The Great Resignation – How and why it has made it easier to transition into new lines of work

The Great Resignation has been the core subject of many conversations lately. The buzz phrase appeared around May 2021 after an unprecedented number of workers started quitting their jobs voluntarily following the pandemic, predominately in the United States. It has since been a source of apprehension for many employers and has allowed people to renew their focus on what matters most to them and search for better opportunities elsewhere.

If you aren’t caught up with this recent trend yet, you can familiarize yourself with what it means, how it has impacted the labor market, its major causes and available employment opportunities through this informative guide. We’ll also discuss how businesses and organizations can deter their work staff from quitting and encourage them to remain under their employment.

What is the Great Resignation?

The phrase “The Great Resignation” was proposed by Professor Anthony Klotz, a business and management professor at Mays Business School (Texas A&M University), who used it in interviews about the phenomenon in May 2021. The term is modeled after the names of other historically significant events, such as the Great Recession and the Great Depression, in which the word ‘Great’ is used to denote the event’s substantial tenure and impact.

Also referred to as the Great Reshuffle, the Great Rethink and the Big Quit, the Great Resignation is a term used for the pandemic-triggered trend which started in early 2021. The quarantines, shutdowns and restricted access to services, goods and jobs resulted in a large-scale upheaval in the economy and the lives of millions of people worldwide. This period of introspection led people to reassess their career paths and resign from their jobs in record-breaking numbers, especially in the hospitality, retail and business services industries.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of four million people quit their jobs every month throughout 2021, with an all-time high in November. This workforce exodus remained high into 2022, with over 4.4 million people resigning from their jobs in February alone. According to Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index, 43 percent of employed individuals said they were likely to consider resigning and changing jobs within the following year.

Though the severity of the Great Resignation has somewhat died down from its November 2021 peak, as of June 2022, it remains relatively high at around 2.9%.

Causes of the Great Resignation

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have triggered the Great Resignation, it is thought to be the result of many other factors as well. Some of these include the following:

Employees felt burnt out

According to a survey conducted by Microsoft, 54% of the global workforce cited stress, burnout and exhaustion as their main reason for resigning from their jobs. Burnout emerged as a particular problem for those working in healthcare, food service and hospitality as these sectors were in high demand during the pandemic, resulting in employers pushing employees to work at full capacity and over-exert themselves.

Desire to work remotely

Prior to the pandemic, many people were unaware of the prospect of remote working and had never experienced it. However, after 18 months of working from their homes, where they were the ones in control, workers were reluctant to return to the office and give up the perfect work-life balance that came with remote working. This, coupled with the fact that many had already relocated or were preparing to be closer to family or to attain the lifestyle they’ve always longed for, was a big trigger to resign for many individuals in order to seek the work environment they prefer whether that be in-person, hybrid or remote.

Career advancement

The need to feel a sense of progress, personal growth and success is innately human. Therefore, more employees started quitting their jobs in search of better job opportunities, not just in terms of pay but also with respect to new challenges.

Individuals who find no purpose in their jobs tend to perform below their potential, are not as productive and are more likely to resign than those who work for purpose-driven organizations. So, instead of following a similar working pattern on a daily basis, they want to build meaningful careers and feel stimulated and engaged with their work, while simultaneously honing their skills and looking for new learning opportunities.

Insufficient compensation

With the rise in inflation and cost of living, dissatisfaction with their salaries was also found to be another major factor that pushed employees to hand in their resignations. According to reports, about 37% of young professionals realized that their peers were earning more money in other companies, causing them to re-evaluate and realize their market value and skill sets and pursue new roles with better pay.

Toxic corporate culture

Toxic corporate culture has also been a significant contributor to the Great Resignation and is thought to be 10x more effective than dissatisfaction with pay. The major factors that give rise to toxic culture include failure to promote equity, diversity and inclusion; unethical behavior and workers feeling disdained and disrespected. Moreover, it’s also about workers feeling seen, valued and appreciated for their work.

Job insecurity

During the pandemic, many companies with poorly established working environments doubled down on layoffs as they couldn’t afford to support their employees. This inclined workers who managed to retain their jobs to question their position and importance at that particular company. The unpredictability and fear of losing their jobs drove disgruntled employees to leave the company they worked at altogether and look elsewhere where job security was guaranteed.

Shift of work culture among the younger workers

In the last couple of years, people have redefined their career demands and expectations. Younger workers are more likely to value freedom and flexibility than previous generations.

Due to this changing attitude towards work, many Generation Z’s and millennials are leaning more towards pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities instead of traditional 9 to 5 office jobs. They would prefer to have the autonomy to manage their own schedules and not have a boss micromanage everything they do.

How the Great Resignation can be a great opportunity for your career

The Great Resignation can prove to be an excellent opportunity for you to grow within your career, expand your skill sets, and even move on to other career paths. Some ways to do so are discussed below:

Move to other roles within your current place of employment

One option that you can pursue right now is moving to a new role within the company you are currently employed at. For instance, you could move to a different sector or team within your organization. This could be a great opportunity for you to test out your interests in a way that is less risky.

There may be a one sector of the business that is understaffed and looking for additional support. In such cases, you can consider changing roles within your current team. Not only will this move have a positive impact on your career, but your employers will also welcome it since it will allow them to inspect new prospects that you bring to the team.

