It’s been called “the great resignation.” In the wake of the pandemic, millions of people have chosen to quit their jobs and this worldwide phenomenon has become a headache for some employers and an existential crisis for others.
The global recovery is gathering pace. As demand picks up, companies have an opportunity to bounce back after the long, fallow months of lockdowns and restrictions. The problem is that in many cases, staff are voting with their feet. Some have failed to return after being on furlough. Others – after working all through the pandemic – have decided to seek opportunities elsewhere. A few have dropped out of the workplace altogether – perhaps to focus on childcare on a full-time basis or take a belated gap year.
Meanwhile, employers are wrestling with staff shortages. From medics and coders to lorry drivers and hospitality workers, organizations simply can’t find the people they need. That problem has not been wholly caused by the great resignation phenomenon, but it has certainly been exacerbated by the exodus of workers.
Who is to Blame?
Needless to say, businesses have been adversely impacted; but there is an important question to be asked. What is causing valued employees to leave their places of work? And could employers be partly to blame?
Now it has to be said that staff churn is a fact of life and some industries – notably retail, hospitality and the care sector – are particularly badly affected due, in part, to relatively low pay and irregular hours.
But the problem is not confined to these sectors. In the US, it was reported that four million people quit their jobs in July 2021 alone, an abnormally high number – with technology being one of the sectors with the biggest staff retention problems.
That should make us pause for breath. Technology is a sector that tends to enjoy higher than average pay and perhaps also generous benefits packages. There is stiff competition for workers and that perhaps explains why individuals hop from job to job in search of a better deal. But that doesn’t quite explain why so many people are quitting at this point in time.
So what’s the problem? Logging a 4.6 percent increase in tech resignations, the biggest levels of churn were in sectors that had experienced the greatest demand during the pandemic – tech being a case in point. This demand meant more pressure on staff and ultimately burnout.
Now, a high-pressure working environment doesn’t necessarily result in members of staff abandoning ship, as long as managers provide support. However, pressure can throw a spotlight on poor working practices, increasing employee discontent.
The New Workplace
But it’s not simply a question of employees being worked too hard. The nature of the workplace has been changed by the pandemic. Perhaps the biggest shift has been the accelerated move to home and hybrid working and also (more strategically) the creation of distributed workforces, which can be spread out over a country, a continent or the entire world, with team members linked by collaboration tools. This type of change requires careful management and perhaps new company cultures.