Over the past year I’ve written extensively about the Great Resignation, highlighting it as one of the top workplace trends for 2022 and offering ways for employers to combat employee burnout, promote mental health, and support working parents. However, some leaders have begun to point out that it’s probably more accurate to refer to this shift as the “Great Reshuffle” — let’s explore why.
It’s true that a record 4.4 million U.S. workers — 3% of the entire workforce — left their jobs in September. It’s also true that there are 5 million fewer people in the labor market today than there were prior to the pandemic, reflecting an all-around lower labor force participation rate.
But other sources indicate that most employees aren’t actually abandoning the world of work entirely. In an interview with TIME, LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky described his company’s findings around this: “[…] we started noticing an interesting trend probably six months ago. We tracked the percentage of all the members on LinkedIn that changed their jobs in their LinkedIn profile. Looking at that data at the end of September, that number is currently up 54% year over year. So, there is an unprecedented talent reshuffle happening globally.”
And something for organizations to take note of, Roslansky added, is that this shift is much more pronounced among younger workers. LinkedIn’s data revealed that job transitions for Gen Z are up 80% year over year, and among Millennials that number is 50%. While Gen X isn’t too far behind at 31%, among Baby Boomers there’s only been a 5% increase in job transitions.
Other research confirms this trend. For example, a survey from Bankrate found that 55% of U.S. workers expect to search for a new job over the next year. However, nearly twice as many Gen Z and Millennial workers as Baby Boomers said they’re planning to look for new employment soon (77% and 63% versus 33%, respectively).
This isn’t too surprising, given that younger employees typically have more freedom and flexibility to job-hop. But it does send a clear signal to employers that if they want to avoid losing their talent — whether it’s to the great reshuffle or the great resignation — then it’s a good idea to focus on what really matters to their people, and especially the youngest members of their staff.
Over the past few months, I’ve spoken with several CEOs about how they’re navigating the new world of work and what they’re doing to retain their team members during this unpredictable time period. Here’s what they shared:
Offer flexibility, but not at the expense of work-life balance
One commonality among the leaders I spoke with is that their companies all offer some degree of flexibility, whether it’s a fully remote set-up or hybrid work arrangements. They’re among a growing number of businesses who recognize that not only is remote work just as productive, but it’s also quickly becoming a non-negotiable for most employees. A study from my company and Kahoot! found that 77% of employees want to work remotely at least part of the time, and other research revealed that 1 out of 6 people will quit if they can’t continue working remotely.
However, while the remote work experiment was largely successful in terms of employee productivity, it came at the huge cost of mental health and burnout. That’s because employees have essentially exchanged the time they used to spend commuting for more time working. Data from the latest State of Remote Work report reflects this trend, finding that 55% of remote workers say they work more hours, with 30% of men and 21% of women working two or more extra hours per day.
In my conversation with Pieter Omvlee, CEO of Sketch, he agreed that people over-committing to work is far more common than people trying to get away with not working enough. And it’s an issue his company is actively trying to address. “For example, we have an unlimited holidays policy,” he said. “Our employees don’t always take us up on that, but the idea is to really show that we want them to take the time to recharge. We want them to be well at work, and that means being well outside of work as well.”
“We also have flexible work hours,” he added. “So if you have a haircut appointment during work hours, that's fine. And of course, each manager is supposed to check in with their team members to make sure that they actually do take us up on those holidays and take enough time off. Sometimes you have to tell people, ‘No, really — go away. I don't want to see you next week.’ But that doesn't happen too often!”
Take a human-centric approach to training and development
New research from my company and Oracle revealed that 85% of people aren’t satisfied with their employer’s career support. This lack of support can have a notable effect on retention, according to a study from software company Amdocs. Their research found that 64% of employees would leave their job due to a lack of growth opportunities and inadequate training and development, and 90% feel it’s very important that a potential employer offers a strong training and upskilling program.
When I spoke with Lucy Suros, CEO of Articulate, she agreed that now is a critical time for organizations to renew their focus on workforce development. She also described the importance of democratizing training. “Best-in-class companies are using this opportunity to really rethink their training programs and build a culture of learning,” she shared. “Everyone has something to say that’s worth listening to, but companies are seeing this knowledge walk out the door with the great resignation.”
“When you democratize training development, people can share what they know in a way that recognizes them as a whole human. But you need to give them the technology tools so they can easily create their own online training, and make sure that this training is fun to create, it's really enjoyable to take, and it's engaging. When you do that, not only will you be fostering a growth mindset, but you'll also get the power of all the thinking and knowledge in your organization.”
It’s a great approach, and it goes hand-in-hand with other articles I’ve written on the need for stronger mentoring programs and how businesses can upskill or reskill their people for the post-COVID workplace. Employers like Walmart and Amazon are investing in cross-training their staff to provide them with more room for career growth, and firms like PwC, KPMG, and Ernst & Young are customizing graduate programs so they include training in company skillsets and experience working on actual projects.
Really listen to your employees, and act on their feedback
Earlier this year, my company partnered with The Workforce Institute at UKG to study the state of employee voice. Our survey revealed that the vast majority (86%) of workers feel people at their organization are not heard fairly or equally. And, fewer than 1 in 3 employees said they were able to voice their opinions or ideas on post-COVID-19 workplace policies, work arrangements, and employee support (e.g., reducing burnout).
There’s no question that companies should be doing more to listen to their employees if they want them to stick around — especially if their workforce is remote. However, employers also need to act on the input they receive. “Employees count on their managers to not just listen to their feedback, but embrace and meaningfully act upon it,” explained Dr. Chris Mullen, Executive Director of The Workforce Institute at UKG. And when this doesn’t happen, he added, “employees feel like another cog in the machine rather than a crucial contributor to company success.”
When I spoke with Michael Dell, Founder and CEO of Dell Technologies, he also emphasized the need to take action and move quickly on issues as they arise. “When you find a problem, fix it as fast as you can,” he shared. “It’s pretty simple, but it works. Nobody comes to you and says, I wish you would've waited longer to make that decision. So don't hesitate to have the difficult conversations to get things back on track and fixed.”
It’s true that in work and in life, actions speak louder than words. And as Dell emphasized, acting promptly could be critically important right now. Because whether we call it the great reshuffle or the great resignation, the outcome of this trend will almost certainly be a talent shortage for many organizations. And even if you’re not presently concerned about turnover at your business, this could quickly shift because employees often wait until the new year to search for a new job — and that's right around the corner.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn!