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The Great Resignation: Lessons and Predictions

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December 26, 2022
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“The Great Resignation” emerged as the dominant job market buzzword in 2021, a year that was very confusing for anyone trying to keep track of the employment landscape. A slew of professionals, around 47 million, all told, quit their jobs or transferred to different roles in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, many companies scrambled to fill worker shortages, while other qualified job seekers complained they couldn’t even get interviews.

The volatile and confusing conditions that defined last year’s “Great Resignation” have persisted into 2022, although they appear to be stabilizing at the time of this writing. Today, with more complete data and a longer view of what The Great Resignation really looks like, this post-COVID employment shakeup can be contextualized as part of a cycle rather than a troubling anomaly.

Leveraging This Learning Opportunity

The employment market remains complicated to navigate for job seekers and employers alike. However, the amount of study and attention focused on the American employment landscape during the Great Resignation era provides your operation an opportunity to leverage what we’ve learned. Hard-earned lessons from recent history can now be used to improve hiring practices, refine workplace policies, boost staff satisfaction, and increase your bottom line.

As an employer, it is crucial that you do not misunderstand employee motivations during the Great Resignation as being solely focused on the biggest possible paycheck. A study indicates that nearly 2/3 of all employees say the pandemic has made them rethink the place employment has in their lives. People want to live meaningful lives, and that extends to the workplace, where they spend a sizable portion of their waking hours.

The Current State of the Great Resignation

The Great Resignation slowed but did not end in 2022. In July 2022, around 4.1% of American workers were reported to have left their jobs. Compare this to a 5.9% rate in July of the previous year, around the peak of the Great Resignation.

The continued willingness of many young professionals and other burned-out workers to leave their jobs and try something new has stressed business owners and HR professionals for many months now. Is it possible we’ve been looking at it all wrong? The continued volatility of the job market could be an opportunity rather than a pitfall for leaders building a world-class staff for their operation.

2023: From Great Resignation to Great Return?

While employees in many sectors have embraced the Great Resignation and found freedom in the search for a career change, a recent survey of job seekers by the job-searching website Joblist told a more complex and nuanced story.

Some highlights include:

  • Over 1/4 of job quitters come to regret their decision
  • Among dissatisfied job quitters, 40% had more difficulty than expected landing a new job
  • Over 1/5 of dissatisfied job quitters report missing their colleagues as the reason they regret quitting
  • Nearly 1/4 (23%) of job quitters report their former employer reaching out to them about the possibility of returning

The Great Regret

 

Based on some of these numbers, a new industry buzzword, “The Great Regret,” has even begun to emerge in some business media that covers employment. Instead of focusing on “regret,” however, we prefer to look at this as an opportunity for a mutually beneficial situation. Perhaps these needy employers and anxious job seekers can work together.

Boomerang Employees: Put Pride Aside to Tap a Valuable Resource

One of the opportunities presented to human resources professionals and hiring managers in the wake of The Great Resignation is the chance to target so-called “boomerang employees.” A boomerang employee is one who quits a job at a company, then, like a boomerang, comes back to that company hoping to reclaim their old role or land a different job with the same group.

Like a divorced couple getting remarried, re-hiring a boomerang employee can be a little awkward for everyone involved. Soon, however, the awkwardness gives way to what is ultimately a productive and successful choice if the fit and timing are right.

Here are some of the reasons navigating a little bit of awkwardness up front can be worth your time:

  • require less training to onboard
  • already understand your company culture and expectations
  • may already have positive working relationships with your other staff members
  • already have data about a boomerang employee’s skills, past projects, and job performance
  • those who return to an organization they’ve previously left often come back with more appreciation for their coworkers, company culture, and role

The key to successfully bringing back these so-called boomerang employees is to understand what made them leave the first time. Many times, people leave a job due to a simple and direct cause that can be addressed, such as pursuing a role that offers more money. Other times, however, it can be a complicated web of factors, including office politics and personality clashes that may need to be addressed before a job offer is extended. While it can be exciting to see a highly experienced, highly qualified former employee come through your application pile, it’s crucial that you use the data at your disposal to determine if that person is still a good fit for your operation.

You will also want to understand exactly why they left their new role. If they didn’t hold another job in the interim, you’ll need to explore why they’re interested in coming back to your company now. If an employee’s pattern of leaving jobs seems to say more about their work ethic or persistent dissatisfaction than it does about the roles being given up, it may be better to pass on the opportunity to re-hire. Experience is crucial, but if you don’t believe your company can meet the employee’s needs (and vice versa), there is little point in trying out the same hire twice.

The Race to Recession-Proof

Employers and job seekers need one other. Yet, all too often, this relationship is constructed as an adversarial one from the onset. Strict job requirements and onerous application processes may be frustrating good candidates and limiting your access to a robust and diverse candidate pool. A time of financial uncertainty, while not ideal for anyone, can provide an opportunity for employers and job seekers to change these paradigms and learn to do things in a more symbiotic way. In times like these, it is especially important to understand that intelligent HR technologies should be used to reach more and better candidates rather than to hinder good candidates who lack a certain keyword in their resume.

