In 2021, just as the world’s economy was recovering from the after-effects of a deadly pandemic, a new phenomenon was brewing across the labor market, one where workers were resigning voluntarily and at an unprecedented /unforeseen rate. This phenomenon was dubbed the Great Resignation. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics found that there were more than 47 million resignations across the country, leaving staff shortages in retail shops, petrol stations, and restaurants. This left many experts wondering what exactly was causing this. was it the post-covid hiring boom that gave workers several options or was it the result of a general discontent towards corporations?
A Change in Values:
The deaths and near-death stories experienced by the general population either first-hand or second-hand caused many people to reconsider the importance of work in their overall lives, questions such as “ Do I believe in the mission of my company?” or “ Am I given the freedom to make a meaningful impact? ” were always at the backend when workers were making decisions to stay or move on, however, the general population has now prioritized these questioned like never before.
Although there is no concrete evidence to back this claim, these conversations are now becoming increasingly prevalent in interviews and discussions between employees and employers. There have been increasing instances where employees are quitting jobs with lucrative paychecks because the purpose of the self and the company are not aligned.
Burnout and Its Effect on Life After Work:
The Covid pandemic required many frontline workers to give it their all and more to service the needs of the customers/patients/clients like never before. Time and energy are a finite resources and workers often found that the exacerbating demands at work often came at the cost of family. This was especially true for workers who had families to take care of and household responsibilities.
In addition to the burnout experienced by these workers, the responsibility of caring for their families also led to many workers questioning the effort they were putting in their jobs. The burnout in combination with the fact that the needs of the families were not being met, led many frontline workers to realign their priorities and this was a significant contributor to the level of resignations increasing.
A Wealth of Options:
The fact of the matter is that opportunities pre-covid were perceived to be scarce, however, post the pandemic and a few governmental interventions (such as the stimulus checks in many countries), employees were given the option of taking a “break” to seek new pastures. This time off coupled with the fact that the labor market was once again active led to several employees moving to new jobs or completely different industries.
These moves from a statistical perspective were increasing the overall resignation rate however, the reality was that employees were entering new domains, switching employers, and were moving upwards in their careers. Once again, this was possible simply because post the pandemic, certain industries were growing rapidly, and a wealth of options were available for highly skilled workers.
A significant portion of the workforce that resigned belonged to adults aged 55 or older, and again this point relates to a shift in priorities. The pandemic caused senior members of the workforce to refocus their priorities, and this increased the desire to spend more time and effort with family members and loved ones, leading to a higher retirement rate. However, this was again coupled with the fact that at the time property prices and the stock market, in general, were yielding higher returns, causing senior workers with investments in these domains to feel more financially secure and therefore were more comfortable making the decision.
As an executive search firm, the crux of our job is to align the interests of suitable candidates to organizations, the great resignation has increased the importance of the non-financial aspects such as work culture, organizational goals, and a career path for potential candidates and although this increases the difficulty of our job as consultants, it equally becomes more fulfilling.
The new challenges faced are definitely human challenges and solving issues that have that human touch is one of the best aspects of this profession. This also leads to further questions about the effectiveness of AI within the HR domain, the great resignation has taught us that the human element is becoming increasingly important, will AI ever effectively do the job? Perhaps that is a discussion for another time!