Did you know that 4.5 million Americans walked away from their jobs last November? This huge number of fed-up workers shattered previous records of employment transitions.
However, the statistics from that month are far from being isolated.
In fact, 4.2 million Americans submitted their two weeks notice in October of the same year. And an additional 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs this past December.
This massive employee turnover isn’t just a headache for employers. It is also a modern social movement, known as the Great Resignation. Many workers have tired of their old jobs and want to transition to other types of labor.
Consequently, many employers are left grappling with empty office chairs and decreased productivity. Many companies are wondering: What is the Great Resignation? And how can our business counter its effects?
Luckily, we have put together a complete guide to talent acquisition in 2022. Read on to learn more about how to attract talent and recruit employees in this new era.
What Exactly Is the Great Resignation?
The first step to attracting talent in 2022 is understanding what companies are up against. Currently, the biggest hurdle to hiring is a social phenomenon called the “Great Resignation.”
The term “Great Resignation” describes a social process in which millions of Americans are quitting their jobs. This has happened quite suddenly and quickly, leaving many employers in shock.
To make matters more extreme, some of these American workers have already arranged a new employment contract. However, almost 1 in 4 of these people do not have a new job waiting for them.
This means that over a million people quit their jobs with no next step planned.
In that sense, we cannot consider the Great Resignation a purely economic phenomenon. Instead, we must recognize that there are several social elements perpetuating this movement.
Organizational psychologist Professor Anthony Klotz hypothesizes that freedom and control are at the center of this dynamic.
“It’s not just about getting another job, or leaving the workforce,” Klotz said in a recent interview. “It’s about taking control of your work and personal life, and making a big decision – resigning – to accomplish that.”
The Rebellion of the Middle-Aged
Traditionally, employee turnaround is highest for the youngest workers. Recent university graduates often don’t know what they want to do with their lives. Thus, they use those first few years of employment to discover new areas.
Middle-aged workers, conversely, are historically known for being more reliable. People in the middle of their careers often have families. As a result, they typically seek stability as opposed to excitement.
While these old rules may seem fairly well-established, they do not apply to the modern era.
The Great Resignation is not a youth movement, as many employers assume. On the contrary, the vast majority of these workers are between the ages of 30 and 45.
But what is the reason for this?
According to one report, many workers wrote that they felt a lack of company support during the pandemic. 37% of global workers felt that their employers expected too much of them during the disaster.
It is possible that middle-aged people felt the impact of this the hardest of all age groups. This is because stress tends to be highest in these years of life.
Another possibility is that middle-aged people have dedicated years of their lives to their respective companies.
Thus, a lack of support during pandemic times made many workers feel that they had given a lot to employers that didn’t care about them.
A Reaction to Burnout
Freedom and autonomy may sound like exciting ideals, at first glance. Nonetheless, the modern-day worker’s need for this sense of liberty stems from something darker.
In reality, many experts believe that negative experiences lie at the center of the Great Resignation. Ian Cook, a contributor to the Harvard Business Review, found the movement to be reactionary.
In his analysis of the so-called Big Quit, Cook discovered that certain industries were more likely to see resignations than others. And, to the shock of many, some sectors even saw fewer resignations than ever before.
Finance and manufacturing saw a decrease in quitting. Following the pandemic, these two industries saw an increase in employee retention by 3.6%.
On the other hand, industries that were hit hard by the pandemic saw the highest levels of turnover. In medicine and tech, employee retention fell by a whopping 4.5%.
As a result of these statistics, Cook concluded that one of the major factors driving the Great Resignation is actually burn-out.
A Consequence of the Internet Age
The Great Resignation is far from resembling the labor unions of the past. While workers have been walking out in hopes of securing better positions, it is important to recall that this has not been a deliberately coordinated movement.
Nonetheless, social media has connected workers from across the globe.
As more and more people quit their jobs, the more that they share their experiences on the Internet. The more that they share their plans, the more that they inspire others to do the same.
A recent piece by the Washington Post found that the workers of the Big Quit often share their resignation stories online.
One Great Resignation TikToker, Taylor Reid, gained over 1.8 million views on her quitting video. Reid quit her job because she felt that she wasn’t fairly compensated for her time.
“People need to understand that employees do not deserve this type of treatment,” Reid explained. “Life is not all about working– it is about living.”
She also went on to criticize employers that do not seem to care about their workers. “And if you’re only still making ends meet…at this job (that) you hate and (that) does not appreciate you, leave.”
Thanks to social media, Reid was able to share this message with millions of people. Many of her viewers commented that they felt inspired by her choice.
