9 Dimensions of “What’s Next” for the Great Resignation
Nearly every organization I work with or interact with is desperately trying to staff up. They’re not necessarily growing; they’re just trying to get back to pre-COVID staffing levels because the pre-COVID demand levels for their goods and services have returned. But staff shortages are keeping some from fully reopening and forcing some employees to work longer hours than they’d like.
The supposed goal on everyone’s lips during the last 18 months was to get things “back to normal” – to go to shows, eat out, travel, and so on. Similarly, policymakers and business owners assumed that employees would return to or remain in their jobs with the same employers, more than happy to maintain the same priorities and objectives for their lives and careers.
But we weren’t in a coma over the last 18 months. We were dreaming about traveling and socializing to be sure, but we also had plenty of time and reason to think about our engagement in the labor market. Many people decided it was time for a change, and as the economy continues to open up, that trend is accelerating. In August, 4.3 million people left their jobs, 2.9% of the workforce, which is a recent record.
Who’s leaving? Let’s dig deeper into those decisions. Why are tens of thousands of workers exploring new options or departing the workforce altogether, leaving so many jobs unfilled? And why is the great resignation accelerating? The answers lie along two general tracks.
Many of the resigning workers are late Baby Boomers and early Gen Xers who’ve decided to retire earlier than they had planned even as recently as five years ago. They’ve worked hard in the face of all the uncertainties of the pandemic, padded their savings, and rode the stock and cyber currency markets to record heights. They feel that life is too short to stay in the work world any longer given the newly proven fragility of life. And yes, the fear-ladened newspaper headlines have actually scared people out of the workforce. Their suddenly enhanced financial position has allowed for this to happen.
“I Deserve a Change”
Other workers who are remaining in the workforce, are also realizing that life is too short. They can’t retire but they’re more than willing to overcome their recent work-life inertia and break free of their employment status quo. The last 18 months have served as a wakeup call and a nudge to move on to careers that are steadier, more lucrative, and more interesting.
This is especially true in the hospitality industry. For whatever reason, the pandemic brought out the worst in too many consumers and they’ve been taking out their frustrations on hotel, restaurant, transportation, and other public-facing workers who were just trying to do their jobs.
In other cases, office-based workers have gotten used to working from home and they enjoy spending more time with their families and less time commuting. They know all about their worth and the current imbalance in the labor market. When their employers insist that they come back to the office, after more than a year of working productively at home, it’s an easy decision to look for an alternative, even for a competing employment opportunity that offers a more flexible approach.
No Going Back
In a way, what we’re seeing today is the perfect storm of mitigating circumstances that have brought us to where we are in terms of employee ascendancy and human resource management. None of these will revert to the situations so familiar last decade.
Post-COVID, employees are re-evaluating work-life balance and personal priorities.
Employers are experiencing high job vacancy rates.
New generations of workers are even less tied to corporate ladders, “paying their dues,” and “biding their time.”
9 Dimensions of Future Employer-Labor Relations
So, what will be the workplace norm for the years to come?
- There will be increased automation in the services industries. For example, the trends toward robots in the kitchen will accelerate, along with wait staff service and food delivery. We’ll be checking into hotels strictly through kiosks upon our arrival.
- Those hospitality-related jobs that remain will offer far higher wage rates that may help break the poverty cycle in some locations.
- Companies will have no choice but to allow work-from-home arrangements or they’ll lose out on top talent. A friend told me of a situation where his daughter-in-law had to quit her mid-level accounting job with a large, regional manufacturer after that company refused to let her work remotely when her military husband was reassigned to a base across the country. Five years from now, you won’t see those situations.
- Companies will increasingly crack down on abusive customers. If they don’t unequivocally side with and support mistreated employees, their employees will leave. “The customer is always right” will be far less true in the future.
- Due to Baby Boomer retirements, a new group of leaders will emerge more quickly from the ranks of Gen X and Gen Y. Since this torch will be passed a bit sooner than it would have been, these leaders will have relatively longer careers in leadership positions.
- The influence of this new generation of leaders will hasten the trends for more informal, entrepreneurial, and technology-oriented workplaces. Diversity in the leadership ranks will be realized more quickly than it would have been.
- Since Gen Y and Gen Z employees are less inclined to believe in a “career ladder,” organizations will provide better ongoing experiences through salary and benefits as well as allowing flexible internal career paths and broadening opportunities like international relocation assignments.
- Company policies and management skill sets will increasingly be focused on managing with empathetic interaction and accommodation for an employee’s life circumstances.
- Entrepreneurialism will soar. Employees will be emboldened to take the leap to pursue gig work and consulting roles. More and more companies will be compelled to engage those resources, further spurring the evolution of virtual offices and even virtual companies.
It all adds up to a future with employees holding more cards and the need for companies to be creatively competitive to secure the talent they need.