More than a year into the COVID pandemic, workers finally had enough. In spring of 2021, unwilling to continue devoting undue time and energy to employers unable to support their emotional, financial and physical needs, employees across the nation began to resign — and they haven’t stopped, since.
Now called the Great Resignation, the end of the COVID pandemic has seen more than 48 million workers quit their jobs — averaging roughly 4 million voluntary resignations per month. Despite the lingering ramifications of this behavior, which include increased economic inflation to the point of a predicted recession, the exodus of employees has continued for well over a year. Employers everywhere have been panicked, trying anything and everything to reduce turnover rates, attract top talent and develop employee loyalty. Now, as companies begin building their strategies for the upcoming year, many are wondering: Will the Great Resignation continue in 2023?
Almost Certainly Yes
The last time economists predicted the imminent end of the Great Resignation was essentially at the beginning of widespread recognition of the trend. Since spring of 2021, resignation rates have remained high, giving hope to new legions of employees that they can improve their work situation by quitting. Today, roughly 70 percent of workers are confident that they will resign in the coming months and find a position that offers them greater satisfaction.
The reason so many economists believe that 2023 will bring more of the same in terms of resignation rates is that companies are still failing to deliver on employee demands. Even those suffering from some of the most severe turnover rates — the hospitality industry, the transportation industry, business services, education — have done almost nothing to improve worker compensation, safety and comfort. In fact, studies show that most companies continue to utilize a carrot-and-stick methodology for attracting talent, which results only in a cycle of recruitment that is time-consuming, disheartening and expensive for everyone involved.
The Great Resignation Might Never End
While many economists describe the Great Resignation as a pandemic-era issue that began in May 2021, other economists believe that what we are calling the Great Resignation is merely a component of a much larger, longer trend in employment that began as much as a decade ago. Just as the COVID pandemic accelerated technology trends like telehealth and e-learning, the pandemic may have exacerbated an already occurring and pervasive dissatisfaction with employers and employment.
Every year since 2009, resignations in the U.S. have increased by about .1 percentage points. Though the resignation rate plummeted in 2020 — due likely to widespread uncertainty about the economy at the start of the COVID pandemic — they skyrocketed in 2021, as workers flush with money from Economic Impact Payments and finally fed up with poor treatment from employers resigned en masse. Yet, the reasons many workers cite for quitting their positions are the same reasons workers have used to justify their resignations for years: low pay, no advancement opportunities, lack of appreciation and respect, insufficient flexibility and more. While many of these workers are looking for upgrades to their employment experience, others are committed to leaving the workforce for good by becoming self-employed or simply by retiring.
Because the Great Resignation is not truly new — because it is the result of a long history of employers taking advantage of employees while neglecting their needs and wants — it is possible that the Great Resignation is not a temporary issue for employers to face. Rather, it is not only possible but probable that employers will need to permanently shift their expectations for their workforce or else continue to suffer from high turnover rates and labor shortages until business failure.
No single organization can stop the Great Resignation trend around the world, but it can work to reduce turnover rates and build loyalty within its own workforce. Business leaders should invest in developing a company culture that not only drives employees to join but encourages them to stick around. This means identifying and addressing the issues that might have caused high resignation rates in the past. Most businesses benefit from a robust employee recognition system like Workhuman as well as professional development benefits like trainings and tuition assistance. Larger corporations might also look into improving compensation packages for all roles.
Next year might see a slowing of resignations, but it almost certainly won’t see the end of the era called the Great Resignation. Unless and until companies commit to catering to the needs and wants of their workforce, they will be trapped in a Great Resignation of their own making.