Industries across the world are seeing a tsunami of resignations. The hardest hit sectors are Retail and Hospitality, Manufacturing, Technology and Healthcare. So why do people have a sudden urge to quit their jobs? COVID-19 was a turning point across the world of work and in some cases has made people question their entire relationship with employers. A study by Microsoft found that 41% of the global workforce would consider leaving their current employer within the next year. In fact, in the US alone, more than four million people quit their jobs in April 2021.
According to Shahar Erez, CEO of the freelance talent platform Stoke, “The Great Resignation has been propelled by three forces; the changing generation, the economic crisis and the realisation people have had that they can have a different social contract, spending more time with family when they work remote and skip the commute.” He explains that during the pandemic, people realised that there is no such thing as job security and this has led thousands of people to seek freelance work, becoming less reliant on the stability of a single employer and avoiding being at the mercy of constant performance reviews under the close watch of management. There’s also the notion that people are now seeking more rewarding work.
The pandemic also put dramatic new pressures on people from all walks of life. White-collar workers reported a grueling schedule of Zoom and Teams calls, coining a new phrase ‘Zoom Fatigue’. The mass exodus from the office towards remote working at home meant that people assumed entirely new roles. Professional parents became home-schoolers and this created a pressure-cooker like environment where people lived, worked, cooked, taught their children and slept in a single place. Despite these new challenges, people have changed the way they think about the need for flexibility in their work. They experienced a different kind of life, one that allowed more quality time with family, more time to cook from scratch. That hour-long commute on the train could turn into an hour’s walk in the park.
Many companies are now asking employees to return to the office and these are some of the organisations that have been seeing the greatest number of resignations. The truth is, the long-term lockdowns have seen employees work from home for over a year. During this time, the possibility and effectiveness of remote work has been proven. Employees have the opinion “if it worked well for a year, why can’t it continue to work equally as well?” Employers unwilling to cater to this new demand for flexibility have left themselves exposed and are at the greatest risk of losing some of their most important talent.
Whilst some people are leaving their jobs to seek new careers and ‘dream jobs’, for the majority, their decision to quit has been influenced by the experience they’ve had with the employer-employees relationship during the pandemic. In various industries, stress and workload peaked and many workers felt underpaid and undervalued. They were already teetering on the edge of quitting pre-pandemic and the added stress and workload just tipped them over the edge. Think of all the industries that saw demand spike during the pandemic. Those working to fulfill online orders in warehouses. People on the front line in hospitals, who worked literally around the clock to save lives. Whilst cafes and restaurants may have closed their physical locations, there was an explosion in demand for food delivery with some fast food workers just not able to keep up with demand. Many organisations put employees on ‘furlough’ schemes, backed by government funds or laid off a proportion of their workforce. This left the remaining workers under even more pressure to cope with the same workload.
Major retailers are now scrambling to fill open positions with prospective employees, with major corporations offering hiring bonuses as part of the recruitment process, sometimes putting strain on their existing employee onboarding system and HR onboard teams. These companies are starting to realise that they need to make serious investments to earn people’s loyalty. After all, resignations and the effort to find new employees is a costly business. The employee onboarding process can take six to nine months, getting them to the point where they have the knowledge and skills necessary to make an impact in the business. Then there’s the time spent administering your HR onboarding software. Companies that continually see attrition will feel the pain of serious talent gaps and will face challenges with maintaining growth and serving the needs of their own customers.
This talent shortage and ‘great resignation wave’ does offer opportunities for the right businesses. Those businesses that create a reputation for treating people well, offering people flexibility, training and professional development and work-life balance stand to gain access to the very best talent in the job market. So if you’re looking to shore up your talent for the long term, company culture is a good place to start as part of your overall recruitment system and strategy.