40% of workers globally are considering leaving their existing employer. Another survey revealed that 26% of workers are planning to leave their current job after the pandemic is over.

Business leaders are debating the why, but not the aftermath. That exodus is going to be costly in terms of hiring and training resources for a wide range of companies. In fact, 73% of CEOs say a labor/skills shortage will likely be the biggest issue to disrupt their businesses in 2022.

So why the mass exodus now? You could say it’s the perfect storm of factors. First, Forrester data shows that more than half of employees want to keep working from home, while many employers want people back in the office. If a current employer doesn’t want to accommodate at the very least some amount of time working remotely, a significant share of workers say they will actively start looking for an employer/position that will.

Second, the pandemic has brought about two distinct financial paradigms for workers, with some people struggling to make ends meet, while others are emerging stronger. Some people who are emerging from the pandemic financially stronger than two years ago are better positioned to make a career or location change.

There are several other factors that come into play, according to an analysis of more than 9 million employee records at 4,000 global companies. For example, many workers have had a lot of time to think over the last year and a half about the trajectory of their careers and lives overall. They’re questioning existing situations and systems and wondering if they want to be part of organizations that they believe don’t value them well enough as individuals and won’t help them reach their career and life goals. Not surprisingly, employees between 30 and 45 years old have had the greatest increase in resignation rates. They are at a career crossroads age-wise, and are thinking hard about how well their companies fit them and where they want to go from here. Others are simply burned out.

Now, more than ever, American workers are willing to work hard and commit to organizations that meet their needs. Leaders must express a willingness to be flexible in work arrangements and help their workforce reach work/life goals. If this isn’t part of the equation, you could have an employee retention problem down the road.

Leaders also must make it a point to really tune into the worker sentiment and make improvements. You might consider talking to workers individually and collectively to really get to the heart of what workers want and expect. A detailed and quality data analysis can uncover some surprising things about a company, such as factors causing people to leave and/or employees who might be at great risk of leaving. You’ll also get an idea of how changes — in working conditions or compensation, for example — can have a profound impact on employee retention. Even companies that in the past haven’t really had to work hard to retain their best and brightest may have to spend time and effort on doing so now.

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