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What is The Great Resignation?


You may have heard of the Great Resignation, a term referring to a mass of employees quitting their jobs. But what is actually happening, and what does this trend mean for recruiters?

The phrase was coined by Anthony Klotz, a Texas A&M University professor, to refer to the phenomenon of a large percentage of the workforce quitting. One of the most oft-cited sources for this is a Microsoft report that shows that 41% of employees globally are thinking of quitting their jobs in the next year, from January 2021 data. In 2021, over 47M Americans quit their jobs according to the U.S. Beauro of Labor.

Compared to 2019, an already record high year for quits with 40.2M, there is a significant increase in resignations. Employees are looking for a change.

Demand for a Hybrid Workplace

It’s not hard to understand that employees are dissatisfied with their employment, with so many changes and stressors from the pandemic. Workers are burned out and don’t see eye-to-eye with their employers about remote work. For example, from Prudential March 2021 data, 42% of U.S. employees would quit if not offered remote working options long term.

At the same time, there is plenty of evidence that employees also want the connections of in-person work. From the same Prudential report, 68% say the ideal model has work both remotely and at the work site. 87% would want to work remotely at least one day a week once the pandemic subsides, and 2 in 3 believe in-person interactions are beneficial for their careers.

The future of work looks to be a hybrid model between in-person and remote. If workers are not satisfied with the current work model and resources offered, they will be looking for employment elsewhere.

Causes of the Great Resignation

Many of these resignations are women who have left work to take care of children as the guarantee of childcare at school was disrupted by the pandemic. Women have exited the workforce at twice the rate of men during the pandemic. One in three mothers have scaled back their work or left their jobs. This in turn affects the sectors where women make up a greater percentage of the workforce: in healthcare, retail and hospitality. The lack of sufficient childcare services and parental leave was already pushing women out of the workplace, and it was exacerbated by the pandemic’s disruption of school.

The disruption of the pandemic may have given people the opportunity to consider change. With the job market strong, it may be a good time for employees to negotiate for better conditions and benefits, and if they can’t get that at their current workplace, they will look elsewhere.

From the Harvard Business Review, the greatest increase in resignation rates in 2021 was for those in their mid-career, ages 30-45. It's possible that those in the middle of their career feel more secure in their positions as companies have struggled to train entry-level workers remotely and feel they can negotiate or find a better job. The resignations of 2021 may also have been delayed resignations from 2020, people who wanted to quit but were too uncertain of finding new work in the pandemic.

Health care and tech saw more resignations, as well as fields that saw great increases in demands during the pandemic, probably leading to employee stress and burnout.

Recruitment Strategies

With more people considering resignation or looking for new employment, recruiters must be both proactive to retain their talent and secure your talent pipeline. You need to know what factors are pushing out your employees, and what is essential for keeping them. Can they grow with your company? Are they satisfied with the available benefits?

One place to start is with the hybrid work model. What aspects of remote and in-person work are functioning? An alarming number of employees do not have the essentials to work at home, with 42% lacking office essentials, and 10% dealing with inadequate internet. Only 46% say employers are helping with remote work expenses. With the frustration of technical difficulties and digital burnout, a dysfunctional remote work set-up could drive your employees away.

When remote-work is functional, it can be a boon to recruiters. With access to people all over, your talent pool for remote work is much larger. Additionally, diverse applicants are more likely to apply to remote jobs, such as women and people of color. Gen Z and people without graduate degrees are also more likely to apply to remote jobs.

You might also consider making your hiring expectations more flexible. Consider non-traditional applicants and review your qualifications to make sure they are truly essential, or else they will drive away applicants. 


With so many people resigning, whether leaving the workforce entirely or looking for new employment, recruiters must adapt or fall behind. 

Finally, celebrate your staff. It has been widely shown that employees who feel respected and valued will work harder, smarter, and be personally invested in their role. Consider an employee marketing campaign that will shine a light on the value of individual staff members. This not only shows that your organization recognizes and appreciates the work of their employees but sends messaging to potential candidates that your organization is a place where people thrive. 

A critical look at your state of recruiting and retention is essential. With the state of the workplace changing, it’s time to get creative. Be flexible and use this opportunity to take advantage of an out-of-the box mentality that wasn’t welcomed pre-pandemic.  One thing we can all say for sure, is that many of the old rules don’t apply. Which could prove a very good thing in the long run for both employer and employee.

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