Dealing with the Great Resignation

In May 2021, a professor of management at University College London’s School of Management coined the term “Great Resignation,” referring to the high spike in voluntary resignations from the global workforce in the wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Workers in the fields of healthcare, education, and hospitality have been noted as those most likely to quit their current jobs amidst this event. The Great Resignation has great implications for employee recruitment and retention in the U.S. and measures should be taken to understand it and what it holds for the future. 

Several different factors have been proposed to be behind the Great Resignation and most of them stem from the pandemic itself. At the top of list is that the Covid-19 pandemic allowed workers to re-examine their workplaces and consider their careers, work conditions, and personal goals. New measures to combat the pandemic such as government stimulus checks and increased unemployment benefits gave many workers the first chance in years to safely step away from their established jobs without risking being unable to cover their bills and basic needs. Another proposed cause to the rising number of resignations is Long COVID. Long COVID refers to the long-term symptoms that those who caught COVID-19 experience after the normal recuperation time. These symptoms often alter a worker’s ability or desire to return to work after catching COVID-19.

What is interesting about the Great Resignation is that it has not necessarily translated to global unemployment rates going up. Instead, several researchers have even suggested that the event resembles more of a great “reshuffling” since most workers that resign end up being hired to a different job. This reinforces the proposal that job dissatisfaction is one of the key factors behind the trend. 

As workers continue to quit in record numbers, job retention has risen to the top of many companies’ list of priorities. To retain their employees during this time businesses need to start looking at the reasons why employees are feeling dissatisfied. There is no easy answer but I will point out a few common reasons that researchers have proposed.


Inflexible Remote Work Strategies – Many workers got accustomed to the flexible nature of working remotely and were dissatisfied being forced to go back to the office.

Toxic Work Environments – Pre-pandemic reports show that many employees worked at places that had toxic company cultures and were unable to leave due to fear of financial instability. Having time away from their workplaces due to the pandemic and remote-work opportunities allowed many workers to realize just how harmful these environments were to their productivity and mental health.

Wage Stagnation – Growth in “real wages,” which is the value of the dollars paid to employees after adjusting for inflation, has slowed in the United States since the 70s. The two leading explanations for this is the rising influx of cheap goods from China, which has caused the wages of domestic manufacturing jobs to drop, as well as advances in technology that have led to the automation of more jobs. These two factors have made it increasingly difficult for employers to offer competitive wages and many employees are seeking out jobs less effected by wage stagnation in the wake of Covid-19.

Limited Opportunities for Career Advancement – Pre-pandemic, many employers were not emphasizing or promoting career advancement for their employees. The opportunity for career advancement is something that many employees look for when deciding if they should stay with an employer.

So as an employer, how can you take precautions against the Great Resignation? You could consider

  • Reviewing and updating policies that reflect company culture,
  • Providing wage increases,
  • Providing opportunities for career advancement,
  • Providing flexible remote-work policies,
  • Updating employee benefits, and
  • Updating employee training and development opportunities.

The Private Corporate Counsel can help you analyze the unique dynamics of your workplace and help you establish policies to retain key talent. Book a free consultation today to speak to one of our business lawyers and learn more.

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