scorecardHere's everything we know about 'The Great Resignation,' who's quitting, and why
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Here's everything we know about 'The Great Resignation,' who's quitting, and why

Britney Nguyen   

Here's everything we know about 'The Great Resignation,' who's quitting, and why
Careers4 min read
  • Millions of US workers quit their jobs in the last several months leading to a two-decade high.
  • Mid-career workers and those in tech and healthcare are leading "The Great Resignation."
  • Workers are quitting for better pay and positions, but also to feel more valued at work.

As offices reopen after over a year of mostly remote work, some people are choosing to stay home if they can. But many aren't going back at all.

Over the past several months, the US has seen millions of workers quit their jobs - 4 million just in July 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The resignation rate in the US is now at a two-decade high, Insider's Aki Ito reported on the "bidding war for jobseekers."

This "Great Resignation," as it's come to be known, doesn't show up evenly across the labor market. Recent research shows mid-career workers, and those in tech and healthcare jobs, specifically, are quitting at the highest rates. And it's not just because of pay, but because they don't feel valued at work.

"The pandemic has reset people's purpose in life," Jerome Ternynck, CEO of the hiring platform SmartRecruiters, said. "The idea that you should wait for your time until the company grows to offer you opportunities is not working."

As workers quit in droves, it's important for companies to know who is quitting and why - not only to protect their staff, but to know what workers are looking for when searching for their next role.

Economic forces

People aren't only looking to switch employers; they are taking advantage of the market boom to move up in their own careers - getting positions with higher salaries and advancement opportunities.

In one national survey, one in four Americans reported working under a different employer than the one they had before the pandemic, and 26% of those employees are earning a salary at least 10% higher than their last one.

Some companies are not equipped to offer higher opportunities internally, so employees are finding jobs with competitors who can hire for better positions, according to Ternynck.

Kathleen Duffy, president and CEO of the recruiting firm Duffy Group, told Insider that companies are offering signing bonuses up to $5,000 to gain entry-level employees.

"For mid-career hotshots," Duffy said, "firms are being thrust into bidding wars with four or five rivals, and having to sweeten their usual offers by tens of thousands of dollars."

Over the long run, experts like Duffy say, this massive reshuffling could lead to better career opportunities and a decade of stronger and more equitable growth.

Resignation rates are highest among mid-career employees

In an analysis of more than nine million employee records from more than 4,000 companies, a team led by Ian Cook, VP of people analytics at Visier, found that resignation rates are highest among mid-career employees - those between 30 and 45 years old.

Between 2020 and 2021, Cook wrote recently in HBR, resignation rates increased in this group by more than 20%. His team found the shift to remote work could be driving the demand for mid-career employees because employers feel new employees with little experience are too risky since they won't have "the benefit of in-person training and guidance."

Another factor, according to Cook's analysis, is that the transitions could just be delayed from before the start of the pandemic when employees were uncertain about the future.

Lastly, people may just be rethinking their work and life goals, says Adam Galinsky, a social psychologist at Columbia Business School.

"I think the pandemic created this universal midlife crisis," he said.

Resignations are highest in tech and healthcare

Cook's analysis found that healthcare saw 3.6% more employees quit their jobs, and tech saw a 4.5% increase in resignations than the previous year. Galinsky says the COVID-19 pandemic is an easy explanation for those leaving healthcare jobs.

"I think a lot of people are just like, 'I can't take it anymore, it's too stressful to be in this healthcare system,'" Galinsky said.

Tech is seeing a different phenomenon, according to Galinsky, where he says people are realizing most of their work can be done remotely.

In general, industries that experienced higher increases in demand due to the pandemic saw higher resignation rates - possibly due to increased workload and burnout, Cook's analysis found.

It's not about the money

In two global surveys of nearly 6,000 employees and 250 managers at large and mid-sized organizations, McKinsey research found that 40% of workers are likely to leave their jobs in the next three to six months. Two-thirds of those workers said they would quit without another job lined up.

While employers tend to think employees are quitting because they want more money, most workers are actually leaving because they don't feel valued by their employers or feel as though they belong, the research suggests.

"Employees are not leaving because the grass is greener elsewhere - they're leaving because they're disillusioned and unhappy," Aaron De Smet, a senior partner at McKinsey who authored the research, told Insider's Rebecca Knight. "There's a huge labor force out there that's longing to be inspired."

As the economy booms despite the ongoing pandemic, the reshuffling of workers might be a good thing. Workers are having the opportunity to find the positions they better fit and feel valued in, and employers can learn how to better lead their employees.