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Mass resignation: Is it really happening, what caused it, and how can I avoid it?

Is mass resignation really happening?

Mass resignation started becoming a buzzword this past spring when vaccine rollouts were happening. A few different news outlets ran stories about a particular type of doom ahead for business owners: mass resignation. Since COVID has had everyone on edge, there were few willing to give up their job security in the uncertain economic times we had throughout 2020. Even for those at retirement age and planning to retire in 2020, most stayed put in their jobs, prioritizing security over everything else.

Now that we are out of lockdowns, able to get vaccinated, and the economy seems more stable–people are making their voices heard–by quitting their jobs!

Of course, just like anything else, read different sources; you’ll get different opinions. Some experts say that this mass resignation is not as big as some have led others to believe; other experts think that different survey numbers were misleading. Even though more than 40% of people wanted to leave their jobs in the next six months in some surveys, it doesn’t mean every person will be brave enough to put in their two-week notice.

It is pretty concerning to read headlines, “4 million Americans quit their jobs in April 2021,” but that headline is not the whole story. How many of those people went back to work? Even if they entered into a new sector or a new position, the vast majority of those people still need to find a way to put food on the table.

What caused this mass resignation?

A few key factors have driven such an astonishing number of people out of their jobs and into new ones.

During COVID lockdowns, employees (many for the first time) had the experience of working from home. While some workers can not accomplish everything they need to from home, it did not take long for people to realize that at least some of their work could be done from the comfort of their home. After they were told to come back to the workplace, some questioned, “Why?” Why spend the energy, time, and resources commuting, dressing up, etc., when instead they could do just as good of a job from home. Others were less likely to be interrupted from doing tasks when home than when they sat in their office.

Since COVID, many companies have started offering more flexible schedules, not demanding that everyone be in their offices for 40 hours per week if that’s not needed. “The willingness to be flexible and accommodating to the changing needs of the workforce has been key to retention efforts,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at the recruiting firm Robert Half. “Childcare assistance, additional maternity or paternity leave, or subsidized tutoring can [also] be a huge differentiator for the employers offering them.” [Forbes]

COVID also put people’s priorities into perspective. When death and dying are headlines every day, it only makes sense that more people started to remember that work, success, and money are not the essential things in life. Some of these workers who are quitting their job are doing so to chase after their dream careers.

Additionally, employees were much more likely to stay with their current job depending on how they were treated during COVID. Did they experience a supportive work culture and community? Did they feel like they could work from home without their leaders hovering over their every move?

Lastly, we’ve seen corporate giants like Walmart bump their minimum wages up to help employees feel valued in the past year.

From a recent BBC article regarding mass resignation, Our data over the years has always shown that the thing people care about most is how companies treat their employees,” says Omens. That’s measured by multiple metrics, she adds, including wages, benefits, and security, opportunities for advancement, safety and commitment to equity.”

With the stress of COVID, kids at home, health in jeopardy, and everything else that happened in 2020, employees are looking to work for someone who values them as a person first, not a cog in the machine.

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How can I avoid it?

While you can’t force any of your employees to stay, there is plenty you can do at your business to help reduce turnover.

Reducing turnover can seriously help your business, as losing an employee can cost you as much as twice their annual salary regarding the expenses it will take to hire and train someone. It takes the average employee 6-9 months to onboard someone to have the same productivity as any other employee in the company. Increasing your retention rates can seriously help your business stay afloat.

Even though most mass resignation stories have centered on white-collar workers, more essential workers (think waitstaff and retail workers) have decided to call it quits. Some big-box stores such as Target and Best Buy have upped their wages. Still, some employees find it’s better to work at entry-level positions elsewhere, including warehouses, where they might start at a lower wage but have more opportunities for bonuses, benefits, and upward mobility.

From the BBC article, “We ask people would they take a pay cut to work for a company that aligns with their values,” she adds, “and across the board, people say yes.”

One area to continue to focus on: health and wellness for employees. Obviously, with COVID in mind, we need to help employees focus on being their healthiest selves, including benefits regarding nutrition classes, gym memberships, or other incentives for participating in wellness programs.

The bottom line

As an employer, you have to have open lines of communication with your employees, a way for them to bring up issues without fear of blowback. You might not be able to afford to give everyone a raise or a bonus, but if you are open and transparent with them about wanting to meet their needs, you may be surprised at their requests and how easy it is to grant some of them. Perhaps they’d like a better maternity leave policy, paid sick days, or even a discounted gym membership. Figure out what they value and work together to keep your valued employees at your company. In the long term, retaining your employees for as long as possible will always be a positive thing for both the company and the people that work for it.

Remember, here at Aerobodies, we’re all about employers and employees working together to be healthy!

Reach out to us if you need guidance on transforming your company’s culture into a place where people love to work. Call us today at 703-820-0217.