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Has the dream of the Great Resignation turned sour?
The Big Quit, also known as The Great Resignation, is a phenomenon that has shaken the US since the onset of the pandemic. The slogan “I Quit” and the hashtag #QuitMayJob have become commonplace, and the queen of pop, Beyoncé, even tackled the subject in her latest single, Break My Soul. Yet studies have shown that the Great Resignation has lost momentum in recent months, with the media across the Atlantic claiming it has given way to a Great Regret.
In the United States, 47 million people left their job in 2021. In Europe, increased staff-turnover has also been seen, with 470,000 people quitting their full-time jobs in the last quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022 in France alone. Yet, with more and more of these hopefuls’ dreams of a better professional future ending in disappointment, is the era of The Great Resignation coming to an end?
Regrets, they have a few
According to the Great Resignation Regrets study, carried out by Joblist, one in four Americans to have quit their job recently now regrets the decision. As Kathryn Minshew, CEO of careers website The Muse remarked, “The pandemic caused a lot of people to rethink their priorities… which caused the first wave of The Great Resignation. However, many of those who moved encountered a phenomenon called ‘shift-shock’ where you start a new job full of enthusiasm, but find there are huge differences between what you were told in the interview process and reality. The lesson here is that the grass is not necessarily always greener on the other side, and some employees realize that, actually, they had it pretty good where they were before.”
While the majority of companies have adapted their employer brand to reflect current CSR and QWL thinking, this has not always made a difference for modern workers in search of greater mobility, flexibility, benefits and opportunities for their career to flourish. According to the above study, 42% of those surveyed said their new job did not live up to expectations, and 60% felt under pressure to find a new job now, before conditions in the market deteriorate.
“The rate of employment has never been higher and workers aren’t quitting because they simply don’t want to work, they are quitting to get better working conditions, including the right to remote work,” notes French economist Cyprien Batut, a researcher specializing in work-life matters at the Paris School of Economics. For Batut, it is misleading to talk about a Great Resignation; a more accurate term would be a Great Job-switch.
A HuffPost study published in April found that 63% of French workers who quit their jobs came to regret their decision
While one French employee in six is seriously considering quitting their job in 2022, according to a recent report by PwC, it is not to begin an entrepreneurial adventure or take a career break, but for the age-old reasons of better pay and working conditions.
The modern worker’s relationship with their job may be in crisis, but that shouldn’t be confused with an out-and-out rejection of the value of work. A HuffPost study published in April found that 63% of French workers who quit their jobs came to regret their decision ─ a far higher rate than in other European countries. Another eye-catching finding: French people are really quitting their boss, rather than their job, as frustration with management was cited by French people as the most common reason for leaving a job.
At the global level, the main reason for changing jobs is to earn a higher salary, with 71% changing jobs for better pay, and 69% to find more fulfilling work.
Inflation enters the equation
Inflation represents another decisive factor for staff. Now more than at any time in the recent past, job security is a higher priority than career fulfillment, with staff that switched jobs during the pandemic now recognizing the value of a steady paycheck. The war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis is seeing workers cling to the stability of their existing jobs.
Furthermore, the August edition of Lloyd’s Business Barometer found that business confidence fell for a third consecutive month, to its lowest level since March 2021, with the number of companies in the UK intending to hire in the coming months at its lowest level for 18 months.
The British press had announced that a Great Poach has replaced the Great Resignation and on the other side of the English Channel, a study by ministry of employment think-tank Dares published in August asked, “Is France going through a great resignation?” adding “In the case of the US and the UK, the large number of resignations can be linked to aggressive head-hunting practices in a climate where there is a large pool of talent and a limited number of positions vacant.”
The course of the Great Resignation has had many twists and turns. Still an important factor in the current state of the job market, its influence would seem to be on the wane, however, as fears of an imminent global recession mount.
But this may prove to be a temporary reprieve for companies, as workers grow less tolerant of existing ways of working. In the medium to long term, it is those companies that are open to new forms of management and workplace cultures that stand the best chance of keeping staff happy and, as a result, keeping them in the fold.
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