The Great Resignation, also known as the Great Reshuffle, refers to the recent mass exodus of employees voluntarily leaving their employers. In 2021, 47.4 million people quit their jobs, and the trend has continued into 2022 - at an average of 4.3 million monthly quits, the country is on pace to exceed 51 million total this year.
This unprecedented movement of the workforce has left employers wondering - what is the driving factor behind the phenomenon? As with any macroeconomic event, the reasons are manifold. Historically, a high quit rate reflects job seeker confidence, and typically coincides with low unemployment. During times of high unemployment and economic recession, employees will more commonly remain in their current positions, with concerns over lack of available opportunities and the ramifications of long-term unemployment keeping them from leaving. These external factors tend to stifle any personal motivations for wanting to leave - yet, these motivations persist. Indeed, the most oft-cited reasons for seeking new employment during the Great Resignation - low pay, no opportunities for advancement - have long been indicated by workers, regardless of economic conditions.
COVID-19 leads to a paradigm shift
Most research on the Great Resignation traces its roots to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Health concerns led to some workers opting to leave their industry altogether, and massive layoffs combined with a significant government response to ease the burden of the pandemic allowed some the opportunity to reevaluate their career paths. Historically, such a massive job loss has coincided with dramatically fewer job openings. However, after a two-month period of decline, job openings fiercely proliferated. This combination of labor shortage, newfound opportunity, and greater job seeker confidence allowed employees to act on the internal motivations that had been motivating them all along.
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