Request a promotion

The Great Resignation can also be a chance for you to request a promotion from your employer or more responsibility. Given the current upheaval, your employer or manager is likely desperate for capable, ambitious and competent people like yourself to step up. If your request for a promotion is approved, it will give you greater visibility and allow you to make a significant impact within your organization.

Ask for a raise

A survey conducted by CNBC found that wages in many industries have increased by 10.5% to 10.6%, mainly due to the rise in inflation. You need to make sure that your salary is commensurate with your position at the organization. Due to the Great Resignation, employers realize that they must compensate their workers fairly if they want to retain them. So, if you find out that you aren’t being paid as you should be given your role in the organization, it is within your rights to ask for a raise. In some instances, you can also request non-monetary compensation in the shape of a flexible schedule or more time off.

Transition to other jobs

The Great Resignation has made it hard for businesses to find and hire good, competent people to fill the massive holes left in the labor market by this exodus, so you’ll have the upper hand with more job openings than ever before. You can take advantage of this time to search for a position that aligns best with your strengths and the type of industry and environment you want to work in.

Transitioning to other jobs during the Great Resignation

Rather than simply quitting their jobs and walking away, workers – globally, in most instances – are reconfiguring and re-evaluating their careers. Therefore, the current disruption caused by the Great Resignation has led to a large number of employees moving around the job market. While some are taking advantage of the current hiring crisis to move into better roles, others have chosen to work for themselves, causing the number of self-employed workers in the US to rise by 500,000 since the pandemic.

How should you approach the next step in your professional career now that you have quit your job? Following are some things that you should definitely keep in mind if you are considering taking part in the Great Resignation and transitioning to other jobs.

Plan out your next step

Take time to reflect and evaluate what you’re looking for in your next position. Think about what your ambitions, goals and aspirations are and whether the next role fulfills or excites you. What are the steps you need to take to secure the job of your dreams, and what are you not willing to compromise? Are you looking for a job that allows you to work remotely? A clear picture of what you want will aid you in narrowing down the jobs that will work best for you.

Update your resume

If you’ve been working in the same position for a considerable amount of time and have resigned from your current employer, there’s no better time than this to update your resume before you start job hunting. Make sure you customize each resume based on the job you’re applying for in terms of experience and skills. Also, any skills you’ve acquired during the pandemic or after it should be added to your resume as well as your LinkedIn profile.

Organize your finances

If you’re considering stepping away from your current job to start your own business or simply taking some time off to plan out your next step, make sure to plan out your finances and what your obligations are. Hash out a list of the expenses you’ll need to cover, such as food, rent and other essential commodities for a few months, and devise a budget to keep yourself on track.

Re-evaluate your career path

If you feel as if your current job isn’t something that excites you and that your passion lies in another sector of the labor market, you can always consider taking online courses to help develop the skills that will help you in mastering a particular domain and allow you to make a career out of it.

For instance, if your interests lie in the healthcare sector and you have the time, you can join an online Accelerated RN program offered by Elmhurst University. This type of program is “accelerated” in the sense that instead of four years, it generally takes less than two years and focuses all its coursework on nursing practice, theory and clinical education.

How can employers retain their employees in the Great Resignation?

Here are some basic strategies that companies should employ to reduce the steady flow of resignations and retain their staff during the Great Resignation:

Offer flexible and hybrid work options

The pandemic triggered a new era of work, where workers expect to either work from home altogether or have some kind of hybrid schedule where their working hours in the office are reduced to a minimum. Recent reports show that around 97.6% of employees would rather work remotely from home for the rest of their careers.

Organizations that don’t embrace remote work are more likely to be left behind. So, whenever possible, assess your current roles to see whether it’s possible for employees to work at least some of the time at home and consider making the switch. This will allow employees more autonomy and flexibility over their daily schedules, helping them to maintain an ideal work-life balance.

Psychological support

Many people worked ardently during the epidemic and simultaneously faced the difficulty of managing personal and professional duties, which left them burnt out. During this time, four out of 10 adults in the US showed symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, which was relatively higher than the year before. This shifted the emphasis to what efforts companies are making in order to support and value their employees.

If companies want to maintain their staff throughout this Great Resignation, they should prompt the HR department to make sure that a communication strategy is being employed to advise workers of available employee support and mental health programs. Moreover, organizations should also promote open discussions regarding mental health and financial well-being issues by offering instructional workshops.

Provide opportunities for growth and advancement

Nowadays, the majority of the workforce in the labor market is made up of millennials and Generation Z. These generations tend to gravitate towards organizations that provide possibilities for professional advancement and growth. So, creating and offering clear career pathways from their current position to better roles in the workplace is a step that organizations can take to ensure that their employees don’t look around for more responsibility and progression elsewhere.

Revise benefits and compensations policies

Health and wellness benefits, bonus plans, compensation reviews and annual benefits make employees feel appreciated and valued, especially after laboring through the two-year-long pandemic. So, offering competitive wages and benefit packages can give employers a fighting chance at retaining their top-performing employees and preventing them from moving to other organizations for better compensation.

Hire the right people

Retaining staff can be difficult if you’re not even hiring the right people in the first place. If you employ the wrong people for the wrong positions or someone who doesn’t fit right with their team and organization, they’ll soon lose interest and become dissatisfied. This will result in them handing in their resignation and moving on to another company.

Organizations should make the effort to build a team that can work well together, and try to hire employees who share the company’s values; these workers will be more likely to stay. For this purpose, businesses should review their interview process regularly. This will save them from situations where they will be subject to more resignations.

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