The Great Resignation: Causes, Solutions, and Perspective

A Group of People on a Ramp Towards Exit Board


Much has been written and speculated about The Great Resignation, and while no one seems to have definitive answers or solutions, some causes are obvious. With time, and with the perspective of hindsight, even more reasons for this modern phenomenon will emerge. What can you as an HR professional, manager, or business owner do today that will have a positive impact on your employees and organization? Read on to find out! 

What is “The Great Resignation?”

The closest anyone can get to an official definition of this term is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the governing body that is responsible for tracking a metric called the “Quit Rate.” This number is the percentage of the nonfarm workforce that has quit their job in the past month. This has been tracked since around 2001 (in its current form at least), and according to the data, the years of 2021-2022 have had the highest quit rates ever recorded, with November of 2021 seeing 4,527,000 individual “quits.” 

So broadly speaking, The Great Resignation is a period of time that has seen a record number of people quit their jobs – at least in recent memory. Future Harvard business professors and historians will surely teach a more nuanced view of this time period, but for our purposes in this blog, , it all comes down to the fact that business owners are having quite the difficult time retaining qualified employees.

Causes of “The Great Resignation?”

Some causes are obvious to everyone and are things we’ve heard thrown about by economic pundits, columnists, business coaches, fast-food servers, CEOs, and even your relatives during the holidays. The usual suspects include low pay, toxic and/or discriminatory work environments and cultures, lack of remote work options, poor child-care benefits, being overworked, a skewed work-life balance, and more (and that’s without addressing opinions surrounding generational differences in motivations and work ethic – real or imagined). While all of these can and do factor into the current quit rate, a more helpful way to look at this might be using 3 themes: Dissatisfaction, Opportunity, and a Pandemic Perspective.

It’s Been a Long Time Coming…

According to the data (and this cool interactive chart), quit rates have been trending up since 2011. Like with many other things, the pandemic may have simply revealed a trend that would have otherwise remained hidden. While the pandemic brought terrible heartache and upheaval to all of our lives, it also introduced opportunities of a sort, such as the ability to work remotely. Here we see another trend that’s long been with us. The US Census Bureau tells us that In 1997, the percentage of workers working at least 1 day a week from home was 7%. In 2010, it increased to 9.5%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of workers who worked at home at least half the time increased by 115% from 2005 to 2017.

The pandemic served as a sort of forcing mechanism for many businesses, giving CEOs a stark choice; learn to operate with a remote workforce, or close up shop. Many learned how to do this, and even discovered that there are some cost-savings to doing so (potentially more productive employees, lower overhead costs on physical facilities, etc.). When potentially unhappy workers discovered they could work from home, whatever state or country that home happened to be in, a window of opportunity opened for them, and remains more open than at any other time in history.

Click here to Part 2 of this blog series, and for help with your current recruiting and talent management needs, reach out to Cisso Bean & Dutch today.