Currently, the United States is not in a recession by most definitions, but experts and laypeople alike seem to agree that we are headed in that direction. This news comes despite employers adding new jobs throughout 2022 and the unemployment rate at a solid 3.6%.

Some of the factors and indicators that have folks preparing to weather a recession include:

  • Unpredictable or under-performing stock market positions
  • Federal Reserve interest rates
  • Inflation trends
  • Public opinion (more than half of all Americans believe we are already in a recession)

Fears of a recession are obviously felt by job seekers, working people, and employers alike. While nobody wants to worry about the financial future, whether over household bills or a company you’ve helped build, the pre-recession landscape can also create opportunities for employers and managers with jobs to fill. As times get tighter, highly qualified job seekers may naturally expand the pool of options they’re willing to consider.

Regretting the Great Resignation

As indicated by the numbers in the previously discussed surveys, not everyone who participated in the Great Resignation is still feeling great about their decision. As the possibility of a full-blown recession looms over the employment landscape, it is predicted that the percentage of job quitters dissatisfied with their choice will only continue to rise.

While many working people saw 2021 as the right time to free themselves from roles that were a bad fit or pursue more workplace flexibility, 2023 could be the year many of them come back down to earth. Next year, seekers may show more willingness to compromise regarding benefits like remote/hybrid work, vacation packages, and more. The resulting climate could mold demanding job seekers into a realistic fit for your company.

Remote and hybrid work

 

To understand (and effectively leverage) the transition from Great Resignation to Great Regret, we must attempt to understand why formerly enthusiastic job quitters are having second thoughts. Another study collecting data from over 2,500 workers found that a hefty 72% of people who had quit their jobs reported “surprise or regret” about their new roles not matching their expectations.

Employers who want to attract good candidates from this pool can address issues of misunderstood expectations extremely easily. Be transparent and specific about your expectations, both throughout the hiring process and as a fundamental tenet of your workplace culture. This commitment to transparency and understanding should be all-encompassing. It applies to everything from the technical specifics of a job description to broader company culture issues. Employees who understand exactly what is expected of them will feel more at ease and more stable in their position.

Unlocking the Hidden Potential of The Great Resignation

When it comes to attracting great candidates in the wake of The Great Resignation, your most powerful tool is your ability to compromise, meeting job seekers where they are in their lives. Here’s how you can do it.

Reconsider Your Perks

Since COVID-19 shook up the job market, workers have not merely come to value flexibility more than ever before; many have come to expect it outright. Employers who can offer partially remote or hybrid positions will attract more and better employees in the post-COVID employment landscape. Remote work isn’t the only critical issue on the table, however. You can also use perks like vacation days, flexible scheduling, and other incentives to sweeten the pot and elevate your job posting above other similar opportunities.

Stay Flexible

Some employers are viewing the transition from Great Resignation to Great Regret as a paradigm shift that has returned the market to an employer-driven, rather than employee-driven, position. While there is some data to support this view, leaning into it too hard can represent a major pitfall.

For example, some employers have used this apparent leverage to take a hard stance on demanding remote and hybrid employees return to the office and go back to a more traditional style of work. For many operations, these needlessly stiff policies have taken a toll in the form of yet more resignations. This illustrates a valuable lesson that the market has not suddenly become fully “employer-driven” merely because a percentage of previous job quitters are feeling anxious about the economy, just like the rest of us.

While some managers like the feeling of control afforded by having their whole team present in the office from 9 to 5 each day, this is less necessary in a modern world where so many industries do so much of their work online. Allowing employees more flexibility in their schedules and the way they work costs employers very little and helps to attract more and better candidates.

Get Creative

Another powerful resource at your disposal is creativity. “Lean staffing” can be left in the garbage bin of buzzwords whose times have come and gone. Instead, we prefer “creative staffing.” The post-pandemic shakeup is a fantastic opportunity for you to re-imagine what your staff looks like.

Creative Staffing

 

If you’re ready to creatively rethink your staffing situation, here are some questions you can start asking yourself:

  • Can existing roles be restructured, expanded, redefined, or reassigned to make operations more effective? Make sure to identify specific purposes that would be served by each individual change.
  • Can we do a better job of leveraging and supporting current staff members’ skill sets?
  • Are there jobs that need doing that might be more cost-effective to handle through a temp worker/staffing agency, a freelance contractor, or a third-party vendor?
  • Are we gate-keeping good applicants by requiring certain skills that could be taught in-house after hiring?

Apogee System Consultants: Your Trusted Partner for Building Your Best Business

Staffing is difficult no matter what sort of business you operate. When you’re dealing with complex medical processes, delicate equipment, and patients with diverse needs, this can be even more true. We understand just how important it is to find the right people for critical roles so that your business can succeed and grow. That’s why we offer a full range of business consulting services and expert insight for all healthcare businesses.


Sources:

  1. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.nr0.htm
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