Updated: Aug 12
The last few years have been an emotional roller coaster for both job seekers and businesses. We've all heard of the "great resignation," and now we're hearing of the "great regret." So, what's the big deal?
In episode 30 of the Jess Get Hired Podcast, I discuss the 4 Great R's of our time: Resignation, Reshuffle, Restructure, and Regret. Workplace culture has suffered as a result of the pandemic, and despite the recent layoffs, there is still a labor shortage. Employees have expressed a desire for greater autonomy, flexibility, improved benefits, and better working conditions. During the pandemic, many people who were able to work remotely discovered that they were more productive working from home and that commuting to the office was no longer feasible.
The "great resignation" contributed to the unusually high number of employees who voluntarily left their jobs to pursue other opportunities. According to survey after survey, the wave of people who want to quit and find something else is not going away anytime soon. If the pandemic taught us anything in the workplace, it was that there was life after work and that mental/physical wellness was a top priority. Approximately 4.3 million people quit their jobs in May 2022. (https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.nr0.htm) We noticed similar themes among those who left companies. Workers desired higher pay, better benefits, more fulfilling work, and the ability to work remotely if possible. Money was not enough to keep employees. Employees want autonomy and flexibility, but businesses have been slow to respond. Unfortunately, not all positions can be worked from home, and that answer does not satisfy the majority of workers. Employers did everything they could to keep employees. Many companies provided retention bonuses, increased base pay, and found ways to accommodate hybrid work environments, but it wasn't enough.
In a McKinsey study, there are 5 employee personas that employers should recognize as those who potentially will be open to seek other employment: The Traditionalist, The Do-It-Yourselfers, The Caregivers, The Idealists, and The Relaxers.
The Traditionalist: This group consists of career-oriented workers who are willing to make some sacrifices if the price is right. They will not quit if they do not have another job lined up, but they will stay if they believe they are fairly compensated for their work. This group was favored highly by employers.
The Do-it-Yourselfers: This is the study's largest group of respondents, made up of employees aged 25 to 45 who believe that work should add value, provide flexibility, and be well compensated. This age group doesn't mind working part-time or gig work if it means they can do what they want when they want.
The Caregivers and others: This group is dedicated to helping children, parents, and others. As a result, they require flexibility in order to continue caring for others, but they would like more. They are typically between the ages of 18 and 44, with more women than men, and have chosen to stay at home and seek roles that allow them to continue their caregiving and responsibilities outside of work. Companies that offer parental leave, flexible time off policies, or various benefits such as childcare, subsidized housecleaning services, mental health days, and more will have an easier time attracting and retaining this cohort of potential employees.
The Idealists: This persona, typically a younger cohort of students and younger part-timers aged 18 to 24, desires flexibility, a strong organizational culture, and clear career advancement trajectories. They valued belonging to a welcoming and inclusive community more than the other personas and companies that are willing to invest in employee development and diversity initiatives.
The Relaxers: This group of people included retirees, those who are not looking for work, and those who might return to traditional work if the opportunity arises. They want meaningful work and a sense of balance. Following a surge in retirement at the start of the pandemic, many retired workers are increasingly returning to work.
The survey also showed for all personas listed above, "that uncaring and uninspiring leaders are a big part of why people left their jobs, along with a lack of career development. Flexibility, on the other hand, is a top motivator and reason for staying.
"...uncaring and uninspiring leaders are a big part of why people left their jobs, along with a lack of career development. Flexibility, on the other hand, is a top motivator and reason for staying." -McKinsey
The Great Reshuffle is the phase following the Great Resignation that left gaps after the Great Resignation's mass exodus and continues to leave many industries with massive staffing shortages. Employees were either leaving their current position to pursue other opportunities, or they were being reassigned to other roles within their organization. When employees leave a company, it more often leaves a burden of work for those who stay. Many people were doing work that could be done by two or three people. Employers had to consider the inefficiencies of not filling a position, which resulted in the creation of new roles and opportunities for internal talent. Internal mobility may have provided relief to some departments, but it also put a strain on workloads and a lack of resources to complete tasks. So then what happens? Burnout continues, employees feel frustrated, and then they quit. During the pandemic, the topic of conversation was how to stay healthy, how to work with limited capacity, and how to survive. There was no longer a focus on employee development or career pathing. That's 2 years where employees weren't getting the attention they need to stay motivated and feed their insatiable thirst for knowledge.
"Turn a Profit, or die trying."
Businesses needed to figure out how to keep their employees. The Great Restructure is the next phase of the workplace roller coaster. Companies recognized that in order to retain their top performers and attract new employees, they had to modify their current business model. Businesses have had to reconsider their benefits, time-off policies, work-from-home options, and work schedules. Many companies are experimenting with 4-day work weeks, hybrid work environments, more paid time off, and other wellness benefits. Companies must not only raise base pay across the board, but also hire jobseekers at a much higher premium than they did prior to the pandemic. All of the changes sound like solid plans, but changing business models and adding benefits come with a price. We have seen a lot of tech companies and large big box brands hold off on their hiring and layoff employees. The current state of the economy has led to some big decisions from corporate leaders: Turn a profit or die trying.
Most recently, retail giant Walmart laid off 200 corporate employees. High interest rates, increased salaries and benefits, consumer spending, and inflation have all had a negative impact on the bottom line. Unfortunately, all of the waves on the roller coaster are starting to collide, resulting in another massive shift in the economy and the workplace.
The Great Regret symbolizes the current sentiment both employees and companies are feeling because each of them is now suffering from buyer's remorse. Companies made grandiose changes in hopes to attract and retain talent; Employees are finding that the grass isn't greener on the other side.
Companies were so desperate to hire and fill positions because of the empty seats they experienced during the great resignation that they let their hiring standards fall short. They were filling jobs just to get a warm body, and they weren't necessarily getting the best person for the job. On the other hand, if they did hire the right person for the role, it came at a higher salary and/or sign-on bonus that they were not used to giving out before the pandemic. Companies tended to over hire which also caused some regret. (Check out episode 28 of the Jess Get Hired Podcast featuring Danielle Mulvey, Founder of The All-In company, as we discuss the 11 universal qualities of 5 star employees for tips on what to look for in candidates)
Employees realized that by switching jobs, they got a temporary satisfaction. Companies weren't what they thought it would be and the positions they went to turned out to be the same as the one they just left. The muse.com surveyed 2500 people and 72% of workers experienced surprise or regret that the new position or company turned out to be "very different" from what they were led to believe and 48% said they would try to get their old job back. Many people left their jobs without having a new job lined up because the job market was so hot. Unfortunately, they are also finding that it has been extremely difficult, especially given the number of current workforce reductions, to find other gainful employment.
Employees also want to return to their previous jobs, realizing that they regret leaving because they miss the workplace culture, their coworkers, and the sense of belonging. They also recognize that they must start over in a new company and prove themselves. There is a trend of "boomerang employees," or people who return to their former employer because they miss their position and the colleagues they worked with.
The changes we continue to see in the workplace has it's ebbs and flows. The next "R" in our vocabulary is going to probably be how the Recession will impact future hiring and consumer spending.
If you have been on this roller coaster the last few years, I'd love to hear from you. I would like to feature a few guests - jobseekers and employers - who have experienced the Great Resignation, Great Reshuffle, Great Restructure, and Great Regret. Message me at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me via my links: https://linktr.ee/jessgethired