What is the Great Resignation?
I think we can all agree that COVID has had a massive impact on workplaces, careers, and industries across the board. But what has really been the impact on career transitions and career changes from COVID? You might have heard the term “the Great Resignation” or “The Big Quit” floating around – but what is it and is it actually a real phenomenon?
And how does it impact job seekers as well as organizations and HR Professionals?
The term was actually coined by Anthony Klotz, a professor at Texas A&M University – who studies resignations. He proposed that despite the initial decline in resignations during the pandemic, they would increase as time went on.
And the stats do seem to support this in both the US and Canada. Trends showed that at the beginning pandemic (a time of massive uncertainty & layoffs as well), resignation rates went down. This makes sense, and it’s no surprise – generally, in times of uncertainty, people tend to stick with their jobs.
But the surprising part seems to have been in mid-2021, where there appears to have been a significant increase in resignations in the US and Canada. In the US, nearly 4 million people quit their jobs in each month of June, July, and August. Since mid-2021, companies have also been reporting labour shortages. In BC, our unemployment rate was 6.2% in August 2021, higher than in the last three months of 2019.
What’s Behind This Trend?
Obviously, there are numerous causes behind a major trend like this. However, I want to focus on a few specific trends that I’ve found most interesting and compelling regarding the increase in resignations.
Time & Space to Reflect on Priorities & Goals
A major event like a pandemic causes us to rethink everything, including our careers.
Due to the pandemic, employees may have become disillusioned with their company or industry. IF they were laid off, they might feel resentful or undervalued. They may have felt unsupported during the pandemic if companies were not concerned about their wellbeing or safety.
Working independently from home has allowed people to focus ONLY on the actual work they do, in a way that hasn’t happened before. This has removed all of the other distractions work brings, such as client meetings, conversations with co-workers, and office politics. Removing this dynamic has left some people thinking more about what they actually do for a living and if it has meaning to them.
A lot of people actually saved money during the pandemic. Between stimulus programs and the fact that travel, eating out, socializing, and other activities just weren’t an option, the savings rate reached record highs. This has, in some cases, empowered people to start their career change, whether it’s funding a new business, taking further education, or an extended job search.
In addition, as a result of this, people may have realized that they need to make what they do for a living a priority. Other activities may no longer be as high of a priority now that they’ve realized they want a change. For example, an employee might realize that finding their ideal career is an important priority for them (and they’d rather invest money and resources in finding a new job) instead of spending money on other activities such as shopping, travel, or parties.
Increased Need for Flexibility
More employees got the opportunity to work from home than ever before. Some of those who had never worked from home before or experienced flexibility now know it’s important to them… and that it’s something they want to continue to have.
I feel like the combination of all three of these things creates a perfect storm for employees to quit their jobs. It all starts with an event that has majorly impacted everyone’s lives – leading people to a strong realization that they need to make a change. This realization could be anything – from learning that they don’t like their job, feeling unappreciated, or being frustrated with a lack of flexibility. Combine that realization with a bit of financial security to make a change, along with a desire to maintain flexibility attained during the pandemic, and it’s no wonder we’re seeing the Great Resignation now.
HR Professionals: What Does This Mean For You?
So what does this mean for HR professionals and organizations as a whole? Well, I think it’s a fairly simple concept – but difficult to implement. Human Resources professionals and organizational leaders need to listen (and respond to the concerns of employees) more than ever before.
Now, this depends on your organizational culture, but many organizational leaders may not often consider the needs and concerns of their employees. Instead, these leaders may expect employees to change and adapt to suit the needs of the organization.
However, in an unprecedented time like this – where employee priorities have shifted, this approach just might not work anymore. The top-down management approach of dictating what employees should do and how they should do it without considering their preferences first, isn’t compatible with a labour market where people are quitting in droves. So what should you do if you work in an organization like this, where leaders have an “old-school approach” and aren’t super open to the idea of change?
Try To Identify Trends & Root Causes
As an HR Professional, even if you don’t have a retention problem, you should pay close attention to your turnover rate and identify how much of your turnover is coming from voluntary resignations vs. layoffs or terminations. Exit interviews should always happen with voluntary resignations – and you should also investigate the impact of resignations on the organization itself and how it impacts the business metrics of the organization – i.e. is it costing the organization a lot of money to recruit and train new employees all the time? Once you identify root causes and impacts, you can get organizational buy-in to launch retention programs that may reduce resignations.
Listen to Employees, and If Possible, Accommodate Requests
Whether your staff is back in the office yet (or not), they might not be clear on what’s happening in your workplace. If they’re not back yet, they might not understand what the policies are for returning, for example. Being proactive and open about your policies, and having conversations with employees can help clear things up. Encourage and support managers to open up conversations with employees to understand what concerns they may have when it comes to their careers.
