Guide to the Great Resignation

For many of us, the past few years have been a rollercoaster ride. An unprecedented global pandemic and economic recession brought massive uncertainty into our lives. Lockdowns and business closures threw our livelihoods into turmoil and cut us off from our support networks. Layoffs and furloughs were rampant. But now, as the world begins to reopen, we’re seeing another unexpected trend: a tidal wave of workers quitting their jobs voluntarily. It’s being called the Great Resignation of 2021 – and it’s going to affect the economy and the way we work for years to come.

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What is the Great Resignation? Is it real?

The Great Resignation of 2021 is an employment trend marked by high rates of employees quitting voluntarily. It began in the retail and hospitality industries, but soon spread to white-collar work and professional services. Brought on by shifting workplace demands, like the rise of working from home and increased pressure on service workers, the Great Resignation is ultimately a “reshuffling” of talent. 

So is the Great Resignation real? Employers in the industries that are most affected, like hospitality, transportation and professional services will tell you: The Great Resignation is here, and it’s real. All you have to do is look at the numbers. In April, May and June 2021, a total of 11.5 million workers quit their jobs – and that was just the start. August 2021 saw a record-breaking quit rate of 2.9%, with 4.3 million workers quitting. 

Need more proof? You can also ask the workers themselves. One August 2021 survey found that 74% of professionals say their company has a shortage of skills, and 55% expect turnover to continue increasing.

What caused the Great Resignation?

While it’s a topic of hot debate, the truth is that the Great Resignation of 2021 has many causes. To understand it, first we have to look backward.

Some economists theorize that the economic recession and rebound contributed to the Great Resignation. In 2019, the average quit rate per month was around 2.3%. Yet in April 2020 it reached 1.6%, its lowest point in years. Why? With the global recession casting a shadow over 2020, many employees were hesitant to face the uncertainty that comes with leaving a stable job. In 2021, with the economy rebounding, employees feel confident once again in their ability to find a job.

The Great Resignation

Another theory is that the pandemic and resulting recession caused many to rethink their priorities. It was a time of fear and uncertainty – not only around health, but about the economy, politics and the future of the world. Yet it woke us up to the gifts of life. We spent more time with our families. We started new projects and pastimes that allowed us to find and follow our passions. We began to see how much we truly had to be grateful for – and we don’t want to go back to the old way of working.

Finally, the Great Resignation caused a snowball effect: As more positions opened up, more employees began thinking about moving on. With their newfound sense of clarity in their own purpose, they began to look for a new challenge and more fulfilling work. This creates new opportunities for employers to raise their standards as well, and fill their talent rosters with hungry and skilled employees. 

How will the Great Resignation affect the way we work?

the Great Resignation

The Great Resignation is going to have lasting effects on the labor market. Already, employers are offering more pay and better benefits in an effort to secure top talent. They’re also learning that workers won’t return to workplaces that don’t make them feel respected, appreciated and physically safe on the job. You can stand out from the rest with effective employee retention strategies that make the most of the current climate. In addition to good pay and benefits, create a culture of innovation, establish strong company values and build trust in the workplace by making employees feel safe and appreciated. 

Remote work is another trend that will last. Business owners saw benefits like lower costs and CapEx, while employee productivity stayed the same or even improved. Workers enjoyed short commutes and flexibility: 42% of those who worked remotely during the pandemic say that if their company doesn’t continue to offer remote work, they will look for a job at a company that does. If you have the ability to offer remote work or a hybrid work environment, this can help you stay ahead of the competition. As you transition to the new normal, it will be essential to learn how to manage a remote team.

More tips to make the most of the Great Resignation

Certainty is one of our deepest human needs – which helps to explain why many of us have felt lost and even scared or angry during the past few years. Yet moments of enormous change like the one we are experiencing also present us with possibilities, if we know how to find them. 

Build a rockstar team

There have never been more employees on the job market, looking for the perfect fit. Plus, the Great Resignation is being driven by mid- and high-level employees rather than entry level, giving you an opportunity to fill your ranks with both passion and experience. Build a team that works now and you’ll experience the benefits for years to come. 

Treat employees like raving fans

The Great Resignation isn’t just a chance to hire right. It’s also a chance to show your employees why your business is the best out there. You need raving fan employees just as much as you need raving fan customers, so ask your employees for their feedback and take it to heart. 

Improve your leadership skills

As Tony often says, a business is only as strong as the psychology of its leader. Great leadership is even more essential during the Great Resignation, so take the opportunity to brush up your skills, develop your company vision and lead with a newfound determination.

The Great Resignation is here and it’s real. But there’s no reason to be afraid. True leaders know how to turn obstacles into opportunities and come out stronger from any challenge. 

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