November 10, 2021

The Great Resignation or The Great Awakening?

What are we missing?

It’s hard to read the news, pick up a paper, scroll through LinkedIn or read the digital rags without seeing something about the Great Resignation. I’ve heard it referred to as “the Great Reshuffle,” “the Talent Tsunami,” the Great Reprioritization,” and “the Big Quit,” to name a few.

Earlier this year, it was reported that 4 million Americans quit their jobs. Current projections indicate that 26% of the workforce are looking to change jobs, and 34% of millennials are considering a career or job change.

COVID has been a wake-up call for many to reexamine their lives, where they live and how they spend their time with family and loved ones. Not seeing aging parents or friends has caused many to ask themselves what they can do to prevent that in the future. Many see leaving their jobs as an act of self-care.

For better-off Americans, the pandemic economy created some of the most substantial incentives to retire in modern history, with generous federal stimulus, incredible market gains, skyrocketing home values and health concerns drawing many Americans into early retirement. America’s retiree population grew by about 3 million during the pandemic, representing double those that were expected.

In today’s society, we tend to be reactive rather than proactive when we make changes. We often make decisions without thinking through all the consequences. When gold watches and pensions reigned, the workers of our parent’s generation no longer exist, and there is no off-ramp for many workers when it comes to retirement. Retirement ages have been pushed back and the trust in our leaders; corporate, political, and local; have eroded. Human nature is to go back.

There is a radical change taking place across American life and how we relate to work. It spans all industries and all income levels. We think that we are competing with increased income problems but find that this is not always true. People are willing to “downshift” on the corporate ladder or leave work for a season to reprioritize.

Having conversations with our employees about how priorities have changed over the past two years can add value to our organizations. None of us are the same people that we were in March 2020. Our values have shifted, our priories have changed, and many still are suffering from various forms of PTSD. We need to be a little gentler with ourselves, our families, and our coworkers.

There are many questions that the workforce is asking themselves. The value of a meaningful conversation can go a long way in helping us all become better leaders.

Here are some of the questions our colleagues are struggling with: 

  1. How did my priorities change?
  2. What are my long-term goals?
  3. What am I no longer willing to put up with?
  4. Work from home – Love it or hate it? What could a hybrid approach look like?
  5. Has remote work opened up new possibilities for work?
  6. Was I looking at a change before the pandemic?

As business leaders, we need to have the courage and compassion to understand what is happening and reexamine the way we do business to meet this shift we are experiencing. There is a realignment taking place, and we need to stay alert.

As manufacturers, we know we need to have the factories running to meet demand. There are several ways we can consider how we can adapt to these changes in our current situation.

  • Create a path for elevating the skill set of our employees to have a more meaningful work experience. Automate the redundant jobs and train the loyal talent we have retained by creating value in their work experience.
  • Consider an adjusted work week to allow a 4-day week rather than rotating shifts or adjusting to a more flexible work schedule.
  • Review your current Comp Plan. Are pay and benefits fair and equitable with the workplace, area or skill set? Are your employees able to meet their dream of homeownership, retirement, childcare?
  • Create technology-based jobs that will attract the next generation workforce and reach out to the local schools and marginalized communities to create a career path.

We need to watch out for the triggers that generate a desire to change jobs. Whether it’s stagnation, need for autonomy, lack of growth, inclusion and belonging or social impact, we need to acknowledge the needs of our workers.

Financial needs will always play a role in job searches, but we need to use caution that this is not all our coworkers need.

If we approach the situation with caution, open-mindedness, and grace, we can meet the needs of our employees and participate in these newfound priorities.

Other links of interest: 

Retaining Talent: Want to hire great people and keep them from quitting? 4 strategies that work.

Attracting Talent: Manufacturing Month meets the Great Resignation: : My optimistic outlook on building the next-gen workforce. Siemens USA, by Barbara Humpton, President and CEO. 

Thriver, Coaster or StrugglerWhat Kind of worker has two years of pandemic made you?