The Great Resignation: why so many US workers are quitting their jobs, and how you can avoid this happening at your company.

The pandemic was the catalyst for the ‘workers’ revolution’. Find out why US employees are quitting in masses and how can you avoid this happening at your company.
orange typewriter, with paper within and the words 'the great resignation' written as title

Do you remember your life before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic? Did you enjoy working from home and have you achieved a better work-life balance? Did you feel burnout during the last two years and feel that the company was lacking flexibility? Have you had an ‘aha moment’ that made you consider rethinking your career path, switching jobs, and potentially starting a new career?

If you reflected on any of the above questions within the past year, you are not alone. In fact, many of your workers probably have also asked themselves the same questions. The pandemic was the catalyst in making many employees stop, reflect, reevaluate priorities and demand employers listen. And, whilst this is currently known as the ‘great resignation’, or the ‘big quit’,  Forbes also named it ‘the workers’ revolution’.

Table of Contents

What is the Great Resignation?

The Great Resignation is the name Anthony Klotz (Associate professor of Management in the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University) associated with the growing trend of workers leaving their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the Great Resignation is often discussed in relation to the American workforce, this phenomenon is international.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the past several months, a rapidly growing number of Americans have left their job – whilst in May 2021, it was recorded that 3.6 million Americans quit their jobs, the resignation rates continued to grow every month, with more than 4.4 million alone, or 3% of the total US workforce, leaving their jobs in September. This is now the largest spike to date, and in all likelihood, 2021 will record the largest number of resignations the United States has ever seen. Besides, according to Bankrate’s August 2021 Job Seeker Survey, 55% of Americans who are either employed or looking for a job say that they are likely to look for new employment in the next 12 months, whilst 28% of working Americans who currently said that they are not looking for a new job are still expected to search for a different position at some point in the next year.

In fact, recent studies indicate that this trend is not over. According to the findings of a study conducted by Microsoft recently, 41% of the entire global workforce is considering leaving their job in the next year, with 46% planning to make a major pivot or career transition.

What type of workers are most likely to quit their jobs?

Microsoft’s research found that 54% of Generation Z workers might be considering quitting their jobs, whilst research from people analytics firm Visier found that resignations are rising most frequently among mid-career workers. Resignation rates among managers have increased during the pandemic, with an increase of 12% in December 2020 over the previous year.

What are the reasons for workers quitting their jobs?

There is no single factor driving workforce behaviour, but the issues are mostly variations on the same theme. The pandemic has inspired changes and transformed mindsets and expectations for many.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management, the top three reasons US workers are searching for jobs are better compensation, better work-life balance and better benefits.

Burnout is another reason many US employees have quit their jobs. In a survey of 1000 full-time US workers who started a new job in 2021, 40% of respondents have said that burnout was the main reason they have left their previous job, followed by organizational changes at the company (34%), not feeling valued and lack of flexibility (20%) and the lack of benefits (19%). Additionally, of the 28% of employees who quit their jobs without another one lined up, respondents were nearly twice as likely to cite burnout as their reason for resigning.

Looking at how the Great Resignation is affecting those who stay in an organization is also important. A survey which polled 1150 US employees taken by the Society of Human Resource Management found what the repercussions of their former coworkers’ departures were on those who chose to stay in their jobs – 52% of them said that they’ve taken on more responsibilities, 30% report struggling to get necessary work done, 27% feel less loyal to their organization, 28% feel more lonely or isolated, and 55%  now question whether their pay is high enough.

Considering that in September 2021, there were a bit over 10 mil. job openings in the United States, but 8.6 million people currently unemployed, organizations need to act fast and implement new changes within their organization to not only retain their current staff but also to fill their opened positions with talented employees.

How can you create a workplace that will nurture your US employees?

1. Create a flexible and hybrid work environment

According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, over 70% of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, whilst over 65% of workers crave more in-person time with their teams. As a solution, 66% of business decision-makers consider redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work. As such, many international companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Spotify, Google, Intel ( to name a few) have adopted a Hybrid or Optional work policy, allowing the workers more flexibility in deciding how to split their time between working from home and the office. Additionally, one of the brightest sides of the shift to remote work is that it broadens the marketplace, making it easier for companies offering remote positions to find and retain talent.

Furthermore, organizations should develop a clear plan that embraces flexibility for employees. Employers should ask themselves the following questions to create a work environment that aligns with what employees want:

  • How are my employees doing?
  • What is it that they need?
  • Who wants and can work remotely and who might have to come into an office?

2. Review and communicate your compensation strategies

The desire for higher pay has also been one of the reasons why so many Americans have quit their jobs or switched jobs in 2021, and labour shortages have given employees the upper hand in negotiating with companies.

Employees are much more invested in their jobs, and the company they work for when they feel valued by their employer, and a higher salary is one of the ways of showing how valuable the employee is.

Interestingly, in a research conducted by PayScale, they found that 51% of workers believe they are paid below market even when they are paid at or above market. Additionally, the firm noted that ‘’ workers who perceived that they are underpaid are more likely to seek new opportunities in the next six months, showing that pay perception and pay communications have a measurable impact on retention “.

To keep current employees satisfied and create a competitive workplace for future employees, organizations should stay on top of the market and invest in salary surveys and benchmarking, at least once or twice a year. This will indicate whether you are paying more or less than other organizations who offer similar roles, will give you an indication if employees might see a higher earning potential elsewhere, and will also increase employees’ perception of fairness.

Additionally, being transparent with your pay practices goes a long way for employees to feel valued, engaged and retained. It is important to provide clarity on how you are assessing your employees and how raises, bonuses, and other forms of rewards are earned. Furthermore, ensure that you are listening to the needs of your employees through regular conversations and surveys to react appropriately and keep your employees feeling valued and adequately compensated.

3. Help employees achieve a better work-life balance.

Since the pandemic has started, there has also been a shift in what a usual workday might look like.

You can test and implement many changes to help your employees achieve a better work-life balance and avoid burnout. For example, the company Boomer Benefits instituted a mandatory leave time to prevent employees from burning out. Baird Group allows employees to work from home when needed, whilst Foxy Trades has a work policy that asks their employees to spend at least half of the day in the office and choose where they would like to work for the other part of the day. Exposure Ninja used to have an office but realized that the employees are more productive when all their employees work remotely – as such, their team is now 100% remote, as is Foothold America’s team.

Before implementing any new company policies, the first step you should take is to ask your employees for feedback. Find out the struggles that your employees are facing and ask them what they feel the best solution would be. Your employees’ feedback will guide you in defining the changes that you need to make in your organization. Additionally, this will improve employee satisfaction, productivity, and company image.

If the pandemic has one silver lining, it is that it pushed companies to adjust the way they conduct business and operate their teams. Furthermore, it empowered employees to have a stronger voice in asking for what they need and want. As said by Julie Stich, the Vice President of Content at the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans, COVID-19 ‘’ presented a unique opportunity for employers to examine their benefits offerings and overall culture and to make changes that they may not have made otherwise ” […] “It has accelerated trends that were already in motion, brought to the forefront new ideas and priorities, and given organizations an opportunity to evaluate what works best for their workforce.

Furthermore, with the changing expectations of employees, organizations will need to find new ways to define productivity, invest in the wellbeing of their employees, create exciting work environments, and offer competitive packages, all whilst being flexible in how, when and where people work.

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