It’s been hard to miss the news, the headlines, and the chatter among your colleagues: the Great Resignation is upon us.
All the publicity made us want to know:
Does this seemingly huge influx of departures live up to all the talk?
What has spurred quitting en masse?
How is the Great Resignation hitting different industries?
Are there any specific tactics businesses are applying to cope with this trend?
And the best way to know is to ask those who are impacted the most — so we did.
Keep reading to hear from more than a dozen different hiring pros, across practically just as many industries, on how the Great Resignation is changing workplaces and what they’re doing to deal with this new challenge.
What is the great resignation?
First and foremost, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about the term we’re discussing here.
The Great Resignation refers to the record-setting number of people who left their jobs in the U.S. starting in spring 2021. In spring 2022 when this article is being published, numbers are still close to record level, but the rush is slowing. Some think that as the U.S. economy cools in light of rising interest weights and the outbreak of war, the trend will die off even further.
The coining of the term “Great Resignation” has been traced back to Anthony Klotz, a professor at Texas A&M University, in early 2021.
The professor used this phrase as part of a prediction they made about what would happen when the impact of the original COVID outbreak died down. In times of uncertainty, people tend to hunker down. So they foresaw that, as the world adjusted to living with COVID, people who were already thinking about quitting their jobs would all do so suddenly. And they figured that the desire to move on to greener pastures would only be magnified by all the things people were forced to consider during the height of the pandemic: family time, life purpose, death, commuting, office life vs. remote life, and so on.
Combined, all these realizations at once led to the mass exodus that, as we’ll discuss more later, many fields are experiencing.
Great resignation: the numbers
There are a lot of numbers flying around out there.
If you go by The Washington Post’s reporting, November 2021 saw the number of people quitting or changing jobs in the U.S. hit an all-time high. Total separations reached a record 6.3 million that month alone. In Nov. 2020 that number was more like 3.3 million, and in Nov. 2019 total quits numbered 3.5 million.
As of January 2022, quit numbers cooled off but were still still quite strong with almost 4.3 million resignations. At that point, resignations were still 23% higher than pre-pandemic numbers.
We were surprised to learn that resignations have been highest among mid-career employees, not those just starting out. And, generally, quits are the most prevalent in the technology and healthcare fields.
To see how resignations in 2021 vastly exceeded previous years, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has an interactive chart that measures all the way back to 2001.
Why are workers resigning in droves?
The Pew Research Center conducted a study to find out exactly what spurred all these resignations.
For 63% of workers, the leading reason was too low of pay. For another 63%, a lack of opportunities for advancements was their major reason for quitting. And the third-most common reason for quitting was that employees felt disrespected at work, which 57% of people said was their main reason for quitting.
Other reasons people quit during the Great Resignation included child care hangups, lacking flexibility around choosing hours, poor benefits, desire to relocate, working too many or too few hours, and interestingly the requirement of a COVID vaccine.
Those who changed roles reported that their new jobs were better paying, offered more advancement opportunities, and improved their work-life balance.
See how businesses are experiencing and handling the great resignation
It would appear that the Great Resignation is definitely an accurate nomer for the record-breaking quit numbers we’re seeing today.
So we reached out to actual hiring pros at different businesses across various industries to find out what this actually looks like and, later, what they’re doing to cope.
How have you seen the great resignation play out yourself?
“Resignations have increased at my workplace and in the industry as a whole. The Great Resignation revealed that employees were severely discontent with past jobs. Workers have been forced to reconsider their jobs, work-life balance, long-term aspirations, and working conditions as a result of the ongoing global pandemic. Unhappiness with how their employer treated them during the pandemic, low income or a lack of benefits, and a lack of work-life balance are among the main reasons workers are leaving this year.” — David Farkas, founder and CEO at The Upper Ranks
“Being a business owner, I have witnessed a Great Resignation — the phenomenon of employees resigning en masse — in my own firm. In my opinion, this resignation has also greatly targeted my business's industry, including many others.
“For a business, resignations are not very easy to deal with. The era of the Great Resignation caused me to lose some of my experienced and skilled workers, putting business processes on hold. This cost me a fortune, as finding the right people and training them to strengthen their skills is never inexpensive.
