The Great Resignation: Are you prepared?

Aug 5, 2021

Call it the Employee Exodus, the Turnover Tsunami, or the Great Resignation. No matter the name, employees are leaving work or switching jobs in droves – including pretirees. A recent Microsoft survey shows that 41% of workers are considering making a shift in jobs or quitting – and another study from the UK shows that 38% of those surveyed plan to quit in the next six months to a year. Only time will tell whether those who intend to quit actually will, but if you’re an employer, now is a good time to think about what this trend means for your business and how you plan to adapt.

People in almost every segment of the workforce are questioning the traditional “efficiency culture” that demands unending increased worker performance and production while giving lip service to work-life benefits.  

For many, the pandemic precipitated a shift in priorities, as employees started to ask why their employers treated them poorly, why they had never pursued their “dream job” or why they had never taken more time to be at home with their families. After more than a year of taking care of school-aged children, aging parents, and spending time with significant others, many employees realized the value of flexibility, time, and relationships. What once seemed important at the office took a back seat to questions of life and death and how to best spend our time.

It seems employees uncovered an old truth, one long buried in tradition, education, and a belief system tied to the American Dream. Employees have long been told that if they work hard and play by business rules, they’ll own something of value in terms of cash, real estate, stocks, bonds, or retirement. Now what’s perceived to be valuable doesn’t have a dollar sign attached.

Couple the desire to live and work differently with the fact that the pandemic forced many people to retire ahead of schedule. Prior to the pandemic, the American workforce had the greatest representation of generational employment in modern history. Baby Boomers indicated that they would work well past retirement age and propel the system over the next decade. But that has changed. According to a recent article in Barron’s, 15% of those over age 62 have now retired, a year after coronavirus started, compared to 10% after the 2007-2009 recession and 13% right before the pandemic. This uptick, coupled with a large decline in birth rates starting in 2007, the US workforce is about to face stagnation. Jobs will remain unfilled, and a large brain trust will slip out the back door and take with them one of the most prolific and impactful set of ideas on a modern economy. 

What’s the solution? Employees say they will come back to work that’s rewarding, and that they will work for companies that allow the flexibility to address a variety of living situations. Employees are looking for employers that provide benefits that reflect their values. They are also looking for flexible hours and work days, work-from-home rotations, education opportunities, the ability to mix with other people in their organization, or perks that help with child or elder care. They don’t express the desire for more coffee options in the breakroom, mandatory overtime or another required training on how to generate efficiency.

It’s a good time to look at your company culture and assess how well you’re prepared to support your employees and hybrid work.  People want to be valued and treated well. They desire for work to be something that aids them in helping round out the other things that define them. In the end, they want to work for companies that care about them as individuals; not as a resource supply or means to an end.


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