There is no denying that the ‘Great Resignation’ is real and is happening.
Roughly four million Americans quit their jobs every month between April and July, and there is no sign of this trend rapidly slowing down in the coming months. Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index report found that 41% of the workforce if considering leaving their current employer within the next year.
Similar statistics were identified by Gallup’s analysis, which found that 48% of Americans are looking for a new job.
What is most interesting about Gallup’s findings is that the ‘Great Resignation’ is not limited to one industry, role or pay bracket, it is across the US workforce.
Of course, what is even more concerning is that this trend is not just specific to the US. It is occurring across the world. For instance, in the UK, job vacancies reached an all-time high in July when they exceeded one million.
This mass exodus of talent is a huge concern to not just companies, but also the economy.
But in order for companies to be proactive and implement measures to avoid huge swathes of resignations and unfilled roles, it is essential to understand exactly what is pushing employees to jump ship, often without another job lined up, as well as how companies can ensure they are front of the queue in hiring from the larger recruitment pool.
Let’s take a look at the top four leading causes of the ‘Great Resignation’.
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on people’s wellbeing. While working at home has many advantages – particularly around avoiding the commute – it has felt more like living at work for many.
It has been incredibly hard for employees to switch off from work and achieve a proper work-life balance. To add to this, many workers have seen their workloads increase – sometimes because companies had been forced to lay off or furlough other members of their team or just because that company has done well and taken on more work in the pandemic.
This, unsurprisingly, is leading to burnout on a scale never seen before. Research by recruitment platform Monster found that the main reason why US workers are keen to quit is because of burnout.
Monster career expert Vicki Salemi told NBC: “Burnout is especially common right now [and is] incredibly impactful on recruitment and retention.”
A recent study by McKinsey and LeanIn found that women had suffered more with burnout than their male counterparts – and this was closely linked with the ‘always on’ culture with one in three of the 65,000 employees surveyed saying they felt they were expected to always be available.
This burnout is particularly pushing female employees out of the workforce as they struggle to juggle higher workloads, more pressure at work, and other caring responsibilities. It is therefore important that HR teams really focus on who is struggling the most with burnout and target their responses to that.
2. Lack of career development opportunities
The Monster study found that the second biggest reason why employees are keen to jump ship is because of a lack of career progression and development. A study by Robert Half identified the same trend.
Learning and development, sadly, went by the wayside during the pandemic when employers were laser-focused on keeping their business afloat and spending money on new HR tech tools and hardware so employees could work from home.
Issues around learning and development have particularly affected younger employees, according to a study by LinkedIn. The study found that 69% of the 1,000 16- to 34-year-olds surveyed in the UK believe that their professional learning experience has been impacted by the pandemic. And 87% of 500 C Suite leaders agreed.
It is clear that people want the opportunity to progress in their career, learn new skills, and take on additional responsibility – if their current employer cannot offer that, then why not look elsewhere to see who can?
There really is no excuse for companies to refocus on this now that the initial panic of the pandemic is over. Of course, HR tech tools – like Coursera, Degreed and LinkedIn Learning– are on hand to help and make it easy for companies to do this with their remote workforce.
3. Being undervalued
Everyone wants to feel like the work they do is meaningful and contributes to a larger goal. So, it is not surprising that employees are keen to leave jobs where they do not feel valued, and their views are not listened to.
According to Fast Company, research shows that praise and appreciation are the top engagement factors for employees. This could just be a simple ‘thank you’ or ‘well done on doing X’, and not been a big public gesture, or employers could decide to reward teams for their hard work with an extra half-day off.
Linked to this, employees do not like when they don’t feel trusted by their managers or the wider business. This has really come to the fore in the pandemic and remote working where some employers really struggled to trust their employees to work productivity just because they couldn’t see what their employees were up to.
This has led to an exponential increase in video meetings and check-ins. These, in turn, can contribute to disengagement with the employer, meeting fatigue and burnout, as well as also distract employees from their day-to-day jobs, therefore having a detrimental impact on productivity.
Ultimately, why would an employee choose to work for an employer that instinctively doesn’t trust them or their work ethic despite no evidence that they are less productive from home?
4. Disconnect over values
Not only is feeling valued at work important to employees, but workers also want to feel that the company they work for shares their own personal purpose and values.
This is especially the case for younger generations of employees. Research by Lewis found that only 19% of Gen Z workers would work for a company that doesn’t share their values.
This generation of workers are particularly interested in diversity programs and want this to be woven into company culture.
Therefore, Lewis’ report concludes: “An organization that can marry opportunity with social activism and fairness is the one that will attract and retain the best talent that Gen Z has to offer”.
It seems like the same goes for female employees according to the McKinsey/LeanIn study. They found that women were more likely to champion diversity and inclusion at work, and that their exodus from their workplace could therefore affect a company’s diversity and inclusion practices.
This may, in turn, affect the company’s ability to retain other top talent or attract new talent into its workplace.
This is food for thought for employers across the world. As the ‘Great Resignation’ wages on, you need to find quick and creative solutions to improving company culture, better valuing and listening to employees, particularly around burnout, and thinking about career development in order to retain your top-class talent, as well as make yourself the employer of choice for new hires.