The Great Resignation

In the last few years, companies have noticed that it is getting harder and harder to hire employees. They’ve also noticed that it is more difficult to keep good employees and to motivate the employees that do stay. This phenomenon has come as a surprise for many people, employers and employees alike. Yet, like many major disruptions to life, all the signs were there for years before. In fact, had covid not happened, many of the trends that we are about to discuss would have happened anyway. The only difference would have been the timing.

Ask anybody in HR. It feels impossible to hire people. Potential recruits ghost you, and retaining employees is a nightmare. There is a terrible churn right now in most software development departments, a churn that results in burnout and in the best people going elsewhere. The bad part about this damage is not just the damage itself, but that the reaction to the damage causes more damage. More than half of any problem that occurs in a group of people is due to the reaction to the problem. The Great Resignation is really a reaction to an ongoing crisis whose roots stretch back far before covid. And the end of the Great Resignation isn’t coming any time soon.

So what exactly is the Great Resignation? Per wikipedia, “it is an ongoing economic trend in which employees have voluntarily resigned from their jobs en masse, beginning in early 2021. Possible causes include wage stagnation amid rising cost of living, long-lasting job dissatisfaction, safety concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the desire to work for companies with better remote-working policies. Some economists have described the Great Resignation as akin to a general strike.” In short, the Great Resignation is the perfect storm of a variety of trends coming together, all of which have resulted in understaffing, employee churn, difficulty in hiring, and unmotivated employees.

The great resignation is here and is unlikely to end any time soon. There are a lot of reasons for it, from economic factors to changes in culture. Ultimately, the cause is that numerous factors, (including covid), caused people to re-evaluate their jobs and their lives. And while employees, especially those in certain cohorts, were rapidly changing their priorities, many employers did not change their assumptions, their expectations, or even offer a cost of living increase in the face of rising inflation. Adding to the fun, a huge cohort of people is leaving the workforce in the next decade. Finally, covid and other challenges are still here, adding to the uncertainty that fueled the great resignation in the first place. At the very least, it’s all going to continue to be interesting.

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