Over the past two years, the employment landscape has experienced an unprecedented upheaval. Millions of workers across industries have been quitting their jobs each month in what‘s now called the Great Resignation. For small business owners, understanding the scale and drivers behind this trend is key to adapting and even benefiting from it.
The Raw Numbers: Quantifying the Great Resignation
The statistics illustrating the Great Resignation are staggering:
- Over 47 million employees voluntarily left their jobs in 2021 according to Joblist
- Monthly resignations keep reaching new heights, with 4.5 million people quitting in March 2022 alone according to the Bureau of Labor of Statistics
- Certain sectors are seeing much higher turnover rates, like accommodation and food services at 6.9% compared to federal government at just 0.7% 
Behind these figures lies a workforce reevaluating their priorities and seeking more purpose, flexibility, and work-life balance from jobs. Employees now hold more leverage to find opportunities better aligned with their needs and desires in the current market glutted with openings.
Tight Labor Market Presents Risks and Opportunities
With resignations skyrocketing, data shows over 11 million job openings still waiting to be filled as of March 2022 . For small companies competing for talent in this landscape, significant challenges —but also advantages—emerge.
On the risk side:
- Turnover and positions staying vacant longer
- Increasing wage/benefits costs to attract applicants
- Low unemployment gives more employee bargaining power
However, opportunities arise like:
- Accessing untapped talent pools interested in small company culture
- Implementing flexible/remote work to expand applicant geographic reach
- Being able to select specialized skillsets and dispositions a right "fit"
So by taking a proactive, creative approach to sourcing and retention, small firms can turn the talent shortage into a chance to build their ideal workforce.
Reimagining Recruiting and Company Culture Post-Pandemic
Having advised numerous small business clients navigating hiring pains recently, I‘ve witnessed some effective strategies in motion. Many owners are:
- Leading with purpose and social impact to attract mission-driven employees
- Offering hybrid/remote schedules to enable work-life balance
- Investing in career development incentives like upskilling programs
- Surveying staff regularly to stay tuned into engagement and satisfaction
I recently helped one client struggling with a spike in resignations conduct employee interviews to better grasp motivations. An analyst, Aditi, shared:
"I’m leaving because I want a role that allows me to keep growing my skills. I actually love the culture here, but my particular position has felt stagnant and siloed lately without much interaction with others."
These insights allow tailored solutions like job rotations or mentorship initiatives rather than just raising salaries. Addressing the intrinsic drivers behind turnover helps cultivate an engaged, fulfilled workforce even amidst such a turbulent hiring market.
In closing, the choice facing small business owners today is to either ignore surging resignations and watch teams shrink, or tackle this reality head on and set their talent up for success. By doubling down on training, work flexibility, communication and nurturing culture centered around purpose and humanity, small companies can adapt to unpredictable hiring trends. If the resigning millions tell us anything, it‘s that jobs reducing people to mere roles rather than empowering their fuller selves will no longer suffice. Workforce strategy in 2023 calls us all to expand how we see and care for talent.