Finding the GREAT in the Great Resignation!*

Finding the GREAT in the Great Resignation!*

by Sara Bennett | June 6, 2022

0 Thought Leader / Featured Blogs*


Whatever you call it – the The “Great Resignation”, the “Big Reset” – it doesn’t appear to be going away soon!

As we turned the corner on 2022, employees were still leaving their  jobs at record setting levels.  This left us close to a million jobs short of where we were pre pandemic with workforce participation rates not close to fully recovered.  Current data shows that over 11.5 million jobs go unfilled each month – more than 2 jobs for each job candidate.

Make no mistake – with candidate shortages a challenge for most sectors of the workforce, turnover, losing the employees you have, is a serious issue.  This is particularly true in the Northwest where the dominance of the “bigs” in our marketplace has always meant that the availability of candidates to be hired by small to medium sized employers has been dicey.

But keep in mind that up until the end of 2022, the Northwest “bigs” (Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft etc.) were hiring.  Now they’re laying off, even while the record setting quitting has only slightly moderated.

We’re wondering how all these very publically announced layoffs and the underlying dynamics of the “Great Resignation” might actually be a good thing for small to medium sized employers? 

In this blog we’ll share what we think has led to the Great Resignation PLUS offer up some ideas for small to medium sized companies who can take advantage of a marketplace where quittings, lay offs and hiring are out of sync.   We’ve got some ideas about how to make the best of this very strange marketplace….

…but first, let’s look at a few of the dynamics in our current marketplace – reasons why employees are still quitting; reasons why recruiting is still such a challenge!

#1. “I QUIT because I can”

At the end of the day, with all the data sliced and diced, in all “candidate driven” environments,  employees tend to quit because they can- and they can easily!   If something goes wrong on Friday, a disgruntled employee can post their resume on Saturday, and have a new job within the week.  It may not be the “right job” but in a job market that still has some kick to it, the perception that employment gaps can be long standing has still not been dispelled.

#2.  The era of “I think I’ll Take a Break from working” can’t go on forever!  

In late spring 2022, we started to see a trickle of employees coming back into the market who had not worked since leaving their jobs during the pandemic.  Employees who used the pandemic as a reason to take a break or to dabble in entrepreneurship started to return to the marketplace in early to late March of last year….but not at the levels we would normally expect after an economic recession.  Downticks in workforce participation during economic downturns has been a predictable trend for the last several recessions,  but this time around the “returners to work” didn’t come back as anticipated.  They may have been fearful of coming back into a physical work setting, they might have gotten comfortable with a simpler lifestyle.  Whatever the reason, this emloyment cycle was different.

#3.  There’s No Longer Any Shame in Quitting

It’s been true for some time, even before the business shutdowns, that career enhancing “job hopping” is no longer frowned upon – not even a lot of it.  Today’s employees don’t get into “forever jobs” and are clearly not afraid to tackle the unknown – particularly if the unknown is packaged up to look better than what is which is what a lot of recruiting has turned into.

Resumes showing good job tenure were once a prerequisite for hire.  No longer.

#4.  Changing Jobs is Easy Peasy!

An important factor that we believe indirectly impacts the high rates of quitting is the impact of digitally based hiring processes on employee job satisfaction.   Recruiters working for large employers who had high volume hiring quotas had to be so focused on finding candidates with the right key words on their resumes that the importance of “fit” to job satisfaction and employee retention has slipped thru the cracks.

  • Jobs were not accurately profiled creating mismatches between what employees want to achieve thru their work and what a specific job or employer has to offer.
  • Employees were not thoroughly vetted to make sure that all the critical dimensions of “fit” were  part of the hiring decision.
  • Once reality set in and more choices surfaced, the formula for “turnover” and the decision to “quit” kicked in.

We think job/employee mismatches is always a serious issue with how the bigs hire, and was exacerbated by the post pandemic hiring frenzy.  

#5.  Life changed! 

 .…and since the shut down in 2020, many employees have not just changed when and how they work but where they live and decisions they’ve made about how they do life.   Mothers with small children were one of the first to leave the job market and they haven’t returned and many predict they won’t won’t until their children can care for themselves OR employers adapt new ways to allow women to make sure their children are cared for without costing three quarters of their income.   Employees are still leaving jobs to care for aging parents.  Husbands and wives are still leaving jobs to follow their spouses to new locations, new states, new ways to do life.          

#6.  What’s in it for me?  

