2021’s Great Resignation
We are all fully aware of how the pandemic affected the labor market last year. In March and April of 2020 alone, more than 20 million workers lost their jobs, with many of them remaining out of work for months or longer. The economy was clearly crashing, and then, very tentatively, started to ascend earlier this year.
While we may have thought that was the end of it, we’re seeing it was only the beginning of the pandemic’s effects on our economy. Somehow, within a year’s time, the leverage shifted drastically from employers to employees. In fact, I recently read a Washington Post article reporting that a record number 4.3 million people quit their jobs in the month of August alone.
The Whys of the Resignation Letter
One of the things that struck me most is that over the past twenty years, when we’ve experienced higher numbers of employees resigning, there was also higher confidence in a very strong economy, providing the cushion most people need to risk the security of their regular paycheck. It typically does not happen in a volatile and unpredictable economy or during challenging times fraught with unknowns.
It made me wonder how we went from millions of people out of work, scrambling to find any job to now 2.9% of the workforce leaving those jobs in under a year. It seems that when the pandemic shook our mindsets in countless ways, it completely revamped how we view our jobs, or lack thereof. And questions abound – Is it that there are other opportunities out there, with better pay? Is pay no longer as prioritized because people are searching for something more fulfilling? Are people more restless now?
There are indications that it is some combination thereof. This is coupled with the fundamental shift in employees’ thresholds for what they will, and will not, deal with as it relates to work. Most have become accustomed to working remotely, and as such, are not as willing to partake in stressful commutes or long hours. Others are taking a more scrutinizing look at what they are being paid compared to what they feel they are worth. Still others continue to have direct pandemic related issues, such as concerns over safety, healthcare, and childcare for their children. Whatever the reason for the shift, the data demonstrates an abundance of confidence among employees and stronger bargaining positions overall.
Additionally, the employees that continued to be employed last year, who often worked with a skeleton team (or no team at all) are completely and utterly burnt out. For a year, they carried not only their own weight, but the weight of their absent team members, trying desperately to help sustain their company in any way they could. They’re exhausted. And they want (and quite frankly, deserve) to be appreciated. Unfortunately, some employers haven’t handled those situations post-pandemic as well as they should have, causing those loyal employees to search for greener pastures where they will be appreciated.
Is It a Matter of Supply and Demand?
Regardless of the reason though, there were a reported 10.4 million job openings at the end of August. And plainly, that’s a lot of leverage for employees looking for “something else.” Maybe it all comes down to Economics 101 – Supply and Demand. The supply of well-paying jobs is outnumbering the unemployed, and employees are, whether consciously or unconsciously, reevaluating their options.
One thing is for sure – we haven’t seen the full effects of the pandemic on the workforce yet. It remains to be seen when the leverage will balance out, causing more stability. In the meantime, many employers are reacting with increased pay to try to find and retain qualified candidates. They are also (or should be) investing in retraining and skill analysis for their employees, who need new skills to work in the hybrid model for which so many employers are opting.
Barker Associates has extensive experience in helping corporations shift and maintain alignment with the changing needs and requirements of the economy. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.