From the Great Resignation to the Renaissance of Work

December 7, 2021 Updated: February 2, 2024 6 min read

The Great Resignation: A new era of labor 

The job market has undergone a seismic shift over the last few years. Many employees started to realize they weren’t valued in their jobs—and at the same time—the labor market started to recover. As more jobs became available, employees simply handed in their resignations and searched for greener pastures.  

Now it’s time for the Renaissance of Work—the next era of labor.  

In this article, we’ll explore how you can turn current employment patterns of the Great Resignation to your advantage. By taking the opportunity to transform your hiring and recruiting processes, you can better meet the needs of your employees, attract new talent, and usher in a new renaissance of work. 

What happened in 2021?

During the COVID pandemic, many employees were forced to work from home as lockdowns were put in place. By 2021, employers faced a new challenge as workers started to resign in record numbers. Many industries saw their highest ever resignation rates—also called quit rates—occurring around April 2021. However, these rates just kept on increasing. 

By August 2021, the number of Americans leaving their jobs rose to a new record high of 4.3 million people. That equates to 2.9% of the entire U.S. workforce. This phenomenon of mass exodus has been dubbed “The Great Resignation,” a term coined by Anthony Klotz, an Associate Professor at Texas A&M.   

Resignation rates by industry 

The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was collected for August 2021 and showed a quit rate (measured as the number of quits as a percent of total employment) across a wide range of sectors, including:

  • Leisure and hospitality — 6.4%
  • Trade, transportation, and utilities —  3.7%
  • Professional and business services — 3.4%
  • Total nonfarm — 2.9%
  • Construction — 2.7%
  • Manufacturing — 2.5%
  • Education and health services — 2.4%
  • Other services — 2.4%
  • Information — 1.6%
  • Mining and logging — 1.6%
  • Financial activities — 1.3%
  • Government — 0.8%

What were the causes of the Great Resignation?

There have been a wide variety of factors attributed to The Great Resignation 2021. Recent research carried out by the well-being company Limeade discovered the top reasons American workers left their jobs to be:  

  • Burnout — 40%
  • Organizational changes within the company — 34%
  • Lack of flexibility — 20%
  • Discrimination — 20%
  • Not feeling valued — 20%
  • Not enough benefits — 19%
  • Lack of well-being support — 16% 

Burnout can have a substantial negative impact on employee well-being at the best of times.  Throw in the additional stress of a global pandemic, and there’s a much higher risk of burnout, especially in industries like retail, hospitality, and healthcare. Over half of all respondents to the Limeade survey who worked in food services and healthcare cited burnout as their primary reason for resigning. Many U.S. workers also realized that perhaps the organizations they worked for didn’t value them as much as they had previously thought.      

What can employers do to improve retention?

Developing and implementing strategies to improve retention rates will become a vital part of business as we navigate this new trend. The first steps are to quantify the extent of resignations within your business, work out the root cause, and then create changes.   

Calculate resignation rates

You might know the overall resignation rate for your industry—but do you know the numbers for your own business? The only way to tell if resignation rates in your company are looking overly high is to track them. At the same time, monitoring retention rates will help you quantify the problem for your business. If your resignation rates are well above the industry standard, it’s time to make some changes. 

It’s also vital to monitor recruitment metrics like first-year attrition. If employees leave their role within a year, this indicates they might not be satisfied with their new role. Not only that, but a high employee turnover means you’re spending a significant amount of time and money completing the hiring and training process, only for workers to leave.  

Identify root causes 

Why is your resignation rate so high? If your workers are leaving, it’s vital to find out why. Consider an exit survey to dig deeper into the reasons behind resignations. Social media can now be used to research a company’s reputation, so see what your reviews say!    

Workers may have personal needs that you haven’t met, or the sheer number of job openings gives them great options to find roles with better health care or social security benefits. Once you’ve identified the root causes of high employee turnover, it’s time to implement employee retention initiatives to address those issues.   

Create retention programs

Once your new employees are on the payroll, make sure you offer a range of incentives to keep them motivated and satisfied. If employees feel valued, they’re more likely to stay with your company. You could begin implementing different types of rewards for things like long service or exceptional performance. 

It’s also important to ensure everyone is offered equal advancement opportunities and to have robust diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) strategies in place. 

Opportunities for employers

The unemployment rate has been steadily decreasing, and millions of new jobs are being created across the United States. Economists note these are great signs of strong growth and recovery of the labor market—but they also point to the fact that the job market is currently candidate-driven. 

And in a competitive labor market, your recruitment and retention strategies need to be robust if you’re going to be able to hire top talent and keep hold of your new workers. 

Before, many good employees would stay for a long time in a job they weren’t completely satisfied with. The Great Resignation shifted this pattern, and now many employees are handing in their resignation—sometimes even before they have another job lined up. 

According to the recent Limeade survey, Americans looking to change jobs value these attributes when job searching:

  • Potential for remote work — 40%
  • Better compensation — 37%
  • Better management — 31%
  • Company reputation — 29%
  • Work-life balance — 26%
  • Flexible work — 24%

Consider how you can adjust your policies to offer greater flexibility and a healthy work environment. The heightened priority employees in North America now place on well-being means offering greater flexibility around work hours can help improve work-life balance and create a better work environment. If you can provide the opportunity for remote or hybrid work, many employees are now looking for this option.  

Taking a holistic approach to employee retention is the best strategy, especially as organizational culture has become more important in recent years. If a potential employee doesn’t think your cultural values match their own, they have plenty of other job openings to explore instead.   

Preparing for the Renaissance of Work 

The economy’s massive shift has led to the current resignation behavior of employees across a wide range of professions. While this shift can be seen as scary at first—it’s time to reframe it as a huge opportunity for businesses and an exciting time to be at the forefront of change.     

What is the Renaissance of Work?

Much like the Renaissance period in European history, today’s culture of work is experiencing its own “rebirth” and revival shaped by a similar set of core values:

  • A belief in self or the individual– The right to give meaning and shape one’s own work.  Employees want more autonomy and choice in decisions like where and when they work.
  • Human worth–  Employees want to be valued, accepted, and heard at organizations that prioritize a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and belonging.
  • Individual dignity- Employees want to be treated with respect, appreciated for their work, and compensated as such.

Now is the time for businesses to get ready for the Renaissance of Work. Start implementing innovative approaches to make long-term changes and improvements to your recruitment and retention practices. These changes will give you a leg up over the competition in a hot job market, allow you to better meet the needs of your employees, and win over new talent to create lasting success.   

Understanding what matters most to employees and job candidates is what will push your organization to create a workplace experience that improves retention and your employer brand. Thinking outside the box and applying insights you’ve gained from the challenges of the Great Resignation can help prepare for this workplace renaissance. 

And when it’s time to apply this information to filling positions and creating new ones across your company, using an interview intelligence platform like Clovers can move your business towards a modern workforce where everyone’s needs are met. 

Modernize your recruitment processes

Schedule a demo to learn how Clovers’ interview intelligence platform can help you transform your recruiting practices to more effectively attract top talent, engage candidates, and keep employees satisfied.

Doug Leonard

Doug is constantly working to make the hiring process more objective, insightful, and informed. As a trusted leader in the recruitment industry, Doug is always ready to guide candidates and companies to (and through) a person-first hiring experience.

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