“The Great Resignation” is a term initially coined by Anthony Klotz – a psychologist and professor at Texas A&M. In an article published in early 2021, he wrote that “Due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, many employees who would have otherwise quit their jobs stayed put. As the pandemic subsides, these would-be quitters who ‘sheltered in place’ last year will likely enact their plans to leave.”
As anyone paying attention to the news knows, his prediction was disturbingly accurate.
Four million people left their current employer in April 2021 – which, at that point, was the highest number on record, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. By the end of June, employers posted 10 million job openings – a number that held steady for five consecutive months. Then, in September alone, a record 4.4 million US employees quit their jobs. That’s 3% of the workforce.
And the outlook isn’t improving. According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, 41% of people are expected to consider leaving their jobs within the next year.
WHY SO MANY RESIGNATIONS?
There’s little agreement on why so many people are resigning, while at the same time, unfilled job openings are reaching historic numbers. Proposed reasons include the pandemic, burnout, stimulus-boosted unemployment checks, mandatory vaccinations, and simple laziness.
A recent Gallup analysis suggests that The Great Resignation is really the “Great Discontent” – noting that it’s not an industry, role, or pay issue, but rather a workplace engagement issue. They express that “it takes more than a 20% pay raise to lure most employees away from a manager who engages them, and next to nothing to poach most disengaged workers.”
Similarly, the Fall 2021 Hiring Outlook for recruiting giant Monster points out that burnout is the number one reason employees gave Monster for quitting their jobs, while 29% of employees said they are leaving their jobs because of a lack of growth opportunities.
It’s clear that, at the moment, it’s an employee’s market – which creates an uphill struggle for employers to retain and recruit workers. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps that can help.
While nobody can fully agree on why it is happening or how long this will continue, there are a few ways employers can reduce the allure of resignation among their existing – and potential new – employees.
PROVIDE FLEXIBLE WORKING OPTIONS
Many businesses moved their operations to a remote work environment during the pandemic. One effect of this was to create a new expectation of freedom among employees. In many ways, remote work promotes a better work-life balance – and that’s something employees now demand.
If you don’t offer remote work, some of your employees may quit to work for a competitor who does. A January 2021 survey of 1,022 professionals found 29% would quit their jobs if they couldn’t continue to work remotely.
If your business cannot go fully remote, you could also consider hybrid work models or flexible work schedules. Ask your employees to see what structure fits their needs best.
MAKE WORK-LIFE BALANCE A PRIORITY
More than ever, employees know how their work impacts their day-to-day lives. To retain and attract these workers, employers must make it clear that they support a healthy work-life balance.
And employees aren’t the only ones who benefit – there are tangible business benefits as well. According to Gartner’s 2020 ReimagineHR Employee Survey, businesses that support employee work-life balance achieve a:
- 21% increase in the number of high performers
- 17% increase in the number of employees who report improved physical health
- 23% increase in the number of employees who report improved mental health
So how can you help achieve this balance? By providing some well-being support to your employees such as:
- Ensuring that you have a solid and competitive benefits package – including health, dental, and vision insurance
- Offering 401(k) accounts with an employer match
- Reimbursing tuition for job-related education
- Providing free childcare and no-strings parental leave
- Offering gym memberships, sleep improvement, and stress management programs
Nothing, however, takes the place of listening to your employees. Survey them to see how you can better support their work-life balance. When they see that their feedback has been heard and implemented, they’ll feel more appreciated and less likely to look elsewhere.
PROVIDE LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES
According to a recent BetterBuys survey, 92% of employees said having access to professional development was either essential or very important. Professional development also helps aid retention and engagement; employees with development opportunities have 34% higher retention and are 15% more engaged.
But far from being seen as a perk, these opportunities are seen as an employer’s responsibility. 49% of professionals expect their employers to help them grow their careers, according to a recent Monster poll. The same poll revealed that 80% of employees don’t believe their employers take the necessary steps to support them in this way.
Providing corporate training programs is an invaluable way to support your workforce. These programs can be developed internally or paired with a university curriculum to help employees enhance their knowledge and skills. And as they grow, employees will apply that knowledge directly to the job – in the process improving both your results and their engagement.
The Great Resignation is very real – and navigating it requires focus and open-mindedness to attract and retain employees. Learning more about what motivates your team and top talent prospects will help you better weather this employment phenomenon.