As the economy continues to grow, experts are forecasting that as many as 30% of employees will voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021 (over 45 million people)! The phenomenon is called “The Great Resignation.”
At first, I was skeptical about the projections, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported record job quits (almost 4 million) in April 2021. Expectations are the May number will be even higher, and the trend is expected to continue throughout the year.
The primary reasons for the mass resignations are reported as:
- A backlog of normal voluntary separations in 2020. About 6 million fewer people quit their jobs in 2020 than 2019, creating a backlog expected to clear this year.
- The unusual stress and work conditions of 2020 caused many to reevaluate what’s essential in life, many to go back to school, seek different professions, or start businesses of their own.
- Reluctance to return to a central workplace. Many who experienced “work from home” do not want to return to an office. Having experienced the flexibility of schedule, the benefits of proximity to family, and no commute time, many do not want to want to return to the “old” way, especially with concerns about COVID-19 vaccination rates and requirements.
- Desire to return to a central workplace. Many others want to return to an office. They miss the social atmosphere, impromptu collaboration, and relative ease of team building. As Marissa Miller, former CEO of Yahoo!, noted in 2013, “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”
The Great Resignation exacerbates the current struggles in hiring. In their April report, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 9.3 million job openings with hire rates and separations about equal, far below the pace needed to mitigate labor demand.
Some look to hybrid environments where employees work part of the week in a central office and the rest from home. This offers employees flexibility but also presumes the benefits of centrality can be scheduled. Technology companies have used the “work from home” and hybrid environments for decades, and their challenges are well known.
Here’s what you need to do when 30% of people are quitting their jobs.
- Secure your workforce. Alignment with your team members is critical, especially for key employees. Crisp decision-making, a clear vision and plan, and continual communication are foundational for employee retention.
- Seek new talent to improve your team. Like all “churning” events, there will be a lot of talent in play – both who want to “work from home” and who want to be in the office. In this mismatch of wants, you have an excellent opportunity to add new talent.
- Adapt your processes for your work environment. Whether you choose a central office, “work from home,” or hybrid, your work processes need to be fine-tuned to take advantage of that environment. A permanent change to the work environment is much more complex than a temporary one.
- Look for business opportunities. New work environments for tens of millions will create a need for both companies and employees, not limited to technology. Employee engagement, change management, distribution of supplies, and outsourcing of services are all in demand. A personal stylist told me her business was booming with her customers wanting wardrobe changes for their new work environments.
The Great Resignation is here socially, if not practically. Will you “ride the wave” or get “swept aside”?
“Things work out the best for those who make the best of how things work out.”
– John Wooden