The Great Resignation Explained: Facts, Figures, and Causes

In 2021, the world was still facing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, like lockdowns and the global recession. This was also when the so-called Great Resignation started, which describes the elevated rate at which employees in the United States started quitting their jobs.

There have been numerous opinions as to what is truly driving this Great Resignation, but a March survey by Pew Research Center showed that low pay (63%), lack of opportunities for advancement (63%), and feeling disrespected at work (57%) were the top reasons why employees quit their job last year.

Whether or not the Great Resignation affects your company, this development should motivate you to prioritize employee retention. The infographic below will give a breakdown of the Great Resignation and tips for improving your company’s retention rates.

The Great Resignation by the Numbers: Occupational Employment Statistics

The term “The Great Resignation” was coined in May 2021 by Anthony Klotz, a professor of business administration at Texas A&M University. Klotz theorized that the initial boom of quitting workers was caused by a delay in their decision to leave in pre-pandemic times, when they were already burned out, unhappy, and reevaluating life choices.

The Great Resignation has hugely impacted small and multinational businesses, forcing them to implement better systems and offer flexible work setups.

Studies and surveys have been published by different organizations about the Great Resignation. Let’s look at some of them.

  • A Pew Research Center survey in March 2022 found that most workers quit their jobs in 2021 because of low pay (63%), no opportunities for advancement (63%), and feeling disrespected at work (57%).
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers released its U.S. Pulse Survey in August 2021 and found that 65% of employees are looking for a new job, and 88% of executives noticed a higher turnover than normal in their companies.
  • In Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, over 40% of the global workforcee considered leaving their job in 2021.
  • CNBC reported that “nearly 4.3 million employees quit their jobs in January 2022, and almost 48 million people quit in 2021.
  • Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at Glassdoor, noted that job resignations are still up 23% above pre-pandemic levels.

What’s Driving the Great Resignation?

It isn’t easy to pinpoint a single reason workers are resigning from their posts. But if there’s one thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, it’s that more people have prioritized their health and well-being. Due to this shift, employees are now less willing to work in a hostile environment and will not hesitate to look for opportunities elsewhere.

To improve your understanding of The Great Resignation, awareness of the trend’s main drivers is a must.

1. Toxic company culture

Failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, workers feeling disrespected, and unethical behavior are the main elements of toxic workplace culture. This is the biggest factor that drives employees to leave their jobs in the Great Resignation, according to MIT Sloan.

2. Failure to recognize strong performers

Companies that cannot recognize and reward their outstanding talents tend to have a high attrition rate. Sometimes it’s not about the compensation, but the informal and financial recognition deserving employees seek.

3. Preference to work remotely

The pandemic accelerated the work-from-home trend that many companies are doing today, and it’s a trend that’s likely to become the norm. Limeade reports that 40% of job switchers were attracted to their new positions because of remote work conditions.

4. Inadequate compensation

The same Limeade report also revealed that 37% of job changers were attracted to their new positions because of the better salary offer. With the rising prices of essential goods and the cost of living, it makes sense for employees to desire a job that can offer enough to sustain their needs.

5. Burnout

The World Health Organization defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” This phenomenon can hurt your employees’ quality of work, commitment, and loyalty.

You must implement proper care to help your employees lessen their physical and emotional exhaustion.

What Can Managers Do? Tips to Improve Employee Retention

As an employer, what can you do to prevent a mass exodus in your organization?

1. Make employee well-being a priority

Create a culture where it is customary to ask employees, “Does anyone feel overwhelmed at the moment?” Try to have daily or weekly meetings with your teams to know their current work capacity and to-do list.

Aside from weekends, you can also implement mandatory time-off for everyone, assuming their workload is manageable. Okta CEO Todd McKinnon puts it this way: “If you really want to take the pressure off the team, you have to adjust the workload.”

2. Provide flexible working options

The pandemic proves that employees do not need to be in the office to do their jobs. Although some workers are eager to return, others have no intention of returning to the office—at least not permanently.

Millennials and Gen Z will consider quitting their jobs if their employers are not flexible about remote work. Nowadays, companies are going 100% remote or moving to a hybrid workforce model. Whatever you choose for your organization, have a policy that can at least allow employees to work during the times that suit their lifestyle.

3. Do not tolerate disrespect and discrimination

If discrimination is one of the reasons workers leave your organization, implement a zero-tolerance against it. This does not mean you will punish your employees automatically, but rather, take the time to train your staff to prevent such instances and mediate any issues that arise in the workplace.

If there is a discrimination complaint, always remember that as a manager or employer, you must maintain an open mind for everyone involved, treat the complainant with respect and compassion, follow proper procedures, keep things confidential, and not retaliate since it’s against the law to do so.

4. Introduce career possibilities within the company

One of the best ways to stop your employees from “leaving for greener pastures” is to introduce job opportunities within your organization. For instance, you can ask them if they want to explore a more challenging position in a different department.

By introducing a career growth framework, your employees can develop their skills and what more they can do to grow further. You can also do peer-to-peer feedback from workmates, constructive reviews with managers, and set up a mentoring scheme with superiors.

5. Push for competitive salary and transparency

This won’t be an honest guide if wages are not mentioned. With families battling inflation, money remains an essential factor for employees. If you wish to hold onto your talented and reliable employees, be prepared to pay competitive salaries and meet demands for increases if they arise. You can refer to the occupational employment statistics (OES) for proper wages.

Improving Retention in The Great Resignation

There are a lot of reasons why employees are resigning from their jobs. While some may be beyond your control, there are things that you can do to retain your best employees. With the tips above in mind, improving your company’s retention rates will be easier.

To better manage resignation and retention issues, don’t hesitate to consult with an employment lawyer from Shegerian and Associates. From subtle workplace concerns to grave discrimination cases, having a legal professional on deck will allow you to handle such situations with care.

Manuela Varela

Relations Manager

Manuela Varela has been with Shegerian & Associates since August 2022. She is responsible for outreach and marketing on behalf of the firm and manages relationships between firms and referring attorneys. She is also responsible for developing business opportunities and affiliations. Manuela graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Economics and Political Science.