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I’ve finally figured out who is behind ‘The Great Resignation’!  Johnny Paycheck.  Stick with me here.

Do you remember Johnny Paycheck’s song Take This Job and Shove it?  To jog your memory here are the beginning lyrics:

Take this job and shove it
I ain’t working here no more
My woman done left and took all the reason
I was working for
You better not try to stand in my way
As I’m a-walkin’ out the door
Take this job and shove it
I ain’t working here no more

Johnny Paycheck

Have you ever dreamed of quitting your job to travel the world?  If so, you’re not alone.  Globally, there are thousands of people that have done just that.  These people were once software developers, factory workers, restaurant staff, doctors, attorneys, bus drivers, and who knows what else.  They all said the same thing, ‘take this job and shove it, I ain’t working here no more.

Maybe you’re not considering quitting your job to travel the world, but maybe you are considering a new career, a new company, or simply leaving the workforce altogether.  Research tells us, you too, are not alone.  However, is there really a wave of resignations hitting employers? 

Let us figure out who’s really behind the Great Resignation, then separate fact from fiction.

Data Behind The Phrase, The Great Resignation

If you conduct a quick Google search for The Great Resignation you will find dozens of articles that site Monster.com’s research that 95% of workers are now considering changing jobs, and 92% are even willing to switch industries to find the right position.  WOW!

However, I spent 2 hours (unsuccessfully) looking for this report to better understand who was surveyed.  After all, Monster.com started as a place for people to go to find a job.  So, yes, if they surveyed this group of people, I’m certain they will respond they are looking for a job. 

Getting To The Bottom of Monster.com’s Research

When we were unable to find this report, my colleague Caitlin Fleenor, called Monster.com directly.  Oh, yes, you read that right.  She called them to investigate this research that indicated 95% of employees are considering changing jobs and is quoted in numerous online publications.  

After multiple rounds of being placed on hold, Caitlin was told that the report is confidential, and they would not share it with her.  Nor would they discuss how the survey was conducted, the sample size, or any additional information. 

There are literally dozens of media outlets, bloggers, and other online sources that are quoting this research that will not be released.  I’m not saying this research doesn’t exist, I’m simply saying it should not be considered reliable data. 

2021 Work Trend Index: Annual Report

The other widely publicized report is the 2021 Work Trend Index: Annual Report from Microsoft.  There were a few key findings from Microsoft’s research.  First, we need to understand how, when, and where the data was collected for this research. 

The research was conducted by Edelman Data x Intelligence in January 2021.  They surveyed 31,092 people across 31 global markets.  This is important, as this data does not break out U.S. workers, instead, on pages 35 and 36 they lump the findings in by market; Asia, Japan, EMEA, LATAM, Oceania, and Canada.  Meaning, it’s not possible for us to know exactly what American employees think. 

Summary of Key Findings

  • 73% of workers surveyed want flexible remote work options to continue, while at the same time 67% are craving more in-person time with their teams.
  • 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer, 46% state this is due to their ability to work remote.
  • 54% feel overwhelmed and over worked because of the increase in meetings, email, and chat. Alarmingly, according to Data x Intelligence, meetings have doubled for team members and are lasting longer.

I take issue with many of these surveys because of the lack of industry diversity and reporting of the industries surveyed.  Industry matters.  My guess is the vast majority of these findings represent white-collar, stuck behind a computer all day jobs.  Making this information applicable to millions of people and hundreds of thousands of businesses, but not all businesses and not all people.

Restaurants, factories, construction, landscapers, retail, and more likely have not felt an increase in meetings or have enjoyed ‘flex time’ and ‘remote work’.  Unfortunately, their voices are often not heard in these large-scale surveys.  In rural areas of America, that’s most of the workers. 

Voice of the Blue Collar Worker Data

To balance out this information we dug into EmployBridge’s recent Voice of the Blue-Collar Worker.  This data was collected in February and March 2021 and here’s an overview:

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Source: EmployBridge

EmployBridge reports a few interesting findings including the Babyboomers now only represent 41 million laborers.  While Millennials make up 56 million workers.  

Summary of Key Findings:

  • When asked where they saw themselves in 2-3 years, 32% responded being a lead or supervisor and 23% said in the same role or similar.
  • A recent study found those workers who started a new job during the pandemic, 57%, reported the job paid more than their last job.
  • 32% responded pay was their primary factor for accepting a job, however, job security and schedule/shift followed. A mere, 2% responded company reputation matters when accepting a job.
  • 22% responded, ‘I liked my work schedule’ as the reason they stay with a company for long periods of time.
  • 36% of those responded said they are looking for another job, however, EmployBridge reported 52% of the participants work through a staffing company.
  • Since the 1970s, the U.S. has seen a decline in males age 25-54 participating in the workforce. Dropping from over 95% to 87%.

Fiction

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say I do not believe 95% of employees are considering changing jobs. This data reported by Monster.com cannot be examined and likely was conducted within their database of people actively searching for a job.

