More than 4 million people have left their jobs every month in the United States so far this year – and according to new research, this record-breaking trend will not end immediately.
About 40% of U.S. workers are considering quitting their current jobs over the next 3-6 months, according to a report by McKinsey & Co. published last week, which surveyed 6,294 Americans between February and April, found.
“This is not just a transient trend, or a pandemic-related change in the labor market,” said Bonnie Dowling, one of the authors of the report, about the high end rates. “There has been a fundamental shift in the workers’ mentality, and their willingness to prioritize other things in their lives beyond what job they have … we never go back to how things were in 2019.”
Such conversations about “The Great Resignation” often focus on why people quit – low pay, few opportunities for career development, an inflexible work schedule – but what we hear less often is what happens after people leave work.
McKinsey and Co. also spoke to more than 2,800 people in six countries – the United States, Australia, Canada, Singapore, India and the United Kingdom – who left their full-time jobs over the past two years to find out where the workers are going.
Almost half of those who leave the job change industry
Around 48% of people who quit have pursued new opportunities in various industries, the report found.
Dowling points to two factors driving this emigration: pandemic-induced burnout and better chances of securing a higher paid role in a tight labor market.
“Many people realized how volatile or insecure their industry was during the pandemic, especially those who worked on the front lines,” says Dowling.
At the same time, companies are still struggling to attract and retain employees – a pattern that would undoubtedly have caused a lot of headaches for HR departments across the United States, but which has also opened the door for job seekers to take advantage of new opportunities that may have been out of reach before. pandemic.
“Several employers have opened the door to meet the gaping talent gap they face,” Dowling adds. “They prioritize skills over educational background or previous work experience, which creates more opportunities across job search sectors.”
Some industries lose talent faster than others: More than 70% of workers leaving the consumer / retail and finance / insurance jobs either switched industries or left the workforce altogether, compared with 54% of health and education workers who did a such a switch.
Of the people who left without a new job in hand, almost half (47%) chose to return to the workforce – but only 29% returned to a traditional full-time job, the report notes. These percentages come from one March McKinsey & Co. survey of 600 American workers who voluntarily left a job without another showing up.
The remaining 18% of people either found a new role with reduced hours through temporary work, gaming or part-time work or decided to start their own business.
“People no longer tolerate toxic bosses and toxic cultures because they can go and find other ways to make money without being in a negative situation,” Dowling says. “There are more opportunities for work now than ever before with our increased connectivity.”
More people are choosing to be their own boss: During the pandemic, new business applications grew by more than 30%, with almost 5.4 million new applications in 2021 alone, the White House said in a press release from April.
It’s not just about escaping a toxic work environment either. Such non-traditional pursuits also fulfill people’s growing desire for flexibility. The freedom to work anywhere, or choose your own hours, has become the most coveted benefit during the pandemic – so much so that people value flexibility as much as a 10% pay rise, according to surveys from the WFH Research Project.
A rapid end may continue through 2022 unless companies make “meaningful” changes
Even with a possible recession on the horizon, Dowling expects people to continue quitting and changing jobs at high prices in the months ahead.
Much of the trend has been driven by a “drastic” change in social norms around quitting. “For a long time you did not leave a job unless you had another in line – that was what everyone was taught and what people did,” she says. “But it’s changed so dramatically over the last 18 months … now people’s attitude is, ‘I’m sure when I want to work, it’s going to be something for me.”
Instead of lamenting the ongoing shortage of labor, companies need to look at the changing economic landscape in the United States as an opportunity to reshape how we work and build a better model, Dowling said.
“It’s everything from building flexibility into our credo to reassessing how we value our employees and giving them the resources they need to do their job … all employers have the capacity to make these meaningful changes,” she adds. “But we need to start taking action, as opposed to sitting back and hoping that things will return to a ‘pre-pandemic norm’ – because all indications are that they will not.”
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