The Great Resignation

August 25, 2021 | Written by: sanford-user

By John Cotton Dean, Economic Development Manager

When meeting with employers, large and small, the most common thread of discontent among all those I visit with is the challenge of finding, and keeping, employees. Locally, it seems that all businesses and industries have been impacted by high turnover and lack of willing applicants to fill open roles. Yet this dilemma is not just local; there were 9.2 million job openings across the US in May, yet there are clearly not enough employees to fill these positions. This comes during a time when unemployment is at its lowest point since the pandemic started, (5.4% in July). With so many jobs available, the question remains: what happened to the workers?

While plenty of evidence suggests that continued fears of COVID, coupled with the challenges of childcare and extended government subsidies, among many others, have impacted employment, one trend that has gained stream since the pandemic commenced looks like it may stick: The Great Resignation.

What is The Great Resignation?

As the pandemic life took hold of the U.S., many people began rethinking their own values and priorities. Many of these people, especially in the service sector, lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic, leading to angst and uncertainty of the future. Others who were fortunate enough to keep their jobs were forced to work remotely, while a significant portion of employees, considered essential, found themselves in higher-stress situations than before. This abrupt change in employment, according to analysts, has led more people than ever before to voluntarily leave their jobs “in search of more money, more flexibility and more happiness. Many are rethinking what work means to them, how they are valued, and how they spend their time” (NPR, June 24, 2021).

As a result, our nation is experiencing a dramatic increase in resignations. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the month of April saw a record 4 million people quit their jobs. While this number has lowered a bit in the months since, this broader trend is not slowing down, locally or globally. In fact, according to Microsoft, over 40 percent of the global workforce would consider leaving their employer this year. Here in the US, jobs site has found that “95% of workers are now considering changing jobs, and 92% are even willing to switch industries to find the right position.”

Looking ahead

According to Forbes, “what’s happening is a big wake-up call to employers, regardless of whether they thrived or languished during the pandemic. It’s part of a larger trend that’s taking shape in real time and speaks to the very heart of the employer-employee compact.” With The Great Resignation empowering workers as never before, employers must respond. While increasing wages is the first step to attracting and keeping talent, there remain other methods to keep talent:

Remain flexible. Remote work is here to stay. A recent McKinsey survey notes that “9 out of 10 organizations will be combining remote and on-site working.” This will only drive the competition for talent among potential employers.

Provide value beyond increased wages. While many employers are only able to pay so much, and especially manufacturers, can offer only so much flexibility in hours and location, employers must be creative in how they provide value to their employers. Again, according to a recent Forbes article: “If you hope to attract and retain them, you need to offer valuable, non-financial remuneration that makes their paychecks go further, such as scheduling flexibility, free on-site childcare and well-being resources that support their everyday self-care needs.”

As stated above, this is a major trend that is not going away. If employees do not feel they are getting what they want from an employer, they know they have other opportunities elsewhere. Yet, The Great Resignation offers a tremendous opportunity for Lee County’s employers to continue to be leaders in developing supportive and attractive workplaces, resulting in more creative and happier employees. With Lee County’s resources and collaborative partners already in place, responding to The Great Resignation is a challenge that Lee County’s employers are prepared for.