The US - and the world - is in the midst of The Great Resignation. Survey predicts that 41% of US adults will look for a new job in 2022, and 35% plan to change their careers entirely. Additionally, that number will come in a wave, with 13% (20 million) of US adults planning to resign by February 1st.
Already in the US, multiple months have seen record quit rates. September currently holds the record, at 4.4 million, with October coming close to matching that at 4.4 million. And that trends looks to be only accelerating.
Pandemic-driven shut-downs have impacted how people work, and in many cases, what they want. Laid-off hospitality workers spent their time at home reskilling, taking advantage of programs to transition to new careers. Employees have proven reluctant to return to high-risk/ low-pay roles in retail and childcare.
The pandemic and the rise of remote work have changed the way we view our lives and the world. And the world is noticing.
Care homes in the UK report that patients are left unsupervised, unbathed, and often passing away alone due to staffing shortages. Restaurants in the US have been forced to shutter their doors - not due to lack of business, but due to lack of employees to serve their customers.
A survey published in August found that a third of all Germany companies were reporting a dearth in skilled workers. That month, Detlef Scheele, head of the German Federal Employment Agency, told Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that the country would need to import 400,000 skilled workers a year to make up for shortfalls in a host of industries, from nursing care to green tech companies. Pandemic-era border closures and rising wages in Central and Eastern European countries have led to shortages of meatpackers and hospitality workers in countries like Germany and Denmark.
The American Staffing Association, working with The Harris Poll, recently surveyed over 2,000 US adults of working age. Among their findings, they are showing a stark difference by race/ethnicity
"In the midst of the Great Resignation, employed individuals as well as active job seekers are looking at new opportunities for higher pay and more flexibility," said Richard Wahlquist, president and chief executive officer of the American Staffing Association. "If employers want to effectively compete in the war for talent, they're going to have ensure their workers receive competitive compensation and that workplaces embrace flexible work schedules wherever feasible."
These numbers should not come as a shock. For some employers, they represent opportunities. Those who have developed and marketed an inclusive culture stand much to gain - and should see their applicant funnels reflecting their efforts. In addition, talent acquisition teams who understand how to identify and attract hidden talent will see results. Those who have not will see increasing needs for backfilling of roles, sapping their bandwidth to do any net-new hiring. Non-inclusive cultures will suffer, in short. And those companies may struggle to survive after the fires have cleared, and new growth begins to emerge.
Just as new growth emerges after forest fires sweep through overgrown woods, no pandemic has ever hit the human population without leaving behind societal changes. The Pandemic of 1918 spelled the end of Colonialism. The Black Death destroyed feudalism and gave birth to the Renaissance. The Americas were only conquered and then reshaped due to waves of plagues brought over from European soldiers and explorers whose ancestors had developed immunities the native populations lacked. The entire US experiment was born of pestilence.
This will be no different. We are seeing it in multiple ways, many of which go beyond employment and staffing of course. That said: the shift in the candidate/ employee-employer relationship will stand out to historians who will ultimately specialize in analyzing this significant epoch.
With employers finding it harder to fill open positions, there is a sense of leverage is fueling a surge in strikes and protests by workers frustrated with wages, benefits and job conditions across industries, including health care, film and television, mining and waste disposal.
Cornell's Labor Action Tracker, which tracks strikes across the US, is reporting 346 labor actions - and half of those actions have occurred in the past two months alone. In many ways, The Great Resignation is a new type of labor movement. Workers with the power to demand substantial raises and other gains, after decades of wage stagnancy and suppression. And considering that traditional minority ethnicities in the US have often been funneled into low-wage/ high-risk roles prior to the pandemic, it makes sense that they would be the ones leading the way in this sort of "strike".
"A lot of people think the Great Resignation is about burned-out office workers, but it’s really about these front-line service workers in jobs where there are a lot of covid risks & also a tight labor market” says @DanielBZhao in @alyssafowers quits story https://t.co/usz7vzBHhS pic.twitter.com/t0gN7WRPng— Kate Rabinowitz (@dataKateR) December 9, 2021
The potential positives are important to note. US minorities have often been stuck in generational poverty, where low-wage roles, lack of benefits, and overall opportunity have kept many blocked from the chance to improve their family prospects. This cycle has helped maintain societal issues which impact the nation as a whole. If the Pandemic of 2020 is to have any positive impacts, these may well be them. And they will be driven by how the workforce has risen, and how we hire.
Arthur Woods, writing for the Harvard Business Review, put it well: "In a climate where underrepresented job seekers are in high demand and many will be part of the cadre leaving their jobs in the next year, organizations face a major risk of seeing their diversity numbers get worse. To avoid sliding backward at this critical juncture, organizations need to break traditional conventions and fundamentally shift their approaches to diversity hiring."