In that sense, social media has made members of the Great Resignation feel more inter-connected.
What Do Today’s Workers Want?
As discussed above, the primary causes of the Great Resignation are a need for freedom, burnout, and a desire to be valued by an employer.
On one hand, this information is valuable to employers who need to build empathy with their workers. On the other hand, it can be difficult for employers to know how to provide these things to their employees.
The reality is that these ideals, like “freedom,” all sound great. But, knowing how to apply an ideal as nebulous as “freedom” to a real-life work situation is not a clear task.
In the sections below, we will discuss specific ways that companies can try to attract top talent, based on common employee demands. These strategies mostly focus on the desire for freedom and appreciation.
However, these policies should also work well to retain top talent in today’s climate.
Freedom Through Flexible Work
As we know, the economy runs on an interplay between supply and demand. However, employers must keep in mind that the job market is no exception to this rule.
According to one report by Harvard, there is currently a high demand for jobs with flexible benefits. In fact, 96% of professionals in the United States report a need for flexibility.
In contrast, only 47% of workers say that they have flexible jobs.
These numbers are even worse for women. A shockingly low 34% of women have jobs that are considered “flexible.”
Because of the low supply– and high demand– for flexible work, workers are gravitating toward companies that offer it.
Thus, companies can start offering flexible work as a way to attract top talent.
Examples of Flexible Scheduling
But, what sort of flexible work policies are the most popular? And which ones will most successfully recruit new employees?
Interestingly, the Harvard survey found that flexible schedules were one of the most popular requests.
At the top of the list was something called “TimeShift.” “TimeShift” involves ditching the traditional 9 to 5 schedule and engaging in a shift that optimizes a worker’s productivity.
Perhaps an “early morning” person could start their workday at 4 am. This would allow them to drop their kids off at school during their 7:30 am lunch break. And, it would liberate them for school pick-ups in the early afternoon.
These flexible shifts would allow a worker to get their 8 hours of work in, without compromising on other parts of their lives.
The second-most-popular request is a practice known as “MicroAgility.” MicroAgility involves adapting a shift in response to certain events.
For example, a burnt-out professional might need to take an hour off from work to do yoga. Through MicroAgility, this person could “make up” that lost hour later that evening.
The Freedom of Working Remotely (Almost)
Employees’ wish lists do not just include flexible schedules. These days, workers also strive for flexibility in terms of location.
When the pandemic hit, the remote work revolution took over. And while a full remote schedule is not for everyone, the majority of workers want something called “hybrid work.”
The “hybrid work” model encourages employees to attend work in person. However, it also allows them to work from home several days per week.
According to the aforementioned survey, a whopping 72% of workers would like to pursue a hybrid model.
But, just how hybrid are we talking about? Do potential employees know the ideal number of remote workdays?
The answer to that question is: yes. The average worker would like to work from the office for 3 days a week. This means that they would prefer to continue working from home 2 days per week.
The Freedom to Wander
And, no, we are not talking about a bunch of digital nomads wandering the world in their vans. Most workers want a sense of stability. However, they want that stability to be flexible.
While that sentence may sound paradoxical, there is a viable solution that many companies have already adopted. DeskPlus is a work location model that allows workers to work from any company office.
For example, imagine that your business has a head office in New York and a satellite office in Charlottesville.
Workers from Charlottesville would be able to spend the occasional week working from the New York office. Conversely, workers from the New York office would be able to enjoy Charlottesville from time to time.
The DeskPlus model works well because it offers professionals the best of both worlds. It permits them to enjoy occasional travel, all while providing them with the structure of an office work environment.
The model is also great for companies who want to allow their employees to travel, without compromising the benefits of in-person meetings.
Many workers find that they are more creative when collaborating in a physical office space. However, they do not want to feel tied down to a particular building for the entire working year.
DeskPlus solves this conundrum by allowing employees to maintain their sense of creative teamwork. And, as a bonus, it gives employees the much-sought freedom to wander.
Successful Talent Acquisition Solutions
As discussed in detail above, employees have a lot of suggestions as to how companies can facilitate their lives. However, not all workers know exactly what kinds of policies would truly benefit them.
While many American professionals have wonderful ideas for talent acquisition solutions, not all of these ideas have effectively been put into practice.
Fortunately, there do exist several employment policies that companies have already put into action.
Many of these policies have been quite popular with workers. And, oftentimes, they directly attack one of the biggest catalysts of the Great Resignation: employee burnout.
Fight Burnout With Minimum Vacation Days
Most companies allow their employees a maximum number of vacation days. From an employer’s perspective, this strategy simply makes sense.
