by Dave Murashige
In 2021 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the highest average monthly resignations on record since the department began reporting data in December 2000. Today, U.S. organizations are facing unprecedented rates of attrition among workers, causing enormous economic impacts affecting businesses, employees, and consumers alike.
The causes of the Great Resignation, a name coined by Texas A&M professor of management, Anthony Klotz during an interview with Bloomberg News in May 2021, are the source of much discussion among economists and business experts. When it comes to the primary reasons for this rise in resignations, however, most agree on a few key drivers. These factors, as Klotz and others have pointed out, include:
- A massive backlog of previously planned resignations put on hold due to pandemic uncertainty in 2020 and early 2021
- Employee burnout, particularly among frontline workers and parents, many of whom were overstressed from the dual burdens of homeschooling and work
- The need to hastily restructure workplaces into fully remote or hybrid models, resulting in inefficient processes and silos, communication gaps, and insufficient technology support
- A growing sub trend around purpose and meaning which includes high numbers of workers leaving or dramatically retooling their professional lives after experiencing what has been dubbed “pandemic epiphanies”
While it’s important to have a clear understanding of the causes driving the Great Resignation, these factors are also creating the need for companies to reimagine the employee experience in much more meaningful and innovative ways. To retain top talent amidst the great resignation wave, companies must, at the very least, offer robust benefits portfolios, flexible work environments, career development opportunities, and other competitive perks.
Understanding not only what caused the Great Resignation, but also the most significant impacts of this trend, can help you determine a strategy to combat the talent shortage and optimize your customer and employee experiences.
The Great Resignation is placing a significant burden on company and brand performance
Employee turnover is not a new problem. While current company “churn rates” from combined attrition and turnover include the 4.3 million people who quit their jobs in November of 2021, analysts at GALLUP have estimated that even before the pandemic employee turnover was costing businesses more than $1 trillion per year. Industry analyst Josh Bersin has estimated that turnover costs most companies between 1.5 and 2 times the cost of an employee’s annual salary.
While it’s easy to see how the Great Resignation is raising employee costs in terms of recruiting, onboarding, and training, low staff levels are impacting many other areas of the operation and impacting everyone. Retailers in particular are looking for ways to cut costs by closing less-profitable locations, and shortening hours of operation. Overburdened HR departments are desperately searching for additional budget to pay forced salary increases and retention bonuses, while conducting massive overhauls of their benefits packages at the same time. And this just scratches the surface.
The Great Resignation is causing tremendous pressure for employees
While every employee is likely stressed by the departures of their co-workers, frontline workers, particularly those in retail, hospitality and of course healthcare, are arguably facing the most pressures. Data analysis from Peterson-KFF’s Health System Tracker demonstrates that job openings among health and social care workers are now 51.9% higher than before the pandemic. In addition to reducing the availability of healthcare, unfilled positions are creating a work environment where more than 93% of healthcare workers report they are under “heavy” stress.
Even without the heavy burden of caring for COVID patients, essential workers across many industries are reporting many of the same mental health issues. It’s safe to say that stress, burnout, anxiety and impacts to physical and mental health caused by the Great Resignation are decreasing the value of employee experiences for every worker who has stayed in their job.
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The Great Resignation is severely impacting the customer experience
Low staff levels due to the Great Resignation are also impacting the customer experience in a myriad of ways, from longer wait times to poorly designed digital experiences. Many brands and companies are still in survival mode, and haven’t yet been able to optimize their customer experiences to embrace many of the opportunities created by the acceleration of digital transformation. For many, hastily constructed hybrid digital experiences have created customer experiences that are at best fragmented and lackluster, and at worst irretrievably broken. While some companies have been able to adapt to the long-term changes in customer behavior due to COVID, others remain using these poorly constructed systems and processes that don’t engage, motivate, or retain customers both short- and long-term.
The Great Resignation places customer and employee experience center stage
The Great Resignation is fueling challenges that impact everyone’s experience with your company or brand, from your existing and potential customers, to your loyal employees and new recruits. While it’s important to choose the right tools and technologies to support these ongoing changes, first you need to design strategies that take into account the digital experience trends we’re seeing today AND incorporate all the innovations that can kickstart your company’s performance in 2022.
Fueling exceptional experiences will help you stay ahead of the competition in the face of the Great Resignation. That means embracing a customer-centric and employee-first mindset that drives more value and purpose for your organization. And we can help. We have built meaningful, robust, and engaging employee and customer experiences for a number of leading companies like Chipotle, Schwan’s Home Delivery, and more.