Everyone has heard the term ‘The Great Resignation’ during the past year. And for a good reason. In April of 2021 more people left their job than in any other month on record. Then the record was set in July, and then in August, and again in September, and in October, 3% of the US workforce quit. This long stretch of record-setting ‘quitting’ is unlike anything we’ve seen before.
So what is the great resignation? According to the World Economic Forum, “The Great Resignation is an idea proposed by Professor Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University that predicts a large number of people leaving their jobs after the COVID pandemic ends and life returns to “normal.” Managers are now navigating the ripple effects from the pandemic, as employees re-evaluate their careers and leave their jobs in record numbers.”
We are experiencing a record number of US job openings, but it might be a little misleading to think that is just because of the great resignation. In fact, a better term for the phenomenon might be the great reshuffling. The Atlantic points out three myths about the great resignation.
It’s about quitting
While people are voluntarily leaving, they are doing so for better jobs. The people who are quitting are looking at the move as an advancement in their career. This is good for the employees who are moving out of low-wage roles into better-paying jobs, and for those looking at self-employment. Since the pandemic, the number of self-employed people has increased by 500,000.
It’s about white-collar burnout
With the pandemic, burnout has decreased for many employees, though it has increased for white-collar roles according to Gallup. However, this is not something that is happening across all white-collar industries. The finance, software, publishing, and real estate sectors are not seeing spikes in burnout rates. So while there is burnout happening in white-collar roles, it is not driving the great resignation, “Strange as it sounds, the increase in self-reported burnout is happening in industries where workers are less likely to quit.”
It’s a 2021 phenomenon
Most reporting on the great resignation does not mention that since April of 2020, when the economy tanked due to the pandemic, “the labor-force participation rate has increased for most groups—men and women, white and nonwhite. The biggest exception is older Americans, who by and large quit their jobs (and stayed quit) last year.” Those 65 and older who left the labor force without an intention to return could more aptly be described as retirees.
Think of the great resignation as employees responding to changes being forced upon them by the pandemic by taking a proactive approach to their career advancement. Often we need something out of our control to shake us out of our routine. As employees are reshuffling in a growing job market, some industries are seeing the benefit and others are struggling to keep up.
If you have questions or executive hiring needs because of the great resignation, let us know, how our retained search consultants can help.