Workers aren’t quitting in 2021, they’re reprioritizing

This yr, the questions on many leaders’ minds are “are my workers going to go away me?” And to make use of a well-liked time period: “Is a ‘Nice Resignation’ in progress?” Are individuals quitting their jobs at a scale and tempo that we’ve by no means seen earlier than? Not precisely. I not too long ago performed a research to extra totally perceive this phenomenon. It will seem that it’s truly an awesome “reprioritization,” not an awesome resignation.

Some 4 million individuals quit their jobs in April. However the spike in the quit rate is partly on account of pent-up demand after two years of workers sitting tight throughout a risky financial surroundings. We’re additionally comparatively on-trend with respect to the rising give up price over the past decade.

The opposite generally cited statistic behind the idea of the Nice Resignation is that as many as 95% of the workforce is considering leaving their organization. It’s necessary to notice that contemplating shouldn’t be the identical as truly leaving, and the truth that workers have a watch out for brand spanking new alternatives has been the norm since LinkedIn turned a family identify.


I’d argue that it’s much less necessary to know whether or not workers are contemplating leaving, and extra necessary to grasp why workers are contemplating leaving. Alongside these strains, I not too long ago collected knowledge that uncovered a number of traits which may assist reframe this nice resignation dialog. The findings reveal a extra tangible understanding of what they need to be contemplating and addressing.

Employee motivations to go away

I first performed a overview of revealed analysis in peer-reviewed journals in the organizational conduct discipline. The overview uncovered that there have been 14 overarching the explanation why workers would possibly need to depart a corporation. Subsequent, I recruited individuals to finish a survey utilizing a web-based panel knowledge service. The pattern consisted of a demographically various (age, gender, marital standing, and so forth.) set of 233 full-time workers throughout all kinds of industries (manufacturing, healthcare, actual property, training, and knowledge know-how). Every participant responded to the next query: Assume that every office situation may very well be outlined as “very dangerous.” From there, individuals indicated for every class whether or not they would a. not start a job search, b. start a passive job search (i.e., entertain various choices), or c. start an energetic job search (i.e., inevitably depart the group).

The classes under point out the 5 causes that might more than likely trigger an worker to start an energetic or passive search:

  1. Monetary wants: The compensation shouldn’t be aggressive.
  2. Work–house stability: The work is so demanding you don’t have sufficient time or vitality left to get pleasure from non-work actions.
  3. Distant work insurance policies: Misalignment in distant work preferences and organizational insurance policies.
  4. Present job disinterest: You don’t just like the day-to-day duties of your job.
  5. Concern about job and group stability: You’re apprehensive your job would possibly go away.

And listed below are the 5 causes that might be the least more likely to spur a job search:

  1. Stagnation: There are restricted alternatives for transferring up in the group.
  2. Want for autonomy. The job/group doesn’t can help you make your personal selections.
  3. Lack of progress: There are restricted alternatives to be challenged or be taught one thing new.
  4. Inclusion or belonging: You don’t really feel like a part of the “in group” otherwise you don’t really feel like your uniqueness is appreciated.
  5. Social influence: You don’t join with the worth that your group is providing to clients or society at massive.

Throughout all 14 classes studied, roughly one-third of the respondents mentioned that if that class was very dangerous, they’d start a passive job search. The true differentiator got here from which classes would provoke an energetic job search. The highest three—monetary wants, work-home stability, and distant work insurance policies—had been the one classes the place 50% or extra of respondents reported that they’d actively job search if these classes turned a priority. If organizations are apprehensive about precise turnover—not simply passively looking—that is the place they need to begin.

Employee sentiments and desires

Monetary wants will all the time play a task in turnover intentions. This discovering isn’t new. If workers sense inequity, they’ll look elsewhere. However the truth that workers are placing simply as a lot worth on work–house stability and distant work insurance policies is essentially the most related and revealing side of the research.


These two classes are extremely consultant of present conversations concerning the “return to work.” Organizational leaders are struggling to just accept the truth that workers are much less prepared to return to the “good ole’ days” in the workplace. Staff need the choice to forgo commutes and in-office disruptions, thereby broadening how they will handle their work–house integration. However this shouldn’t surprise leaders; for the final two years, workers have been requested to keep up their present workloads whereas coping with the ambiguities and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. With burnout comes a eager for stability.

Organizational leaders are additionally conflicted about whether or not to mandate that workers start returning to the workplace. A minority of corporations is requiring workers to be on-site, full-time, although the overwhelming majority is developing with some model of hybrid work. Organizational leaders should strategy their office association selections with eyes huge open and acknowledge the importance of flexible, virtual options for workers.

Hybrid work is now accepted to be the norm, however there’s additionally quite a lot of variation in what hybrid work entails. The acute, and workers’ desire, tends to be a totally elective association; the workplace is offered if wanted, however not mandated. The compromise options, reminiscent of mandating particular days or a sure variety of days, nevertheless, are untested waters. It’s unclear whether or not workers will view these selections as passable with respect to their preferences for work–house stability and/or their need for distant work choices.

Flexibility is sweet however so is construction

Three noteworthy findings had been comparatively sudden. First, worker preferences particular to flexibility—the anticipated days and occasions one must be accessible—was not a excessive precedence. This means that workers are much less involved with displaying up or logging in at predetermined days and occasions, however they need the choice to do it remotely if wanted. This aligns with what I’ve recommended not too long ago for hybrid organizations; begin changing casual, impromptu, in-office interplay with semiregular, structured staff constructing classes to make sure that collaboration, belief, and rapport can proceed as earlier than.

The second sudden discovering is restricted to the three classes that entail alternatives for studying, progress, and improvement. These classes have sometimes been prime of thoughts for workers. Staff generally report that they need to continually broaden and refine their skills as a result of it interprets into greater compensation, promotions, or alternatives to work on initiatives which might be extra fulfilling. Apparently, the findings of this research present that stagnation, lack of autonomy, and lack of progress are a number of the least necessary job search triggers proper now.

A 3rd shocking side entails demographic traits, or lack thereof. I analyzed whether or not there have been variations between particular subgroups, reminiscent of between genders, races, having youngsters or no youngsters, having a working partner/accomplice, ages, and profession phases. One would possibly assume that our priorities, particularly in work–household stability or distant work preferences, would differ by a few of these components, however nothing substantial surfaced. The one minor distinction was that early-career employees had distant work preferences as their largest job search set off, adopted by monetary wants, however work–household stability dropped out of the highest 5.

These findings present workers are taking time to reprioritize—which can not result in resigning. If leaders strategy the scenario with grace, organizations would possibly be capable of capitalize on these newfound priorities to not solely retain workers however appeal to new ones. As employees return to the workplace, leaders ought to proceed with nice warning, transparency, and open-mindedness. A failure to take action would possibly instigate a mass exodus of workers which might be in extra accommodating alternatives.

Scott Mud, PhD, is a administration professor on the Farmer Faculty of Enterprise, Miami College, and the chief analysis officer at Cloverleaf, a know-how platform facilitating teaching for everybody.