Is the Great Resignation Over Yet?
Nov 22, 2022 · 8 mins read ·Employee Retention, People Management
The Great Resignation - along with quiet quitting - has been making headlines for some time now. Also referred to as the Great Reshuffle and the Big Quit, the trend of employees voluntarily resigning from their jobs en masse began at the beginning of 2021, seemingly as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s wake up call that told us we should appreciate life a little more and seek a better work-life balance.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021 in excess of 47 million American workers voluntarily resigned from their jobs. That’s huge - and it’s what led to the so-called movement being called the Great Resignation.
All of a sudden, a lack of employees forced businesses across all industries to reduce their working hours because they were unable to find replacements for the employees who had quit.
But is this a truly modern phenomenon and, more importantly for you as an HR manager or business leader, is the Great Resignation over yet?
Is the Great Resignation a longer term issue?
Let’s take a look at the stats. For while a record number of employees did indeed resign from their jobs across the course of 2021, long-term data actually shows that this is not a modern and wholly unexpected crisis but more of a spike in a trend that has been with us for more than a decade.
It seems that the global pandemic, which can be blamed for many unprecedented changes such as the rapid shift towards working from home and teams working to a hybrid model, might not be wholly responsible for the Great Resignation.
Check out the facts:
- From 2009 to 2019 the average rate of people resigning per month increased by 0.10% year on year - not a huge amount
- In 2020 as COVID started to infiltrate our lives and created mass uncertainty, the amount of people quitting slowed down
- Fast forward to 2021, however, and as employees began living with the reality of the pandemic and stimulus checks were cashed, the en masse quittings that we’ve read so much about started occurring
To look at those figures objectively though, we must accept that some of the employees resigning in 2021 and 2022 may possibly have quit regardless, pandemic or no pandemic.
That’s not to say that the record number of workers leaving their jobs is the norm and data does show that the rate has slowed and we are returning to pre-pandemic figures.
However, what are the main factors that cause employees to leave a job? Clearly if a company is not particularly great to work for, they will have a higher staff turnover. But what about those people who seem to be ticking along without a problem?
After all, something must have made all those people quit over the past two years. Can it all have been down to COVID?
What factors make people quit their jobs?
Of course, there have always been underlying reasons why people resign from their jobs. And, pandemic aside, those reasons must still have been there even if they were exacerbated by COVID-19.
Retirement is obviously one reason why people exit the workforce, and relocating to a different geographical location is behind some people leaving one company and finding employment at another elsewhere.
The recurring theme of work-life balance is also having a huge impact on people reassessing their lives and quitting the 9 to 5 office job in order to start their own business - most likely a direct repercussion of the pandemic.
File this under reshuffling AKA a desire to live in the moment, not take life for granted, avoid the burnout of the rat race and, yes, work in a germ-free environment that doesn’t involve numerous coworkers and crowded commutes.
So - is the Great Resignation finally over?
Sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but reports suggest that the Great Resignation isn’t going to be in your rear view mirror anytime soon. In fact, some surveys state that a massive 44% of workers in the USA are seeking new employment.
But why? If the pandemic is (mostly) behind us, why are people still upping sticks and quitting? As suggested at the start of this article, the Great Resignation didn’t just appear out of nowhere. People have always quit and people will continue to quit.
It’s clear that COVID was the catalyst for this mass upheaval but the factors mentioned earlier: retirement, relocation and the reassessment of priorities have also played a part, albeit the latter being pandemic-related.
Suffice to say, the Great Resignation isn’t over - yet. If anything it’s morphing into the more insidious trend of quiet quitting - where employees do the bare minimum. But that’s a topic for another day!
The biggest question right now being posed to HR managers and business leaders is, what can you do to stop your people from deserting you?
How do you stop your employees from quitting?
Being able to identify potential areas of concern that are contributing to high turnover rates will benefit your business massively. After all, you don’t need us to tell you how costly employee retention can be.
Being agile is of huge importance and adapting to the changing needs of your people is crucial if you want to retain talent and attract high caliber candidates. For example, maybe it’s time to offer flexi time or remote work, if you’re not already doing so, or if you’re asking people to be in the office full time.
Or perhaps you need to take a good look at your company culture. It can matter more than you might think. For example, maybe your workplace isn’t seen to be compassionate or your culture is stifling and doesn’t inspire creativity.
Is your actual working environment somewhere where people want to show up and be productive every day? Are you recognizing and rewarding employees for jobs well done?
There are plenty of reasons why employees leave companies - just as there are lots more reasons why people stay with great employers.
And while the Great Resignation may have inspired countless headlines and think pieces, the reality is, the catalysts underpinning it aren’t going anywhere.
I'm a UK-based content writer here at Hezum. I've an interest in all things HR and company culture.