Insights & Ideas

The Great Resignation: It’s not about quitting

colleen great resignation

Whether you call it “The Great Resignation,” “The Great Reckoning,” “The Big Quit,” “The Great Reset,” or any other catchy name, one thing is certain: employees are in control.

Yes, people are quitting their jobs, but this isn’t any old quitting. In a recent article from The Atlantic, Derek Thompson says, “Quitting is a concept typically associated with losers and loafers. But this level of quitting is really an expression of optimism that says, we can do better.” The great resignation is really about employees and other individuals deciding that they want better quality of life, more engaging work, and a bigger voice in the workplace. It’s a fundamental shift in workplace dynamics that will (hopefully) impact us all.

Why is this happening?

At Salo, we believe it boils down to five main things:

1. Continued effects of the global pandemic
We can’t ignore the elephant in the room. As we learn to live with the virus, there is still a lot of uncertainty, including quarantines, school closings, vaccine controversies, and back-to-office plans that keep getting pushed back.

On top of that, workers are plain burned out. The accumulated stress of the past year combined with the availability of unemployment benefits has led to many Americans taking a breather to consider what they really want from work and life.

2. The search for meaningful work
We’ve known for a while that Millennials want to work for companies that align with their values. But during the pandemic, it became clear that other age groups crave purposeful work, too. Employees of all ages want decent salaries, benefits, culture fit, and meaningful work. Edelman research shows, “Employees are becoming more ‘belief-driven’ in the wake of the pandemic, with 6 in 10 of those changing jobs seeking a better fit between their own and their employer’s corporate values.”1

Additionally, a Lexington Law survey says that 3 in 5 Americans would take a 50% pay cut for a job they loved. (And it wasn’t just Millennials. As age increases, the preference for rewarding jobs becomes stronger. Baby Boomers said they’d choose a job they loved over doubling their salary.)2

3. Desire for flexibility, choice, and autonomy
During the past few years, employees’ needs were paramount. Remote work. Flexible hours. Mental health initiatives. Etc. Now, employees don’t want to go back to pre-pandemic norms. And they’re not kidding around. According to Catalyst/CNBC:

  • More than half of Americans want to make a career change.
  • 41% are considering leaving their jobs because their company hasn’t cared about their concerns during the pandemic.
  • 76% of workers want their company to make work permanently flexible (in terms of schedule and/or location). 3

4. Hiring lacks humanity
Over the last decade, technology has taken over the hiring process—making it easy for employers to post tons of positions and job seekers to apply for many of those jobs quickly. When AI-powered software scans the applications and filters out candidates that don’t use specific keywords, many candidates who are great fits for a job can be eliminated without anyone ever reviewing their resume.

This means organizations are missing out on top talent and talented people are getting more and more frustrated with corporate life.

5. `The “great mismatch” (available jobs > desirable jobs)
As you may have noticed, everybody is hiring. There are millions of jobs available, but they aren’t what job seekers are looking for. As we all know, many open jobs—especially in hospitality and the service industry—offer low pay, unpredictable schedules, and lack long-term stability. And those aren’t the only jobs that are hard to fill. Even professional jobs that sounded great before the pandemic are less desirable today.

That’s because there’s a mismatch between employer ideals and potential employees’ preferred work styles, skills, and interests. For example, a PwC study shows, 72% of employees prefer to work at home at least two days a week and 32% prefer to work from home full-time.4 Employers, however, aren’t stepping up to the plate. Remote positions represent only 9.7% of U.S. paid job listings on LinkedIn.5 And, although studies show 90% of employers say work productivity has been the same or higher since employees started working from home, 68% of executives say a typical employee should be in the office at least three days a week.6

Of course, this is not just about remote work. It’s about employers listening to employee preferences and finding innovative ways to meet employee needs. When Elon Musk was asked about remote work recently, he said, “The inefficiency of distance can be overcome by talent.” Organizations who want the best talent will need to find ways to accommodate today’s talent needs—because employees are taking a stand against the status quo.

So, what’s next?

While “The Great Resignation” might sound ominous (especially to organizational leaders who are pining for 2019-era workplaces), there’s potential for lots of good to come of it. Entrepreneurship is soaring. People are reconsidering work/life balance in new ways. Holes in the social safety net have been exposed. Wages for low-income workers (and many other jobs) are raising quickly.

And the advantages aren’t just for individuals. Businesses can reap the benefits, too. When workers are engaged, businesses are more innovative, productive, and collaborative. If we take advantage of it, the Great Resignation could lead to a whole new way of American work life. As Derek Thomson says, “The Great Resignation is, literally, great.”

What can you do?

It depends on who you are!

If you’re an employer:

If you’re an individual thinking of a career shift:

Take the next step with Salo

At Salo, we’re building the future of work. We match expert finance, accounting, HR, and c-level consultants with organizations that need their help.

  • For individuals, we build flexible, rewarding careers as expert consultants. Our consultants are able to choose projects that fit their lifestyles, skills, and work interests. Interested? See our Consulting Guide or contact us.
  • For organizations, we provide expert talent that takes on tough challenges and propels businesses forward. Learn more about our services or contact us.
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