Employees in today’s global economy are driving some of the most significant changes in workplace history due to what experts are calling “The Great Resignation” and, more recently, “The Great Reshuffle.” Following a period of unprecedented uncertainty and disruption, millions of workers are leaving their jobs in search of a better work-life balance and a workplace more aligned with their values. But there is some evidence this seismic shift started even before the pandemic.
Before we get to that, we need to realize that business as we knew it is never coming back. How we work, both from the employee or employer standpoint is changed forever. From the employee’s standpoint, the status quo is no longer good enough. For all the destruction Covid created, it gave us a moment of pause to think about what we really want out of our lives and careers.
Employee acquisition and retention have been at the top of the list of greatest struggles for employers in all industries over the course of the pandemic. And it’s expected to stay that way for the majority of 2022. Experts have debated what to call these business and employment transformations. In this blog, I’m going to focus on the two that I believe represent what most employees and employers are experiencing.
The Great Resignation
A phenomenon that economists and employment experts have called the “Great Resignation” took hold globally over the course of the pandemic. After years of anxiety, soul searching, and overall burnout, people have taken a step back and reassessed their lives. Reflecting on roles, whether they are valued and whether their skills are being utilized, workers have emerged with a stronger sense of what they want from work and what they are willing to accept.
Many younger workers in entry-level jobs, who have been a large part of the Great Resignation in pandemic-ravaged sectors such as hospitality and retail, are also finding the careers that work best for them. A year ago, in April 2021, the number of workers who quit their job in a single month broke an all-time U.S. record and continued for several months after that. Though it’s happening in most industries, sectors such as leisure and hospitality saw large quantities of people leaving.
Rent and/or eviction moratoriums, furlough support, and loan and mortgage deferments have given people (especially the young) the ability to quit their current jobs and look for other employment opportunities. But to claim that government aid solely fueled the Great Resignation is misleading. One myth that spread quickly was that young people didn’t want to work because they were getting by on government aid. This may have been the case for some, but the numbers don’t support that narrative.
It turns out that early retirement, whether forced by the pandemic or made possible another way, is playing a big role in this labor market evolution. The pandemic clearly impacted labor via sickness, layoffs, childcare needs, and any number of personal issues. But among those who have left and are not able to (or don’t want to) return, the vast majority are older Americans who accelerated their retirement.
In many ways, the pandemic has given people the chance to rethink and consider how they can do better for themselves, making the “Great Resignation” a statement of optimism moving forward.
The Great Reshuffle
There has been a lot of confusion about what these “Great” names truly mean. Evidence shows that we are currently in what people are calling the “Great Reshuffle.” Employees at all compensation levels have been seeking higher pay, flexibility, and better work-life balance. As job postings massively increased and labor shortages negatively impacted various industries of the economy, many Americans have realized that they can seek better opportunities if their wants and needs aren’t being met
And the data backs it up. Those who leave their jobs can earn more money elsewhere than by staying put in their current job. Having confidence that there are higher-paying jobs helps explain why so many people can change jobs or quit freely.
While the “Great Resignation” implies people are leaving the workforce, a large number of workers are simply reconfiguring what their jobs and careers look like. Some resignations are people taking sabbaticals, others retiring early or dropping out of the workforce to care for their families. But that only tells part of the story.
Workers aren’t just leaving the workforce; millions of people are reconfiguring their careers. Some are leveraging the current hiring crisis to get into positions that better fit their lives. Others have decided to become their own bosses and work for themselves, with the number of self-employed workers in the U.S. rising by 500,000 since the pandemic.
For others, they are shifting into new industries and careers that offer better wages that align more with their values. People are looking for (and finding) jobs that give them the right pay, benefits and work arrangements for the long term. They are not quitting just to quit.
The ability to work remotely means opportunities have opened up for many workers who now have access to thousands of new roles previously off-limits due to location. As a means of attracting talent, many employers are either adapting their working models to hybrid or fully remote or offering higher wages to respond to this new reality.
The impact on the PR industry
As was the case for all industries, PR agencies and departments were not immune to the Covid impact and the Great Resignation and Reshuffle. The attrition rate in PR & advertising has been a worry for most leading agencies for a while. Some people are leaving agencies because of better opportunities on the client-side. Agency folks moving to the client-side is not a new occurrence, but it has increased since the pandemic started. Better pay and better work-life balance are often cited as the main reasons.
The PR and comms industry has always been known for hard work and long hours in providing services to clients. There isn’t a lot that can be done about that, so agencies are getting creative in what they can offer as far as increased compensation, offering work from home and other outside the box offerings.
What else can companies do?
To retain good employees or attract new ones, employers are offering incentives such as higher salaries, flexible schedules, remote-work options, merit increases and referral bonuses. Beyond pay, here are a few other areas employers should be focusing on:
- Create a legitimate feedback culture and give employees a voice. Listen to them and act upon their expressed needs.
- Focus on developing and investing in your people, which will help create and sustain a talent pool within your organization.
- Consider repositioning the way you brand your company by investing in initiatives to attract the best people in your field.
The last 2+ years of working through the pandemic have shown that companies that succeed can maintain their business while also providing employees with some of these incentives and new ways of working. And as mentioned earlier, it’s more apparent than ever that employees are placing a lot of value on this. What’s a win for the employee doesn’t have to be a loss for the employer. If both sides work together to achieve the best results, it can be a win/win for all involved parties as we all navigate this unchartered territory.
Burrelles continues to stay on top of the latest changes in the industry to bring you the best services tailored specifically to your needs. Our media monitoring provides both automated, software-based measurement, and the option for human-verified, qualitative coverage—both online and off. You can contact us here for more information and to discuss your specific needs.