“In order to save my business from any further resignations, I looked into the root cause of the problem. One of the few reasons I found why employees were resigning was the additional commuting costs to the working premises. After the COVID pandemic, people have gotten used to working remotely and saving on transportation costs. Therefore, I have hired a transportation agency that provides pick-up and drop-off services to my employees every day. The transportation costs are paid off from the profits made by my business.
“To avoid future resignations, it is important that companies put the needs of their workers first to keep employee satisfaction high in the workplace. Workers should be given the minimum number of working hours a day to prevent them from burning out and losing interest in their jobs. This will not only keep the workers from resigning but also increase their morale, which in turn will positively affect business productivity.” — Joshua Rich, CEO and founder at Bullseye Locations
“Our business and industry is dealing with labor shortages just like every other industry out there. How it has affected our business is that we’re short on warehouse workers and customer service workers. We make due but we are short staffed.
“Right now we're in an environment where the power which typically rested with employers has shifted to employees, and you can’t blame employees for taking advantage of it as it rarely happens and now is the time to strike while the iron is hot and improve your situation.” — John Frigo, ecommerce manager at Best Price Nutrition
“Yes, I think the term ‘Great Resignation’ is accurate, not just for our company but for other companies as well. I saw an increase in resignations around late 2020 and early 2021. However, things have basically stabilized again now.
“Due to the sheer number of resignations, our company had to temporarily merge different but related divisions so the workload is shared and can still be completed. We tried to hire for these vacant positions immediately but the workforce was hard to fill last year. With that, some employees had to do overtime work.” — Sharon Dylan, cofounder and hiring consultant at Management Help LLC
While it’s clear that plenty of businesses have experienced the Great Resignation, others haven’t — for a variety of reasons. For some, it just seems to be the nature of their workplace. For others, it may have to do with the industry as a whole.
“We haven’t seen a rise in resignations, and I think that’s a direct result of our positive workplace culture. We’ve worked hard to make sure that our company is a truly great place to work, and one of the ways that we do that is by living our values. Our core company values are: love what you do, serve always, and stay young. These aren’t just words, but actions that everyone in the company, from the c-suite to our interns, takes and lives by.” — Logan Mallory, VP at Motivosity
“Fortunately, we have not experienced an increase in resignations. From looking at the industry as a whole, there doesn’t seem to be a big impact there either, which is a positive thing. This is typically due to the type of job and how much training and work is put into becoming a lawyer. While I’m sure there are a handful of lawyers that have changed roles, the majority of people have stayed in their current roles.” — Richard J. Brandenstein, attorney and partner at Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C.
7 Tactics businesses are using to cope with the great resignation
So what are the majority of businesses that are dealing with mass quittings doing to cope? We gathered our favorite tips from seven different hiring professionals to pass on to you if you're facing the same challenge.
Prioritize cultural fit
“We have changed our hiring methods to cope with mass resignations by being more selective in our hiring process. We are now focusing on hiring people who are a good fit for our company and our culture.” — Jan Chapman, cofounder and managing director at MSP Blueshift
Emphasize better benefits
“In terms of how the Great Resignation has impacted our hiring methods, we have certainly placed a stronger emphasis on employee benefits. We have to sell ourselves as much as the candidate has to sell themselves to us. The hiring process is far more balanced. This is a challenge we have risen to by boosting our employee benefits. It's encouraged us to look at how we can make certain vacant positions appear more attractive.” — Mark McShane, owner and managing director at Skills Training Group
Adapt to the new world of work
“Despite the noise, the reasons for the Great Resignation seem clear. Being forced to leave their place of work for an extended period allowed people to take a step back and be more critical of their jobs. The influx of virtual jobs made people realize that there were work models, other than the traditional in-person work model, available to them that allow for more flexibility.
“Businesses that have experienced a large number of resignations among their virtual employees should ask themselves if they're embracing the most appealing qualities of the remote work model. Hire a global team and encourage them to cultivate their work schedule around their life.
“I think this job really appealed to people who were placed on leave or were working for companies that tried to make the virtual work environment replicate the in-person work environment. We threw out the traditional work model, where everyone needs to be available to one another throughout the day. Instead I encourage people to communicate at a time that is most convenient for them. I don’t use communication platforms like Slack because I feel that it’s antithetical to the asynchronous work model.” — Karl Hughes, CEO at Draft.dev
Lend an ear
“I think the reason [we haven’t experienced a rise in resignations] is our managers' leadership style. Our leaders genuinely care about employees and use open communication. As a result, employees feel they can freely discuss what bothers them and receive needed help.
“Pulse surveys are the perfect solution because they help avoid guessing employees' demands. Surveys provide a true insight into employees' needs so you can adjust your strategy accordingly.” — Maciej Kubiak, head of people at PhotoAiD
Focus on skills over experience
“I have started hiring fresh graduates to cope with the mass resignations. It doesn't matter if they have the experience or not; they need to have the proper skills. I've noticed that these young people are more energetic, positive, and determined to bring about change. This mindset is essential to uplift the team spirit and pull them out of the slump they've been in after the Great Resignation.” — Elisa Bender, cofounder at RevenueGeeks
Ask for referrals
“My organization has started asking for referrals from their already existing employees. This way my organization has been able to improve the employee retention rate and receive qualified candidates.” — Nazy Rafaeil, SEO and marketing director at Jovani
Embrace virtual, tech-enabled interviews
“The employee experience should always be a priority to businesses, and ‘stay interviews’ ensure that the company is keeping workers satisfied. Between the Great Resignation and businesses returning to the office, there are several opportunities for top talent to look elsewhere for employment in any industry. As the workplace evolves, so do employees’ needs. They'll consider leaving their role for a new opportunity with a solid living wage and employee benefits, such as a fertility policy.
“These interviews should be conducted seasonally to align with ever-changing business models. These should be held virtually, so managers have the option to record the meeting and review notes later on. Questions such as ‘How can I best support you?’ can connect leaders with their team members in a way that shows they care about their staff and their future ahead. Not only do these interviews give the opportunity for managers to connect with their team, but also encourages business growth for the future.” — Corey Ashton Walters, founder and CEO at Here
We love the idea of “stay interviews” — especially when they’re virtual and recorded. This makes interviews more comfortable for workers and empowers managers to review them at any time to ensure they’re meeting expectations and goals.
In fact, the need for powerful technology that makes these kinds of interviews easy is exactly why we built Hume.
Hume is an interview companion for the modern talent leader. Hume applies artificial intelligence to help record, transcribe, tag, and summarize remote interviews hosted on Google Meets and Zoom (with more integrations to come!).
Thanks to Hume’s interview intelligence platform, hiring pros are able to devote their undivided attention to the interview instead of focusing on scribbled notes, which probably won’t even make sense later.
Once the interview is complete, Hume will identify all the questions and allow the interviewer to go in and tag key moments, make highlights, and even create a quick summary of the best parts of the interview. Then, that summary can be shared with your hiring team right inside the Hume platform. With Hume, remote interviewing doesn’t mean slow or ill-informed hiring decisions. In fact, teams are highly informed and empowered to make fast hires with Hume.
With a single source of truth for interviewing and hiring information, organizations can also fairly compare questions and candidate answers side by side. This helps to ensure interviews remain consistent and interview bias is avoided when at all possible. And if you find upon comparing interviews that they aren’t quite as consistent as you’d like, we have a solution for that, too!
In Hume’s library section, you can create playlists. A great way to use this feature is to build a series of onboarding and training videos to ensure your entire interviewing team is prepared to ask the right questions, identify top candidates, avoid bias, and learn any other skills you want to operationalize.
From identifying cultural fit to emphasizing improved benefits, zeroing in on skills over experience, communicating you modern approach to the hybrid work world, and beyond — many of the tactics businesses are employing to reduce resignations can actually be executed during the interview process!
But only if you have the right software to host unforgettable and unbiased remote interviews that actually empower and speed up the interviewing process, not hinder it.
That software is Hume.
And all you have to do to get early access to Hume is visit our home page and put your name on our waiting list. And, in the meantime, we also invite you to keep up with our progress on our LinkedIn page.
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