A decade ago, the labour market was tight with employers having an ample pool of talent to choose from. Today, it’s a different story. The workforce is hungry for talent with more vacant positions to fill than talent to fill them. The Great Resignation is far from over and here’s why.
In a recent article with Fast Company, future of work expert Eric Termuende predicts new waves of worker unrest and explores why the changes we’re seeing today are just the beginning, especially as some companies seek a permanent return to the office post-pandemic.
“In America alone,” Eric writes, “there are 11 million vacant positions and only 6.5 million people to fill them.” Falling birth rates, slowed, immigration, record retirement, an exploding gig economy, and, of course, the worldwide pandemic has contributed to today’s perfect storm, he continues.
Employees today have unprecedented power, leaving leaders with the choice to embrace change or lose out in the future of work. A “workforce reconfiguration is not only overdue — but necessary for the workplace of the future,” Eric writes.
Below is a summary of Eric’s predictions for what comes next and how leaders can prepare.
Wave 1: Change by Force (2020-Present)
At the beginning of the pandemic, organizations had no choice but to send their employees home and quickly adapt to a remote work model — a feat some were able to achieve better than others.
This shift jumpstarted the first wave of the Great Resignation as people were forced to adjust their lives to this new world of work and meet the demands of the pandemic. “… many [people] moved, others looked for different work, and some explored new ways of living,” Eric writes.
The US saw 69 million people quit or switch jobs in 2021, Eric said. This “mass exodus” has already had, and will continue to have, a significant impact on the make-up of the workforce. It’s estimated that this number includes two million women having exited the workforce, many to be full-time mothers during the pandemic, as well as about 28.6 million Baby Boomers retiring. “The loss of these two demographics completely transforms our future work environment,” Eric writes.
On the flipside, this dramatic change in the workforce has propelled people to rethink how we do and view work, Eric continues. Leadership development has been kicked into overdrive to meet the demands of the new workforce, including asynchronous workspaces, increased flexibility, and new and improved work benefits.
Wave 2: Change by Choice (Present-June 2022)
With decreasing COVID restrictions, we’re seeing a call for people to return to the office. “To be clear,” Eric writes, “there are no outside forces mandating us back — leadership is.”
This call has been met with mixed reactions from the workforce. Eric predicts that we will see more people quit in the coming months, giving employees the upper hand. Leaders will be forced to change their policies to attract and retain talent. Something that is already happening in well-established corporations, Eric writes, including Wells Fargo, Ford, and Microsoft.
Wave 3: Picking Favourites (June 2022-December 2022)
This wave, Eric writes, will happen over time. As “A-players” demand to stay remote, leaders will be forced to provide that flexibility or risk losing their top talent. However, if some employees are forced to return while others aren’t, leaders may see a growing amount of animosity, disdain, and envy within the office. This will lead to people seeking more flexible jobs elsewhere.
On the flipside, if leaders are unable to successfully create a harmonious hybrid workplace, remote workers may feel excluded and look for new jobs that offer an all-remote office. It’s important now for leaders to learn how to best manage the individual needs of their employees and foster a healthy team culture within a hybrid environment to prevent this from happening to their organizations.
Wave 4: Kicking the Can Down the Field (December 2022-June 2023)
This wave will occur if leaders are entrenched in traditional leading styles. Many companies, Eric writes, are still working within a carrot-and-stick methodology — luring top talent by waving extra cash and bonuses at them — vs. investing in a solid culture strategy that employees want to be a part of.
The carrot-and-stick methodology is great for attracting talent, Eric continues, but not keeping it. “Those who forget to improve culture and workplace experience will see high turnover rates in the next 8-12 months because they hire people who aren’t a good fit,” he writes. To curb this, Eric recommends leaders invest in long-term solutions, otherwise they won’t be happy with the end results.
Organizations that re-frame the Great Resignation as the “Great Reconfiguration” will create better, happier workplace environments yielding long-term success in the future of work.
A globally recognized thought leader, bestselling author, and speaker, Eric Termuende brings a fresh perspective to workplace culture and the future of work. His actionable and entertaining keynotes leave audiences energized, empowered, and equipped with the tools needed to thrive in the future of work.