June 24, 2022

Has the Great Resignation Become the Great Regret?

Lauren Kemp

What is The Great Resignation?

To best understand The Great Regret and how it may impact the future, it is helpful to gather an understanding of The Great Resignation.

You have probably heard about the record-shattering numbers of people voluntarily leaving their jobs in recent history. The Great Resignation is a term that describes the mass voluntary exit of employees from their jobs. Statistics show that in December of 2021, 4.3 million workers left their jobs, part of the 47.4 million people who left their jobs for better work during the pandemic and Great Resignation. Throughout 2021, an average of 3.98 million workers per month left their job, and there was a 125% increase in resignations in 2021 compared to 2012. 

Events with this level of impact do not simply fade into history. An aftershock of The Great Resignation is known as “The Great Regret.”

What is The Great Regret? 

The Great Regret describes the mass of people who resigned from their job and now regret their decision. According to a poll by USA Today, one in five workers regrets quitting their previous job over the past two years, and only 26% enjoy their job enough to stay. In addition, 30% of respondents believed their new job differed from their expectations, and 36% felt their work-life balance suffered from the job change. 

Helpful considerations before switching your job:

Why are you experiencing burnout?

It can be enticing to search for purpose in a new job, but can you find meaning in your current position? To avoid succumbing to job-switching, try to find the source of the problem. What is causing burnout? Are you experiencing a toxic work environment? Do daily tasks drain your energy? 

Discovering the source of your burnout will better equip you to determine if your happiness in your current role is salvageable and could be enough to reignite your passion for your current position.

A key concept to understand is that compensation does not signify money alone but rather should encompass emotional fulfillment. In short, more money does not mean less burnout. According to a Pew Research Center survey, most people who quit their jobs did so for lack of opportunity for advancement, feeling disrespected at work, and low pay. Unfortunately, many who leave their jobs say their new situation is unchanged or worse in their areas of concern compared to their last job. 

A McKinsey study found that employees seek a renewed sense of purpose in their work, along with:

  • Connections with colleagues and managers
  • A sense of shared identity
  • Feeling valued by the organization and its people
  • Meaningful interactions
  • Flexible hours

Is the new role aligned with your purpose? 

Knowing your passion or your personal “why” can change your experience with a position. When evaluating a new role, reflect if this position aligns more deeply with your “why” and if it will bring more fulfillment. The hard truth is that if you do not know why you are doing something or have no personal meaning, dissatisfaction lurks despite compensation, benefits, or other extrinsic motivators. 

What should you take away from this?

Avoid considering a job change based on a prestigious title, compensation, or benefits. Instead, weigh the positives and negatives to help avoid regretting your decision. To do this, begin by finding clarity on your “why” to ensure a new career avenue aligns with your purpose and that you do not become part of The Great Regret. 

Is The Great Regret a Great Reality Check? 

Due to the pandemic, people’s attitudes toward work and what they expect from their career has changed indefinitely. There has become a new “normal” where the quality of life is diligently considered, sometimes more so than employment.  

One positive legacy of the pandemic is that it has made work more “human,” meaning flexible working has gained greater acceptance. The pandemic strengthened openness surrounding mental health, recognition of employee worth, and other areas of emotional compensation. Unfortunately, the pandemic also increased unrealistic expectations that there is always something better in more fulfilling roles, higher salaries, and even more flexibility. 

This is not to say that people should not aspire to a rewarding career that is flexible and well-paid; however, employee expectations have become at odds with employer requirements. Job seekers may have more of their demands met than before the pandemic. However, it is easy to fall into thinking each wish is realistic.  

Combating The Great Resignation

It is important to acknowledge why people quit their jobs. Two major causes of The Great Resignation include: 

  1. Job openings: Many jobs suspended or lost during 2020 returned in 2021, meaning people had more opportunities to secure new jobs, sometimes in different industries. 
  1. Burnout: As mentioned above, burnout and lack of work-life balance significantly impact employees' lives, specifically in the healthcare industry. 

With the high level of employee dissatisfaction, even after a job change, you may begin to wonder if history will repeat itself. The costs associated with turnover are no secret. It is estimated that losing an employee can cost an organization 1.5-2 times the employee’s salary. Non-monetary costs associated with turnover include lost productivity, missed deadlines, and even damage to the brand. 

How can employers ensure employees feel valued and increase retention? 

An excellent place to begin is identifying employee satisfaction and why it is crucial. Employee satisfaction is a measure of how content an employee is with their job, but also with their work environment and overall company culture. This measure is imperative because it has significant implications on a company, including its bottom line. Satisfied employees are far more likely to be proud of their work and have a solid loyalty to the company and its values. 

