Home Business Management Should Businesses Be Concerned About ‘The Great Resignation’?

Should Businesses Be Concerned About ‘The Great Resignation’?

by Ruthy Hope
Smiling employee leaving work with suitcase

Those pesky masks are pretty handy sometimes, like when they protect us from spreading contagious viruses. They have other uses too, though. They’re pretty adept, for example, at muffling odors from a rancid garbage can or for stifling the miasma of an impolite coworker’s microwaved fish. But they also occasionally censor those primal olfactory senses used to detect life’s finer details. Because there’s something in the air, my friends. Perhaps you’ve stumbled across whiffs and whispers of October 2021, freshly christened Striketober. Maybe you’ve heard about the latest report from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics stating that while layoffs remained relatively stable in August, “the quits rate increased to a series high of 2.9 percent”. That translates to about 4.3 million people who resigned from their jobs during one hot summer month. In other words, a lot of employees are mad and they’re not going to take it anymore.

“The Great Resignation” is a term coined by Texas A&M associate professor Anthony Klotz in May 2020. He used it to refer to the rapid increase in the quit rate shortly after the pandemic began. Those numbers have not let up one bit. So, should your business be concerned about your workers suddenly hitting the trail? Let’s find out more about what’s happening.

Striking Out

There are an estimated 14.3 million union members which translates to about 1 in 16 workers in the U.S. In 2018 there were only 20 major work stoppages, but that number exploded to 176 as of October 2021. In sector after sector, unionized workers are letting their employers know that they are seriously fed up. Although many smaller corporations are currently battling it out with employee unions, here are some of the most consequential wavemakers:

  • Preventative Medicine: It’s easy to understand why more than 24,000 nurses and others employed by Kaiser Permanente are choosing to strike. Medical workers bore the brunt of this pandemic and are obviously exhausted.
  • Movie Critics: The entertainment industry was staring into the abyss as more than 60,000 union members prepared to fade screens to black over intolerable work conditions. A last minute compromise staved off the shutdown.
  • Plow Back: Tractor maker John Deere is facing a strike by 10,000 of its employees who are aghast over the disparity between impressive company profits and their own salaries.
  • Not Grrrrrreat!: After a summer that saw the likes of Frito-Lay and Nabisco workers on the picket lines, Kellogg Co. is bracing for a strike of their own. Food manufacturer employees were tasked with overly long shifts during the pandemic and tensions finally reached a boiling point.

Greener Pastures

Without a union duking it out for them, employees are on their own to find solutions. Despite a 4% climb in the average American worker’s salary in 2021, inflation increased by 5.4%. Money, however, was far from the only thing on the minds of the country’s labor force after a long pandemic year. Workers are increasingly finding that they don’t have to settle for less, which means that employee resignations are on the rise. Replacing employees is expensive, so let’s find out what they had to say:

  • Peacing Out: A September 2021 Workhuman survey of 3500 workers found that 38% of those polled were planning on changing jobs within a year’s time. 30% were seeking increased flexibility in their jobs. An interesting takeaway is that those who received consistent positive feedback from their employers expressed that they were much less likely to become jobseekers. Gratitude is a commodity in the workplace.
  • Child’s Play: A recent report from the US Department of the Treasury indicates that about 13% of a family’s income goes toward childcare for children under age 5. A third of mothers and a quarter of fathers had to reduce their working hours during the pandemic. Early childhood educator salaries rank below essentially all other occupations leading to a 40% yearly turnover rate. More than 10,000 childcare workers quit in June 2021 alone. Costly childcare combined with low worker pay equals a shortage of people from both sides of the equation participating in the workforce.
  • The Grindstone: Microsoft conducted a survey in early 2021 of 30,000 employees from around the world. 54% reported feeling overworked with those under age 25 struggling the most. 41% of those surveyed conveyed intentions to change jobs within the next year with 70% expressing a desire for continued workplace flexibility.
  • Golden Years: Over the course of the pandemic about 2 million people retired earlier than they expected. The percentage of people age 55 and older entering retirement increased by 2% over the pandemic. A survey by Northwestern Mutual Fund found that 11% of workers intend to retire earlier than they previous planned.

From this Day Forward

This extraordinary period in history will continue affecting the business world in myriad ways. People are reevaluating many aspects of their lives. We spend an average of 90,000 lifetime hours working, so it’s understandable to want that time to be meaningful. Workers are being very clear about the changes they need to see. Some of those changes were implemented during the pandemic, whether businesses wanted to or not. Most found that their world did not implode and their companies persevered.

So what should you do now? Survey your own workers. Learn how they feel. Discover what they need. Implement some changes accordingly and all else will fall into place. Things have shifted for everyone since March 2020 and you need to hear from your people. Because if you don’t take the time to do that, some of your most valued team members may just decide that they don’t have to take it anymore.

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