I have been in HR for 20 years. I have seen all sorts of things in dozens of different industries. I worked through SARS, upswings and downswings, and many different governments. Let me be very clear that I have NEVER seen a mass exodus of employees like this and there are some very good reasons for it.
So, what does this look like in reference to "the great resignation"? Let me break it down.
Retirement - people who may have worked even 10 years longer looked at their world during a pandemic and decided that this was not what they wanted. People in their 50s who had planned to work longer have sold houses in urban areas and bought small places in the country. They have done the math and will make it work with some consulting or freelancing.
Childcare - To say that women bore the brunt of the pandemic is now laughable to even have to mention. The world relies on women's unpaid labour - in all levels of work, women have been decimated by society's unrealistic expectations. Women exited the workforce in alarming numbers, and they have been unable to return. Unstable daycare, unavailable childcare, and the mental health challenges they face due to the absolute trauma of working 24 hours a day 7 days a week for 2 years mean they are not ready to return - not yet.
Short-term and Long-Term Leave - I did disability case management for years. I know what normal rates of leaves look like. These are not them friends. Stress leave, stress-induced medical complications, long COVID, and all the previous reasons that people took leave mean that an alarming number of people are on leave at this very moment.
Career Change Part 1 (2020 - 2021) - COVID meant that a large number of workers were suddenly unemployed - airlines, servers, restaurant staff, theatre employees, and more. While they were trying to stay safe - many of them found the time to aim for something new. Many of them decided to head in a new direction. Many of them have found a whole new career. But this means that specific sectors are short-staffed, and many have no job openings. So, it is a weird pattern.
Career Change Part 2 (2022 - present) What do you get when people attack nurses and doctors and call them liars? What do you get when our government goes after teachers and education workers? When they continue to publicly attack the women. Well, just the same thing that you would do. They are leaving.
Shocking that when you refuse to give a cost-of-living increase to people, they leave.
Shocking when you purposefully underfund education and healthcare people leave. (I am certain this is being done intentionally) For reference please see the following:
If you want to read all about it, please read the Financial Accountability Office's report on public sector salaries. Please note the part where it talks about how Bill 124 has impacted wages. Then they follow up with how now there is a staffing crisis. SHOCK, GASP. It is like they did it on purpose. Also, yes - the government was sued for implementing Bill 124 and we won against them. Bill 124 is illegal.
The gig economy - Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, entrepreneurs. The world of work has changed. I don't think for the better. Why is it that any amount of flexibility comes with the complete loss of safety, security, benefits & more? The gig economy is the biggest issue that we will have to grapple with in the next 10 years, but I know (as a person who runs a company called Moms at Work) that much of it is a response to the total lack of support in our society for caregivers and women and disabled individuals. How do I know? I am a woman, disabled, and a caregiver, and work didn't work for me.
If you are losing top talent, talent, anyone really - there are many things you can do:
- Get serious about offering part-time. If you cannot fill a full-time job - see if you can fill a job share or 2 part-time roles.
- Start talking about flexibility - ask your staff. Different shifts, hybrid, remote roles, core hours. No one wants a yoga class at lunch Steve - they want to be able to attend a doctor's appointment and not feel guilty.
- Get transparent about what you are offering in your job post. What does it pay, what are the hours, where is the job located (be specific - people are getting picky)
- Talk about why what you do matters. Now, this may be hard for some companies (cough oil companies, cough union busting businesses - cough Starbucks) but many people have valid trust issues after being treated like garbage during COVID. So show them how you will value them.
- Ignore career gaps. Asking someone what they were doing during July 2020 and August 2021 is unnecessary - quietly whisper (oh right a pandemic) and move on with your life.
- Ask people what they need. Do people need more vacation time? Fewer hours? Bigger projects? More independence? Many of the things employees need are absolutely free or very low cost - shame you would lose an employee of 10 years because they are feeling unchallenged and you never asked.
Allison Venditti is a Career Coach, HR Expert, salary negotiation whisperer, and pay transparency and equity advocate. She is the founder of Moms at Work Canada's largest organization committed to helping women earn more money, land better jobs, and build community. All with a LARGE HELPING of advocacy baked in.