“The Great Resignation” – How to Keep your Employees from Jumping Ship

The US workforce is facing a problem they’ve never seen before – an employment shortage across all industries, with a staggering 8.4 million Americans filling the unemployment roster as of August 2021, and of that only 5 million active job seekers are applying to the 10.1 million open positions. This gap of 5.1 million roles is the reason why TSA lines are longer than ever, CVS has implemented self-checkout, and there is no such thing as fast food anymore.

This shortage was created due to a multitude of factors, however the most interesting to employers is the root cause of The Great Resignation, a term coined by Texas A&M Anthony Klotz in 2019. In a recent survey to determine why employees were job searching, 43 percent of respondents said their career paths have either stalled or slowed to a crawl, and 47 percent said they are currently looking for a new job that provides growth opportunities. The craving for a path forward seems especially strong among the youngest workers: 38 percent of Gen-Z employees are looking for jobs with greater transparency around job path and development.[1]

Results from the survey revealed employees want direction. It’s simple and effective – provide your staff with performance goals, career mapping or succession planning and tangible metrics that give them clear insight into their future. Employees want to see their organization places value on their work, and the only way to do that is to see the long-term investment in them through a documented plan of action. 

Another factor behind The Great Resignation is workplace options. The … migration to remote work in the pandemic has also had a profound impact on how people think about when and where they want to work. “We have changed. Work has changed. The way we think about time and space has changed,” says Tsedal Neeley, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of the book Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding From Anywhere. Workers now crave the flexibility given to them in the pandemic — which had previously been unattainable, she says.[2] To stay competitive, ensure you are providing flexible work locations and schedules. The pandemic has placed a huge value on mental health, family 

and time – an employer that does not respect flexibility to pick up kids from school, or attend an elderly parent’s doctors appointments could quickly find themselves on the chopping block. 

Lastly, consider your demographics. Employees between 30 and 45 years old have had the greatest increase in resignation rates, with an average increase of more than 20% between 2020 and 2021. While turnover is typically highest among younger employees, [a recent study] found that over the last year, resignations actually decreased for workers in the 20 to 25 age range (likely due to a combination of their greater financial uncertainty and reduced demand for entry-level workers). Interestingly, resignation rates also fell for those in the 60 to 70 age group, while employees in the 25 to 30 and 45+ age groups experienced slightly higher resignation rates than in 2020 (but not as significant an increase as that of the 30-45 group).[3]

Although The Great Resignation is daunting, employers can combat it through proactive measures. Pay attention to your staff – are they working overtime, showing symptoms of burnout and have ample vacation hours built up? Encourage recognition and open communication, and if you are seeing an increase in turnover, pinpoint the reason so you can resolve the issue promptly and hire top talent. Employees will stay where they feel appreciated and heard. 


[1] https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/great-resignation-career-transparency-employee-retention-lattice.html

[2] https://www.npr.org/2021/06/24/1007914455/as-the-pandemic-recedes-millions-of-workers-are-saying-i-quit

[3] https://hbr.org/2021/09/who-is-driving-the-great-resignation

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