Is it the End of the “Great Resignation”? Experts Think So!

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Photo Credits - John Price via Unsplash

The era of the “Great Resignation” may be reaching a turning point, as experts suggest. This period saw a remarkable surge in employees voluntarily leaving their jobs in pursuit of better opportunities and improved work-life balance, causing significant ripples across industries globally. 

However, recent developments hint at a potential slowdown in this trend. Exploring the contributing factors behind this possible shift becomes crucial in determining whether this marks a definitive conclusion to the “Great Resignation” or simply a temporary interruption in its transformative course.

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The Great Resignation

The Great Resignation, which began in early 2021, marked a significant shift in the usual way of things. A notable number of employees began quitting their jobs in surprisingly high numbers. It all started in the US, where approximately four million people resigned from their positions in April 2021 alone. 

This set a new record for monthly job resignations, something that the Bureau of Labor Statistics had been keeping track of since 2001. The numbers kept rising, reaching a new peak of 4.5 million in November 2021 and again in March 2022. The most recent data available is from November 2022, with 4.2 million resignations, indicating that the trend is still very much ongoing, but may change soon.

This phenomenon didn’t stay confined to the US – it spread to other countries such as Australia, France, and the UK. This led to a shortage of workers in many companies, prompting employers to find more effective ways to retain their employees. 

The impact of the Great Resignation highlights the need for employers to reconsider their strategies, adapt to the changing preferences in how people want to work and develop imaginative solutions to ensure employees remain engaged in this evolving job landscape.

The UK and the Big Quit

The impact of the Great Resignation in the UK unfolds through numbers that reveal a tale. In the early pandemic, job-to-job resignations in Q1 2021 matched Q1 2020 at 213,000. A shift emerged in Q2 2021, surging to 295,000, marking the last time quarterly resignations stayed below 300,000. The zenith arrived in Q2 2022, with a record 442,000 job-to-job resignations.

However, these numbers tell just part of the story. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) tracks the economically ‘inactive’ group, swelling by over half a million since pre-pandemic times, significantly affecting the labour landscape.

The job vacancies angle also demands attention. Recent data from October to December 2022 uncovered 1,161,000 vacancies, a 44% surge from pre-pandemic times, underscoring employers’ recruitment challenges.

Repercussions of the Great Resignation ripple as staff shortages across many organisations, impact productivity and potentially infringe on profits. Weightier workloads elevate staff burnout risk, potentially sparking further resignations.

Navigating this realm necessitates a united UK employer effort, involving both attracting fresh talent and retaining staff. While boosting pay is vital – 44% cited it as a reason for quitting – a holistic approach is paramount. Survey revelations unveil diverse motives: 32% sought work-life balance, 20% desired more meaningful careers, 18% aimed to escape toxic corporate cultures, and 17% were irked by scant career growth and recognition. Employers must adopt a comprehensive strategy to foster workforce stability amid these shifting dynamics.

Is it Ending?

The era of the Great Resignation, set amidst global uncertainties, seems to be closing as indicated by the latest data. May 2023 figures from the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) reveal a slowdown in resignations, returning to pre-pandemic norms. Klotz, a professor of management at University College London, points out that while the trend isn’t a straightforward switch, overall resignation numbers now resemble those of 2019.

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The shifting landscape of resignations in the UK is attributed, partly, to ongoing economic instability, leading workers to reconsider leaving amidst layoffs and concerns about the influence of AI. Julia Pollak, Chief Economist at ZipRecruiter, supports this, suggesting that the initial surge in career changes – dubbed the ‘Great Reshuffle’ – has steadied, with many individuals now established in new roles. ZipRecruiter’s internal analysis and economic data bolster this perspective.

Job satisfaction has notably increased, driven by enhanced workplace flexibility, fairer pay, and improved benefits. Klotz underscores that while the broad phase of the Great Resignation seems to be tapering, industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, and construction still grapple with heightened turnover rates. 

Both economists concur that the Great Resignation is officially ending, yet Klotz maintains that resignations remain relatively elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels. An uncertain labour market lies ahead, reflecting the enduring impact of this transformative period.

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