After all, we can’t all go on vacation whenever we want!
Unfortunately, however, in corporate America, not everyone takes every single one of their allotted vacation days. Consequently, the average American takes off only 10 days of vacation per year. This leads to pervasive burnout.
And when we compare these numbers to the remainder of the first world, the results are alarming.
In Germany, the average worker takes 33 days off per year. Meanwhile, in England, the average worker takes off a whopping 37 days per year!
Hence, it is no wonder why Americans burn out— and quit their jobs– at a significantly higher rate than Europeans.
Indeed, the pandemic didn’t start a Great Resignation in Europe. The reason? On the other side of the Atlantic, people were not only able to take time off; they were forced to do so.
Different from the US, Europeans benefit from something called “minimum vacation days.” In other words, European workers are forced to take off a minimum number of days per year.
While this policy may sound cumbersome, it is effectively great for employers and workers alike.
This policy ensures that workers are well-rested throughout the year. And interestingly, these vacation days effectively make European workers more productive than their burnt-out American counterparts.
Unlimited Vacation Days vs. Minimum Vacation Days
It is no secret that the United States has a problem with burnout. Some tech start-ups have tried to counter this by offering their employees unlimited vacation days.
Interestingly, however, this policy doesn’t work too well in practice. The concept of “unlimited time off” can be confusing for workers, considering that nobody can truly take infinite vacation days.
And, unfortunately, many bosses aren’t willing to approve their employees’ requests for vacation. Often, bosses claim simply that “now isn’t a good time.”
But when the “right time” for a vacation never seems to present itself, employees grow restless and frustrated. Many workers feel that they can’t trust their employers. Some even accuse their employers of “lying” about time off.
Data suggests that the best way to resolve this is through minimum vacation days.
One major tech company did a data analysis to determine the ideal number of vacation days. The results of their study found that workers were most productive when they took one week of vacation three times per year.
This “ideal” amount of vacation helped relieve workers’ stress. Thus, it prevented burnout and helped the company retain top talent.
The best part, however, is that the company found that its workers were surprisingly more productive after taking their vacations.
Employees were also grateful for the obligatory vacation framework. It builds trust between a worker and their employer. And it also provides boundaries around vacation that workers can easily understand and deal with.
Mandatory Self-Care Days
“Self-care” is one of the hottest terms of the modern era. It can mean anything from getting a manicure to hiring a therapist.
However, while there are many ways to practice self-care, there is one idea central to the whole movement. People need to occasionally sit back, relax, and try to lower their stress levels.
And companies can help their employees achieve this.
Recently, several major employers have introduced mandatory, company-wide self-care days. These are days off that are sprinkled sporadically throughout the year.
The idea is to give employees the chance to unwind. They can use this time to do hot yoga, meditate, or even just clean their houses.
Ultimately, self-care days help improve company morale and combat burnout. They also increase employee satisfaction with their employers.
In the long run, this helps companies attract and retain top talent. Satisfied employees do not seek jobs at other companies.
Creating Anti-Burnout Office Spaces
Time off may be essential to employee happiness. Nonetheless, most employees spend a lot more time at the office than they do at home.
As a result, employers need to create an office space that is conducive to employee self-care.
And, yes, this can be a literal, physical place within an office.
Interestingly, a recent report found that many offices in New York have dedicated entire rooms to their employees’ mental health. One office added a meditation room to help workers destress. Another created a yoga room.
The idea is that professionals can migrate to those spaces when they are feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes, just a bit of stretching and peaceful music can help workers bring their stress levels down.
Not all companies, however, have the space to include a whole self-care room in their offices. Luckily, a lack of square footage doesn’t have to preclude company-wide self-care.
In place of an anti-burnout room, some companies offer anti-burnout services. One company boosted morale by surprising its employees with a massage voucher. Another greeted workers one cold morning with droves of hot cocoa.
These gestures allow employees to regard the office as a space that supports their self-care goals. Conversely, it helps eliminate the idea that work is the cause of an employee’s problems.
Learn More About What Workers Want
It can be difficult to understand what motivates the modern worker. Issues like freedom, burnout, and self-care are not easy to navigate. And many employers struggle to comprehend the urgency of these issues.
However, talent acquisition will be impossible for companies that are not able to respond to these issues.
Ultimately, the top talent will choose to work for employers that are able to adequately respond to their needs. As a result, hiring managers would do well to study the requests of the modern worker.
Our company blog is full of information about what professionals expect from their employers in 2022. Click here to learn more about what workers want.
The Bradford Jacobs blog can help guide you to learn more about retaining top talent in the modern climate.