The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a record number of resignations in April (with the trend continuing in May). Over 2.7% of the workforce, or 4 million people in the United States, quit their jobs.
With millions of workers already out of work following the worst recession in U.S. history, and employers complaining about labor shortages, what’s behind this trend?
You can blame the “Great Resignation” on politics, the extended unemployment benefits, a 600K+ population decrease due to COVID-19, or low wages, but there may be something even more basic behind workers leaving their jobs – economics of supply and demand. Employees are finding better jobs in greener pastures because they have the upper hand.
Labor shortage or realignment?
Businesses pivoted their services when the pandemic struck. This has carried over to workers.
The hospitality industry practically shut down, giving many workers a chance to redefine their decisions about what industry they worked in. Many restaurants discarded their workers at the beginning of the pandemic. Even though the sector was hard hit and many had no choice but to lay off staff to stay afloat, is it any wonder that those workers do not want to return to places of employment where they felt disposed of, with physical jobs that paid low wages, little-to-no benefits, and harsh conditions?
Employees have the leverage to demand better, so they are taking advantage of that opportunity. Workers are re-examining their work-life balance, their commute, and their happiness.
What can employers do?
Employers would do well to re-examine their culture and to find ways to retain their best employees. Workers want better conditions, regardless of the industry. Essential workers have suffered alongside small business owners.
It’s not only about wages. It’s about opportunities for growth. It’s about preventing burnout. It’s about not getting penalized for needing a day off when you’re sick. It’s about having sick days to take care of kids or family members. It’s about regular schedules where you can take classes or plan for day care without worrying that you won’t get your 40 hours. It’s about healthcare and retirement benefits.
You can’t expect your workers to be loyal to your business without giving more than a paycheck. Work isn’t just about paying the bills.
People want their work to accommodate their life.
To stem the “Great Resignation,” employers need to wake up to giving their workers respect in meaningful ways, not just telling them they’re lucky to have a job, or adding a ping pong table to the office.