Additionally, I don’t believe that everyone wants a remote job where they are in front of a computer for 6 to 10 hours per day. Sure, millions of people do, but millions do not. Much of the narrative being pushed by the “Great Resignation” is driving this idea everyone is looking for a new job and I don’t believe that’s the case.

Fact

The fact is the industries surveyed impacts the results. Additionally, we can all agree the pandemic has changed the jobs landscape. Across the industries, generations, and socioeconomic status, people are feeling more anxious about the general state of the United States.

Baby boomers are leaving the workforce, creating a large hole that smaller generations will struggle to fill. Much has changed since the recession of 2008 and 2009. There are more jobs than workers, giving workers the upper hand.

Pay matters for both blue-collar and white-collar workers, however, what ranks as most important, in second and third position, differ for blue-collar and white-collar workers.

Blue-collar workers rank job security and schedule/shift as important, whereas white-collar workers care more about the work environment, the job itself, and work-life balance.

Lastly, we should consider the average percentage of employees looking for a new job at any given time and, again, that varies by industry.

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What You Can Do

Now, that we’ve sorted out what about the Great Resignation is fact and what’s fiction, what can business leaders do?

Recruiting When There’s Declining Workforce Participation

There’s much data to support we have a declining workforce participation rate.  However, we believe there’s an untapped resource in what we call the non-traditional workforce pipeline. Accessing the non-traditional workforce pipeline includes:

5 Untapped Workforce Markets

  • High school students– there’s been a decline in high school students participating in the workforce for a variety of reasons.  However, there are studies that indicate working while in high school is good for the student from a social standpoint.  Working increases responsibility, enhances their interpersonal and communication skills, and builds their resume. 
  • Disabled persons – this non-traditional pipeline is rich with talented individuals that want to contribute.  60 Minutes highlighted companies that are recruiting talent on the autism spectrum. Persons with vision or hearing impairment, developmental disability such as Down syndrome, or those with physical disabilities such as a lost limb.  There’s a wide variety of disabled persons, but one thing many share is their desire and interest to work.  Some research suggests the retention of employees with disabilities is considerably higher too. 
  • Foreign born – According to Pew Research Center, there was a spike in foreign born unemployment rates over the pandemic. This group, too, is rich with desire to work in the U.S. and often have higher retention rates.
  • Retirees –  Though, the data shows Baby boomers are retiring by the thousands, many would consider returning to work.  According to a Federal Reserve Board study, a full 1/3 of those who retire eventually reverse retirement and return to work on either a full or part-time basis.  RAND corporation shows almost 40 percent of those who retire are now going back to work.
  • ExOffenders – It’s time we open up opportunities for ex-offenders.  According to American Progress between 60% and 75% of formerly incarcerated individuals remain unemployed one year after their release. These individuals often want to turn to the next chapter of their lives and a job can give them stability, meaning, and purpose.
Credit: CBS’ 60 Minutes

Companies that become intentional about how they recruit these nontraditional pipelines and build a work environment where these individuals can thrive are more likely to see a higher rate of employee retention and a more engaged workforce. 

Retaining Talent In Today’s Competitive Environment

Whether the company is a dollar store, factory, software company, logistics warehouse, or mining operation, workplace culture and compensation matter.  Workplace culture is more than the values on a poster, it is the overall ‘vibe’ of the place, the norms, and behaviors of the entire organization.

Additionally, it is important to have a strong bench of leaders, clearly defined career pathways, competitive compensation, holistic benefits, and more. 

Changing companies is hard for most people and they usually don’t really want to do it.  Your organization should be hyper-focused on creating the best possible work environment and culture possible. 

Turn The Great Resignation Into The Great Technology Leap Forward Opportunity

Okay, admittedly, my heading isn’t as catchy as one might like but, it’s true. Now is the time to increase efficiencies through digital and technological enhancements. The reality is, we have a declining population in the U.S. and the workforce may not exist for you to hire or retain.

The covid-19 pandemic has taught us many things, including, companies must evaluate how to improve and enhance processes to do more with fewer people. Let me be clear, this does not mean put more on the people you have. No, this means investing more in technology, reducing redundancies, and improving efficiencies.

We are helping clients evaluate their end-to-end employee touchpoints to discover where there are opportunities for technology to lift work off the shrinking workforce.

Summary

In summary, there are people looking for new work and new ways to work, use this to your advantage and develop a recruiting strategy to attract high-quality talent.

Additionally, develop a retention strategy to hang on to the folks you do have. The retention strategy must be robust and tailored to your workforce, industry, and company values.

Lastly, evaluate your workflow to discover or uncover opportunities to do more with fewer people by placing the work on technology.

Finally, don’t feel overwhelmed. We’ve got your back and are here to help you navigate the Great Resignation. We can help with recruitment and retention strategies along with process improvement.

About The Author

Lauralee Hites
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After nearly 20 years in corporate America, I decided to serve the world in a new way. Today, I operate a boutique consulting firm that specializes in Strategy and Management Consulting. In my spare time, I enjoy travel writing, kayaking and biking. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

Research Credit:

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