As we come out of the pandemic, the economy has bounced back faster and stronger than anyone imagined and the number of jobs available are at record levels.
In general, it is always wise to treat dramatic headlines or simple phrases with a large pinch of salt. My rule of thumb is this: does the person promoting the headline have an interest in it being true? If so, approach with caution.
Likewise, any survey that takes ‘intent’ and translates it into ‘certainty’ should also be handled with care. For example, a statement that ‘60% of candidates intend to change jobs in the next six months’ does not mean that is what’s going to happen. For the last 10 years I have fully intended to lose 10kg and do a triathlon and yet both are but still unachieved!
Which brings me to the ‘great resignation’. Despite the ubiquity of the phrase, it’s been surprisingly hard to find compelling evidence to support that it’s actually happening.
Let’s look at the evidence in favour. As we come out of the pandemic, the economy has bounced back faster and stronger than anyone imagined and the number of jobs available are at record levels. It is also a fair assumption that there is an element of catch up from candidates who have wanted to change jobs since last year but were nervous about doing so. Another factor is that September is historically an active month for jobs changes.
It is also increasingly understood that employers who refuse to consider more flexible working patterns or who appeared indifferent to the challenges of their employees during the pandemic may suffer some sort of backlash. But ‘the great resignation?’ I’m not so sure.
Let’s consider the other side of the argument. Many industries are still very challenged with employees terrified, not just about changing jobs in their sector, but about losing the one they have. There are still around one million workers about to come off furlough which will have some impact on re-dressing the imbalance in the labour market.
And if we are to talk about the ‘great resignation’, we must also look to its equal and opposite force ‘the great retention.’ The vast majority of HR and TA people can not only read, but they can count and think and figure out that something needs to be done. Whether that’s increasing salaries (around 20% should do it) creating more flexible working patterns even for employees who are still required to be on site for 100% of their jobs, looking at innovative learning and development initiatives and so on and so on, they know they need to respond, and they are.
So yes, we do have a truly unique labour market right now, and no, the mismatch between supply and demand won’t last forever. In the meantime there will be a higher degree of market movement than usual but ‘the great resignation?’ I don’t think so.
Whilst the pandemic has changed many things, it hasn’t changed the fact that the best employers attract and retain the best talent but that doesn’t make much of a headline.