The Great Resignation: Navigating the Shifting Landscape of Hiring and Retention

The U.S. workforce experienced an unprecedented upheaval in 2021 and 2022, with over 47 million Americans quitting their jobs in what has been dubbed "The Great Resignation" (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022). This mass exodus of workers has had far-reaching consequences for businesses and job seekers alike, forcing a reevaluation of priorities and a shift in hiring strategies.

Understanding the Great Resignation

The Great Resignation, also known as the "Big Quit," refers to the record-breaking number of workers who voluntarily left their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022), an average of nearly 4 million workers quit their jobs each month in 2021, with the trend continuing into 2022. In fact, a recent survey by Microsoft (2022) found that 41% of the global workforce is considering leaving their current employer within the next year.

Several factors have contributed to this phenomenon, including:

  • Burnout and stress from the pandemic
  • Desire for better work-life balance and flexibility
  • Reevaluation of career goals and priorities
  • Dissatisfaction with current job or employer
  • Increased savings and financial security due to government stimulus and reduced spending during lockdowns

The Great Resignation has had a profound impact on the job market, with businesses struggling to fill vacant positions and retain top talent. A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM, 2022) found that 84% of organizations are experiencing difficulty filling open positions, with 60% reporting a longer time-to-hire compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Shifting Priorities for Job Seekers

Kanani Rose, a Senior Sales Recruiter, has witnessed firsthand the changing expectations of job seekers in the wake of the Great Resignation. "The pandemic has empowered employees, more than ever, to prioritize flexibility, growth opportunities, and work-life balance in their current positions and those they are considering," she says.

According to a survey by FlexJobs (2022), 65% of respondents cited work-life balance as the top reason for seeking a new job, followed by better compensation (56%) and the ability to work remotely (43%). This shift in priorities has led to a surge in demand for remote and flexible work arrangements, with a report by Upwork (2022) predicting that 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely by 2025, an 87% increase from pre-pandemic levels.

As Rose points out, "Anecdotally, I‘ve seen a bit of a cool-down in this phenomenon as the market continues to be unpredictable, but I‘m certain that one of the long-term effects of the Great Resignation is that workers will continue to be interested in the scope of their work, from a wider lens than just their general job responsibilities." This broader scope includes factors such as health insurance, financial benefits, 401K plans, stock options, and work-from-home stipends—incentives that are becoming just as important as the job itself.

Adapting Recruiting Strategies

The Great Resignation has forced businesses to reevaluate their recruiting strategies to attract and retain top talent in a highly competitive market. Gabby Reynoso, a Marketing Recruiter, emphasizes the importance of employer branding, pay transparency, and empathy in the recruitment process. "These have all been key strategies on our recruitment team to make sure that we are giving candidates the power to make the best decisions for themselves in a competitive market," she says.

A recent Glimpse survey of marketing decision-makers in the U.S. revealed that many companies have adapted their hiring processes in response to the economic changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The most commonly reported changes include:

  • Difficulty in attracting qualified candidates
  • Increased use of virtual resources in the hiring process, such as online recruitment tools and video interviews
  • Hiring with remote work in mind to accommodate employees‘ desire for flexibility
  • Offering incentives like referral bonuses, sign-on bonuses, and additional time off to attract top talent

In addition to these strategies, businesses are also focusing on creating a more engaging and supportive work environment to retain their current employees. A study by Gallup (2022) found that companies with highly engaged workforces have 18% higher productivity, 23% higher profitability, and 43% lower turnover compared to their disengaged counterparts.

To achieve this level of engagement, businesses are investing in employee well-being initiatives, such as mental health support, wellness programs, and professional development opportunities. A survey by the National Business Group on Health (2022) found that 80% of employers are planning to increase their investment in mental health benefits in the coming year, while 70% are expanding their well-being programs to include financial wellness and stress management.

The Future of Work: Predictions and Implications

As we look ahead to the post-Great Resignation landscape, it is clear that the traditional workplace model is undergoing a significant transformation. Remote and hybrid work arrangements are likely to become the norm, with a survey by PwC (2022) finding that 83% of employers are planning to offer remote work options even after the pandemic subsides.

This shift towards remote work has the potential to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce, as geography becomes less of a barrier to employment. A report by McKinsey & Company (2021) estimates that remote work could open up access to 30% more jobs for African Americans, 23% more for Hispanics, and 14% more for Asian Americans.

However, the rise of remote work also presents new challenges for businesses, such as maintaining company culture, fostering collaboration, and ensuring employee engagement. To address these challenges, companies will need to invest in digital tools and platforms that enable seamless communication and collaboration, as well as develop new strategies for building and maintaining a strong corporate culture in a virtual environment.

Another key trend that is likely to shape the future of work is the increasing emphasis on skills-based hiring. With the rapid pace of technological change and the growing demand for digital skills, businesses are shifting away from traditional degree requirements and towards a focus on the specific skills and competencies needed for success in a given role.

A report by the World Economic Forum (2020) predicts that 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025, as the adoption of technology accelerates and job roles evolve. To meet this challenge, businesses will need to invest in upskilling and reskilling programs to ensure that their workforce remains competitive and adaptable in the face of change.

Conclusion

The Great Resignation has served as a wake-up call for businesses, highlighting the need to adapt to the changing priorities and expectations of the modern workforce. As we move forward, the most successful companies will be those that prioritize employee well-being, offer flexible work arrangements, and invest in the skills and development of their workforce.

By embracing these changes and adopting a more human-centric approach to work, businesses can not only attract and retain top talent but also foster a more engaged, productive, and loyal workforce. As Kanani Rose notes, "The Great Resignation has highlighted the importance of treating employees as whole individuals, with needs and aspirations that extend beyond their job descriptions." By recognizing and addressing these needs, businesses can position themselves for success in the post-pandemic world and beyond.

References

FlexJobs. (2022). FlexJobs Survey: Why People Want to Change Careers. Retrieved from https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/survey-reasons-for-changing-careers/

Gallup. (2022). Employee Engagement vs. Employee Satisfaction and Organizational Culture. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236366/right-culture-not-employee-satisfaction.aspx

McKinsey & Company. (2021). The future of work after COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/the-future-of-work-after-covid-19

Microsoft. (2022). The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready? Retrieved from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/hybrid-work

National Business Group on Health. (2022). Large Employers‘ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey. Retrieved from https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/resources/2022-large-employers-health-care-strategy-and-plan-design-survey

PwC. (2022). US Remote Work Survey. Retrieved from https://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/covid-19/us-remote-work-survey.html

Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). (2022). The COVID-19 Labor Shortage. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/covid-19-labor-shortage.aspx

Upwork. (2022). Future Workforce Report. Retrieved from https://www.upwork.com/press/releases/economist-report-future-workforce

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022). Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/jlt/

World Economic Forum. (2020). The Future of Jobs Report 2020. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2020