💼 The Great Resignation
With the cost of living now at an all-time high and the inflation rate at 7.7% (as of May 2022), the price of fuel north of $2.00/l and combined with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are living under circumstances that have forever altered our careers and the way that we conduct our lives. This is especially true amongst individual workers and the workforce as a whole. Throughout this pandemic, there have been massive cultural shifts in attitudes towards the world of work. Workers are now reporting increased dissatisfaction with their jobs in higher rates than ever before seen in recent history. This has resulted in unprecedented amounts of workers leaving their jobs en masse, which has been dubbed as the Great Resignation by Dr. Anthony Klotz, Professor of Management at Mays Business School, Texas A&M University. Workers are quitting their jobs at unprecedented rates, and there are very few, if any, workers that are willing to replace them. This then leaves companies scrambling and unable to find quality candidates to replace them. Many employers are concerned, confused, and wondering what they can do to avoid these issues. In this article, I will list the reasons why workers tend to be so unhappy, what is driving them to quit, what you can do to avoid these pitfalls, and thus attract and retain top talent.
When the pandemic first hit, many people were laid off from their jobs. As well, pandemics are a very rare and catastrophic event that affects everyone in our society. This resulted in the vast majority of people having the ability, for the first time in a long time, to reflect on their career goals and to evaluate whether or not they were satisfied with the current trajectory of their careers. This also created the opportunity for one of the largest demographics in the work force, the Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964) to retire.
With the vast majority of Baby Boomers leaving the workforce en masse, this resulted in the Millennials (Born 1979-1994) becoming the largest and most dominant generation in the current workforce. The reason that Millennials are so unhappy relates historically to when they first entered the job market. When Millennials first entered the job market, there is no question that an organizational cultural shock occurred. As generations, the Baby Boomers and Millennials have fundamentally different attitudes towards the role of work in an individual’s life and their core workplace values. As a result, the Baby Boomer generation, who were predominantly in positions of authority at the time, tended to categorize younger workers as lazy, ungrateful, and entitled. This resulted in unprecedented levels of young workers collectively realizing that they were dissatisfied with their careers. However, before the pandemic, they were not in a position to make the desired changes. Once the pandemic hit, this finally gave Millennials the opportunity to make satisfactory changes in their careers, and this resulted in them deciding to quit jobs that didn’t match their criteria, en masse. While Baby Boomers tend to value a strong work ethic and high levels of self-discipline and focus, Millennials have a different approach. Millennials tend to value work-life balance, confidence, and technological advancements, to name a few. What we have learned throughout this pandemic is that, with the vast majority of Baby Boomers having left the work force and the Millennials taking over, many modern workers are no longer willing to continue with what they consider to be outdated values in the workplace.
Millennials and other young generations tend to value work-life balance, positive work environments, meaningful work, opportunities for career and personal growth, decent wages, and the ability to work from home. Thus, the work environment has had a fundamental cultural shift, with no end in sight. Gone are the days where it was acceptable to brush off Millennials concerns and dub them as lazy and entitled.
Businesses that categorize younger generations as “entitled’ (and believe that this is the reason that they can’t attract and retain top talent) are simply making excuses. Given the fact that the Millennial generation is now the dominant generation in the workforce, employers will have to adjust their approach towards their personnel if they would like their businesses to survive and be competitive post pandemic. The effects of the pandemic and the Great Resignation have therefore created an extremely competitive job market where there are large amounts of jobs and very few candidates willing to fill them. Gone are the days when employers held all the power in the job search process. Candidates are the ones who have all the power now, and businesses that fail to recognize this are not succeeding in the current market.
One of the biggest shifts that has taken place is working from home. With technological advancements, Millennials have been requesting to adopt a work from home model for years. Before the pandemic, many Millennials were told that this was not a viable option. The pandemic however forced many workers in corporate jobs to switch to a work from home model in order to keep working safely throughout the pandemic. This resulted in many people now working from home for the first time in their lives. What workers have discovered is that working from home is extremely important for people’s work-life balance, which is a core Millennial value. As an added benefit, it tends to dramatically cut down on costs associated with working. These costs can include for example childcare expenses, commuting costs, business attire, lunches, parking, etc. The reduction of these personal costs and less time commuting results in workers having more freedom, time, and money at their disposal. Especially with the exceptionally high price of gas right now, workers whose jobs can be conducted from home are no longer willing to commute in office.
The pandemic has also created life altering economic shifts, especially related to the cost of living. Before the pandemic, Millennials were and continue to be, the most educated generation in history. In spite of this, they continue to be vastly underpaid for their work and many Millennials were frustrated with their rate of pay long before we ever went into lockdown. As a result of their high levels of education, the vast majority of Millennials are saddled with massive amounts of student loan debt. As well, Millennials also tend to be at the stage of their lives where they would like to start a family or already have young children. With all things considered, this has created a huge demand for salary increases. Added to that are the increased costs of living post-pandemic, and many Millennials are outright refusing to work for companies that do not offer competitive wages. This has nothing to do with being lazy or entitled, they simply can’t afford to work for less money than what they are asking for.
In order for Millennials and Gen Z to feel like they are satisfied with their jobs, employers need to foster a positive learning environment. Work environments that foster personal and professional growth, where employees are constantly able to expand upon their skillsets, are an absolute necessity. Younger generations must feel like they are being given meaningful work and constructive feedback about their performance in order for them to feel like they are making satisfactory contributions. This relates to their overall satisfaction in their job. They need to feel like they are learning, growing and that there are opportunities for advancement in order for them to report satisfaction in their jobs. This is key to retain top talent for long periods of time.
If employers ensure that their company’s jobs match all three of these very important criteria, they will be successfully be able to attract and retain top talent.