In April 2021, the number of U.S. workers who voluntarily quit their jobs in a single month broke an all-time nationwide record, a development referred to as the “Great Resignation” by economists and business writers. Four million people quit in July, and the Department of Labor reported that another 4.3 million people had left their jobs in August. The majority of recent resignations have been in food service, retail, and health care… and if you’ve tried to shop or grab a bite to eat recently, you’ve probably experienced the impact of the staffing shortage first-hand.
What is causing so many people to leave their jobs?
One very reasonable explanation is that people were less likely to leave employers during the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 throughout 2020. Now that the pandemic seems to be subsiding, we’re seeing more than a year’s worth of pent-up resignations happening in a short time period.
Another possible reason is the new craving for flexibility in work schedules and locations caused by the COVID lockdowns. Many people now place increased value on work-life balance, want to avoid commute times, and believe they can be just as effective working from a home office as they can in person. According to a 2021 study by Citrix, 88% of knowledge workers say they will look for complete flexibility in hours and location when searching for a new position. 76% believe that employees will be more likely to prioritize lifestyle interests when pursuing a job, even if it means taking a pay cut.
Other people may be taking advantage of government pandemic relief such as stimulus checks and rent moratoriums. With a somewhat-eased financial burden, they can afford to leave high-pressure jobs and leverage the labor shortage to find better wages and other perks.
How can employers respond to the Great Resignation?
First, gather information about who may be leaving your organization, and why. Exit interviews can shed light on employees’ decision making, and help you develop a more effective response.
Take time to talk with employees who have been working hard throughout the pandemic to proactively identify potential burnout. It’s been an incredibly trying year for most of us, and listening to their concerns could provide opportunities to address issues before they lead to resignations.
Show appreciation for those who keep showing up. Staffing shortages are annoying for customers, but can be painfully demanding on those left to pick up the slack. Let them know their efforts are valued, and find ways to boost morale whenever possible.
Consider your company’s approach to flexible remote work. The reality is that COVID has caused a shift in what we previously thought possible, and allowing for hybrid schedules may be valuable in retaining great people.
With so many people leaving jobs, they’ll need a great new company to settle into. Make sure your compensation strategy and recruiting efforts are competitive, and use this as an opportunity to attract new talent.
Leave the door open to those who leave on good terms, and be willing to consider rehiring them if the grass wasn’t actually greener on the other side.
Experts foresee the pace of resignations continuing for some time. Smart managers can develop effective retention strategies and innovative recruitment programs to preserve, and even upgrade their teams. And of course, Sierra HR is here to help you through every step. Contact our Consultants for support with employee relations, recruiting, and any of your other HR needs.