Top ways to improve employee satisfaction: 

  • Celebrate employee milestones: Promotions, one-year-work anniversaries, and other achievements should be celebrated because they make employees feel personally and professionally valued as their dedication to the company has been recognized. 
  • Reward employees for high performance: It is essential that all employees feel valued and ensure that top performers are recognized for meeting achievements and going above and beyond at work. This is an excellent way to retain top talent and creates a healthy level of competition for teams to keep aiming high.
  • Promote social activities: Colleagues who like and respect one another are more likely to be happier at work and encourage others during tumultuous times. This is done by creating environments where social connection is a company value, maintaining social connection even in remote settings, and enabling teams to socialize outside of the work environment. 
  • Create a growth roadmap: Each employee should have a clear roadmap centered on growth to allow them to visualize their career development. These maps should be individual and based on skills, expertise, and areas of interest. This improves employee satisfaction as it easily allows them to visualize a long-term future at the company, asks them to think critically about and create a professional development path highlighting their skills, and keeps them involved in the company personally. 
  • Survey employees: A commonality regarding employees’ reasons to resign during The Great Resignation was toxic company culture. Working to validate employee concerns and acting upon them can help create a healthy company culture. Surveying employees allows for anonymous feedback about things managers may be unaware of. 
  • Empower employees in decision-making: Empowering employees to voice their opinions, make decisions, and bring about change provides them with an avenue to showcase their skills, shows that the company respects their ideas, and allows for greater autonomy.
  • Ongoing training: Training is readily available through programs and online options. This is an affordable way to refresh or establish skills among employees, and they are generally on short timelines.
  • Offer employee-feedback sessions: This can provide information about the condition of the work environment and any other grievances employees may have. Constructive feedback implemented in the company can help things run better within the company and help employees feel valued. 
  • Offer benefits that employees prioritize: Although emotional compensation is critical, it is essential to remember the value that benefits and traditional compensation provide to employees. Some of the benefits employees seek most include retirement plans, wellness resources, digital health care, scheduling flexibility, and hybrid work options.  
  • Hybrid work options: In some industries, the pandemic required remote work. Some workers now prefer a remote or hybrid work option upon returning to the office. Offering this can increase employee satisfaction, open the door to more talent, and even save the company money that would have been allocated to co-working spaces. This model can also improve work-life balance by eliminating commuting time to work and offers psychological benefits. 

How is The Great Resignation connected to supply chain disruptions? 

Presently two major economic and social trends have significantly impacted businesses and consumers: The Great Resignation and global supply chain disruptions. These trends may seem disconnected, but they are intertwined and feed off one another. 

According to a study by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence, the pandemic has led to 88% of employees globally re-evaluating how they define success and has commenced addressing work-life balance, mental health, and flexibility within their jobs. The pandemic has caused a detrimental exit of talent, leaving labor shortages in many industries directly associated with disruptions in supply chains that impact consumers. 

82% of Americans are scared that ongoing issues concerning supply chains will ruin their life plans, and 66% are worried that these issues will continue forever. 

There is no singular way to combat these issues. However, dedicated talent management strategies and advanced technology organizations can significantly reduce the impact of these trends on their partners and costumes by shifting to remote work or hybrid approaches. Although this method is not applicable in all industries, it is helpful for many. 

Future impacts of The Great Resignation

How will the mass resignation of 2022 affect the job market?

The labor market is expected to get closer to “normal” in 2022 but likely will not completely recover this year. Over ten million jobs needed to be recovered in 2021, and that number has decreased to four million in 2022. Although job numbers have not entirely recovered, the impact will not be as intense. 

What is happening globally?

The Great Resignation is happening globally; however, some countries are more impacted than others. Germany, Japan, China, European countries, and Asian countries have all seen similar trends to the United States. However, there has not been a Great Resignation in Canada. The Great Resignation has disrupted industries and markets within many countries and has impacted stakeholders, employees, employers, and communities. 

How long will this trend last? 

It has been projected that 2021 will be the height of The Great Resignation and that similar trends will continue through 2022. By the third quarter of 2022, the job market is expected to begin stabilizing. These are just predictions; however, most people believe 2021 was the peak. This trend will also be affected by the huge number of people who will continue working from home. As job flexibility increases, workers will be more likely to keep they jobs they attain, thus lessening the effects of the Great Resignation.

What can we infer from the past? 

The Great Resignation is significant compared to historically similar events. Compared to 2012, more than double the number of people quit their jobs monthly. The past decade has been a historical anomaly, as can be seen during 2009, when job quitting rates were some of the lowest they have ever been, compared to 2021, which had some of the highest rates in history. 

Overall, The Great Resignation is being felt in many industries, communities, and countries. The Great Regret highlights the impact of the mass exodus that grew from the pandemic and has shown just how widespread its influence has reached. Fortunately, employers can improve employee satisfaction, thus increasing employee retention and creating an overall healthier work environment. 

Written by Lauren Kemp

Lauren Kemp, Communications and Marketing Specialist at J2T, earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management with a minor in Latin American studies and a Master of Science in Innovation and Management from Montana State University. Lauren hails from Montana and enjoys reading about the history of her home state. Her bucket-list items include touring the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, and taking an immersion trip to Chile to experience Latin American culture first-hand.