Now, your employees are probably not going to tell you they plan to resign in advance. But, they might also make assumptions and assume that you won’t accommodate any changes at all. This is why communication is so important – you need to know what’s going on with employees to fix any issues. Both organizational leaders and HR have a role to play in helping employees to feel heard and comfortable sharing any issues they may have.
Look for Opportunities, Not Problems
Rather than looking at employees with special requests and desires as a problem, why not look at it as an opportunity instead? If you can accommodate changes – for example, flexibility, this might actually be a recruitment or retention opportunity.
So let’s say your organization can offer flexibility to work from home, whether its full time or a hybrid model – this might actually be a recruitment strategy. Maybe your organization can offer flexibility instead of a higher salary, and that’s more important to candidates. If one of your valued employees wants to change careers, maybe there’s an opportunity within your organization they can explore instead of resigning. This approach can also help get buy-in from organizational leaders!
Job Seekers: What Does This Mean For You?
If you’ve had a realization that you just aren’t enjoying your job anymore and you’re ready to leave, you should always take some time to stop and plan your next move first. Try taking these steps before you make that final decision to quit.
Don’t Just Quit – Do Some Planning First
It always makes sense to do a bit of planning before you decide to leave! If you’re thinking of quitting before finding your next job, you should do some financial planning to see if that makes sense. There are a lot of advantages to searching for your next job before you leave your current one, including not having to explain why you don’t currently HAVE a job. Even though it feels like it might be impossible to manage, it can be done – especially if you have a plan!
If you feel like you absolutely can’t stick it out any longer, you should assess your financial situation and career prospects first. How long will it take you to find a new job? How much savings do you have to manage until to find your new role? There’s no point damaging your financial situation or using up your savings if you don’t have to.
Keep in mind that you’re searching for your ideal job, not just any job… and that can take time. You’ll be in a better position to be picky about the next job you choose if you already have a job. You don’t want to end up worried and anxious if you can’t find your ideal job right away, and then accepting another job that you’re going to dislike just as much as the one you have now.
Figure Out What You Actually Want to Do
It’s easier said than done, but you need to clearly understand why you want to quit your current job. If you feel like you’re not sure, you definitely need to do some reflection and start to get some clarity on that before you quit!
The first step is doing some self-reflection and trying to figure out what you liked and didn’t like about your current role. This process is a whole article in itself, so check out my article: How To Change Your Career: 5 Steps to Career Change if you’re interested in learning more about that!
This process can take some time, depending on where you’re at – so it’s another good reason to think twice about quitting your job.
Refine Your Resume & LinkedIn
Once you have a good idea of the type of job you want, it’s time to get your resume and LinkedIn Profile ready. It’s crucial that you know what job you want before you start writing your resume, as today’s resumes need to be VERY targeted to the role. If your resume isn’t targeted enough, or if your LinkedIn just doesn’t look professional enough, you could be missing out, even if you’re qualified for the role. Resumes need to be compatible with Applicant Tracking Systems and clearly demonstrate to the hiring professional that you have the skills for the job. If you’re not sure if your resume’s got what it takes, read more about this here: Top Five Signs Your Resume Needs an Update and here: The ATS-Friendly Resume Guide.
Learn as much as possible about the industries, companies, and jobs you’re interested in. Start to make connections with people who are in these roles and learn as much as possible. Let people know that you’re making a change and what you’re interested in. You never know – you may make some great connections. You don’t even need to make connections in person – LinkedIn can be a great place to start!
If you’d like to learn more about how I can help, click here to schedule a complimentary telephone consultation to learn more about our services which include career coaching, interview preparation, and resume writing for individuals, as well as career transition/outplacement services for companies.
Get Your Resume Ready
So you’ve decided you want to send out your resume and explore your opportunities, but you’re not sure if it looks good or meets the requirements of today’s job market? Here are a couple of places to get started:
Download my Ultimate Resume Writing Checklist here.
This checklist will help you determine what you need to do to write a resume that works. Compare your current resume to the checklist and learn what’s not working quickly.
Learn more about my Ultimate Resume Writing Course here.
Resumes and their requirements have changed drastically over the last decade. Today’s resumes need to be targeted specifically to the job’s requirements to stand out. If your resume isn’t targeted enough or doesn’t meet the right requirements, you may not hear back, no matter how qualified you are.
I’ve designed this course to help you write an effective resume in just a weekend. You’ll learn the basics of what you need to know to write a resume that works in today’s job market, including what to do in specific challenging situations, including dealing with employment gaps, multiple short-term roles, international experience, and more. You’ll choose from six proven templates and learn all the techniques and strategies I’ve accumulated through 15 years of combined experience as an HR Professional, Career Coach & Professional Resume Writer.