When the term “Great Resignation” first hit the job circuit, many of us felt in our gut it would have a major impact on an already complicated talent market. I do not think anyone could imagine the seismic shift in the workforce most companies experienced during the summer of 2021 and beyond. Estimates show nearly one-third of the workforce quit their jobs during the Great Resignation and we are not out of the thick of it. Many companies are frantically trying to understand what this shift means for their company and the talent they are trying to not only attract but retain.
Leaders have been pounding HR for insight into the changing job market looking for a silver bullet. In a recent interview, my data buddy Ian Cook summed it up best:
A lot of people have asked me, “What’s the one thing?” and my constant response is, “It’s not one thing, it’s actually at least four.”Ian Cook-Visier.com
What are the potential causes of the Great Resignation?
Perhaps I am a bit sadistic, but I found it interesting how most companies played the victim last year as the effects of the movement began to take hold. How much longer would large companies think they could expect their talent to work for below market wages without repercussion? One particular role in the firm I was with began the year paying eleven dollars an hour and “struggled” to understand why we couldn’t staff the positions. (Dah!) Once we increased the rate to compete with the market, both in industry and out of industry competitors, we began to see more progress and less open roles. It’s basic economics that companies seemed to have forgotten but are now being forced to relearn.
There’s also a focus on how companies treat their employees. Gone are the days when employees would work 14 hours a day and spend another 1-2 more in traffic going to and from work. The pandemic forced companies to allow workers the flexibility that has long been desired for a work/life integration. Companies that try to go back to the “everyone in the office” mandate will continue to suffer high attrition rates. I recently read a post on LinkedIn from a leader who directs the firm’s recruiters to target every company that announces a return to work policy.
The pandemic also forced many out of work and into the gig workforce. The number of free-lancers has more than tripled since 2020 as workers embrace the ability to chart their own schedule, income and work. This shift was thought to be a temporary fix until things returned to normal but many of the workers have left the corporate workforce all together to seek a better lifestyle and flexibility. Companies are not turning more and more to this freelance workforce to get the work done, almost out of desperation.
There are more shifts driven by demographic changes. I wrote about 2 demographic changes affecting the talent market in September of 2021 based on some interesting statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Emsi recently released three demographics affecting the talent market and recruiting.
If this were an equation, it would be something like -Workforce55 * -EarlyCareerWorkforce= 😱
Read more about the latest stats in my post: Here’s what’s worse than the Great Resignation
So what’s the positive?
Companies that have embraced the new normal and are focused on their employees are well-poised to sustain and excel in the aftermath of the Great Resignation. The focus on the employee experience and retention is long overdue but has to be met with increasing innovation and rigor. Here are a couple of areas to stop the bleeding and start succeeding.
Focus on Career Path
In a study conducted by LumApps, an employee experience platform, 71% of employees admitted they were rethinking their career paths based on their experiences during the pandemic. The research supports the notion that employers able to meet these needs have an opportunity to retain talent. It also suggested 59% of U.S. employees said they would prefer to stay with their current employer “under the right conditions;” and 73% said they like their current roles.
This is a low-cost, high-touch way to keep the workforce you’ve already invested in. Unfortunately, I kind of feel like this is a no-brainer for successful companies as it’s part of their culture. Like many the industry, I cite the refocus on what actually drives company success (its employees) as one of the positives from the Great Resignation.
Output over Hours
In grade school, I would always get into trouble because I finished my work ahead of my classmates. Similarly, many corporations have long equated productivity with hours on the job. It’s time firms train leaders to lead with context versus control. We no longer need an overlord standing at our desk or checking in to ensure we are working during the 8-5 shift. New management, and I daresay more successful, measures productivity by the actual output of work, and the business impact of that work.
My favorite metaphor for the use of AI or similar technology in the workforce is Iron Man. Firms that use these tools as a way to augment their current employees and transform them into super-humans will not only see higher levels of quality and productivity but also employee engagement.
In a recent article by Visier on their blog: “As technology frees up people to focus on higher-level contributions to their organizations, employees will have an opportunity to be more strategic and less focused on administrative tasks. They’ll have access to information to help make informed decisions, to identify opportunities for innovation, and to be continually focused on opportunities for improvement.”
If you’re longing for the old days before the pandemic and Great Resignation, you’re in for a rude awakening. Companies that take the lessons learned during this period to refine and renew the focus on employees will continue to excel in the market. Both employees and employers have been transformed by our recent experiences and I think for the better. The Great Resignation should be viewed as a wake up call to companies and a catalyst for change and movement toward a better future of work.
and Sprint Recruiting
I joined the HR industry in 2004 after working as a sales leader in the Financial Services Industry for eight years. After spending his first couple of years in HR trying to fit in, I found my voice. Now I leverage all of the things I once hated about HR to become a consultant and invaluable partner to the businesses I support. I contribute to the HRGazzette and to DataDrivenInvestor on Medium. WARNING: my writing style is raw and in your face, not what you would expect from an HR executive.
- Get helpful recruiting tips sent to you monthly!
- Read each chapter of the book Sprint Recruiting as it’s written
- Resources including graphics, reports and training
- Special Q&A sessions to learn how Sprint Recruiting can help you transform your Talent Strategy.