The Great Resignation Could See Peak Resignations Soon
For well over a year now, Americans have been saying goodbye to their jobs and moving on. Last April, a record 4 million workers in the U.S. quit and began looking for a new opportunity.
The numbers have ebbed and flowed since then, but on average, roughly 4 million people quit their jobs each month. And while the end still seems to be some way away, we could be nearing the peak.
A report from McKinsey and Co. finds that about 40% of workers are considering quitting their current jobs within the next six months, with 6% saying it’s almost certain and 20% saying it’s somewhat likely. That means we won’t see normal levels of openings for some time, but it offers employers time to adjust their retention methods and slow the exodus of talent.
“Employers continue to rely on traditional levers to attract and retain people, including compensation, titles, and advancement opportunities,” the report reads. “Those factors are important, particularly for a large reservoir of workers we call ‘traditionalists.’ However, the COVID-19 pandemic has led more and more people to reevaluate what they want from a job—and from life—which is creating a large pool of active and potential workers who are shunning the traditionalist path.”
As part of its study, McKinsey spoke with nearly 13,000 people in six countries — the U.S., Australia, Canada, Singapore, India and the United Kingdom. It also spoke with a swath of people who had left-their jobs within the last two years to find out what’s driving the change.
While compensation is, of course, important, the chief reason given by workers who left their jobs between April 2021 and April 2022 was a lack of career development and advancement. And running almost neck and neck with salary was complaints about the inspirational and caring qualities of their leaders.
A lack of meaningful work and unsustainable work expectations rounded out the top five reasons.
“Plenty of employees say that they see no room for professional or personal growth, believe that there is better money to be made elsewhere, and think that leaders don’t care enough about them—tried-and-true reasons for disgruntlement, to be sure, but ones that are now being acted upon broadly,” the report reads.
There is a way to bring those ‘non-traditionalists,’ as McKinsey calls them, back to traditional jobs. And the most important factor, those who have left say, is flexibility.
Do-it-yourselfers, who tend to be in the 25-45 age range, value this more than any other feature. This is the group that led to a surge in startup applications in 2020 and 2021 and fueled the gig economy. It was a segment of the working world that was determined to set its own hours and its own course, deciding for themselves what sort of work they would do.
That makes it hard, but not impossible, to lure them back.
“One way to achieve that is through modularized work—defining discrete meaningful tasks that can be accomplished independently,” says the report. “This decouples goal setting and the completion of tasks from the traditional five-day workweek with set hours in an office. Another way is to manage according to outcomes rather than to activities, ratcheting up accountability for impact but allowing workers and their teams to dictate for themselves when and how the task gets done.”
That flexibility not only will appeal to people with an entrepreneurial mindset, it could also lure back parents and caretakers, who decided that career advancement wasn’t worth the sacrifice of time with loved ones. They’re looking for jobs that will let them contribute, but not at the cost of their responsibilities at home. Rethinking and extending parental leave policies could be a key to reaching out to these workers.
The Great Resignation is far from over, but with a large number of people hedging their plans to leave, saying they’re somewhat likely rather than almost certain to depart, it’s an opportunity for employers. But they’ll need to learn to embrace adaptability.
“No single solution is going to attract enough people to fill all the job openings and retain a productive workforce,” says McKinsey. “Instead, employers can take a multipronged approach to reach different talent pools. This doesn’t mean that organizations have to change their mission, values, or purpose. Rather, they can showcase different facets of their employee value proposition to a broader number of workers and get more creative in their offers to current and potential employees.”
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