What we experience is that many of today’s employees (not all) are choosing to leave even high paying jobs if they don’t sync up with “who they are”, “what the like to do” and “what’s important” to them about their work.  Here’s what we hear….

  • My supervisor’s management style didn’t work for me.
  • The company’s culture is too cliquish. I felt left out.
  • I thought this job would give me a challenge, but I just didn’t enjoy the work.
  • The company is demanding more from me than I want to give. I am not willing to sacrifice my personal life just to get ahead.
  • I can’t see how my work is making a difference.
  • I just don’t see the opportunity to “grow” that I am looking for.

These are the issues we think create opportunity for small to medium sized Northwest employers can take advantage of the Great Resignation to do things their larger competitors can’t (or won’t)!

Here’s EIGHT ways Northwest companies can turn the “turnover culture” into a competitive advantage….

#1 Use the availability of candidates in the current marketplace as an opportunity to add new talent to your teams.   

Yes, it may take a while, but don’t be afraid to troll the current candidate marketplace just in case there is someone who left their job with a fortune 500 company either because of a lay off or purposesfully to look for the kind of “make a difference” opportunity your small to medium sized company has to offer!

Don’t have time to troll?  Ask us to do it for you – searching the marketplace for great talent is what we do daily!    

#2.  Create hiring criteria based on RETENTION not just here and now performance!    

Three things come to mind.  1) Make sure you start every recruiting process with a clear view of what the job entails – its core tasks, demands, opportunities plus its everyday work environment; 2) carefully screen candidates for their talent and long term “fit” not short term performance;   3) Get clear about what makes you different as an employer – what you can offer a prospective employer – and find candidates who want to buy what you have to sell.

One of the core services PACE brings to our service table is comprehensive job and candidate profiling- an essential ingredient of sucessful hiring focused on long term retention.  We help you do that well.

  • Job auditions, where a candidate gets a chance to try out a job and the work environment for 1-2 months before making the final commitment.
  • Working interviews, where a candidate (typically a finalist) finalist is invited in to sit with the team for 2-4 hours before a job offer is made.
  • Realistic recruiting campaigns that help companies lean into what they do best and attract candidates that “fit” what they really have to offer and avoid disappointments.

#3 Take a realistic look at your pay and benefit plans.

It goes without saying, that pay rates are going up not down.   We tell our clients that their pay plan doesn’t have to come in at the “top of te market” but it has to be at least comparable to competitive offers.  Increasing the upper end of your pay range and communicating that range in your job postings is likely to give you access to a broader range of candidates.  This doesn’t mean your offer has to reflect the top of your pay range, but as a smaller employer you have the flexibility to avoid the rigid pay structures that are turn offs for employees looking to get ahead.

And if your benefit offerings aren’t quite up to par with your larger employers you might want to consider increasing your pay rates to accommodate that short coming.

#4.  Make sure you management team communicates clearly and regularly the link between your current employee’s good work and their contribution to the team.  Make “good work” mean something to your team.

One of the things that keeps employees engaged in their work is their belief that what they do matters…. that they make a difference.   As a leader, communicating the link between what employees do on a daily basis or as the result of extra effort, is one of things that makes a big difference in their retention.  It keeps them motivated to contribute to their current team, rather than looking around for a new team where they believe they will be more appreciated or valued.

#5 Take advantage of your small company FLEXIBILITY wherever and however you can. 

Expanding pay scales, adjusting job content, elevating job titles, offering work from home privileges, even the flexible ways you can configure staff – are all ways small to medium sized companies can set themselves apart from their larger or “less flexible” counterpart.   You would be amazed at how much impact you can have on an employee once they realize that you are willing to make changes, do things differently just to create a more positive, employee centric work environment.

#6 Stay connected with each and every employee on your team…. both professionally and personally.

Employers who rely on exit interviews to tell them about their turnover aren’t going to do well in 2023.   We believe it’s much easier (and smarter) to have ongoing conversations with current employees designed to stay current re: how they’re feeling about their role, the team and your company – keeping you prepared for what lies ahead.  “Stay interviews”, the term used in larger organizations to describe how this is done on a formal process, can be done more frequently and in less formal ways in smaller companies.

#7 When turnover strikes, find ways to create new opportunities for others on the team – new reasons for them to stay.

   Your larger competitors are not as able as you are to move quickly to reconfigure work.  Take advantage of that opportunity to give your remaining team members new life, new challenges!

#8 If a “team member leaves” introduce a new and more invigorating vision for your team. 

We know your first step is to come up with your plan to replace a leaving team member, but it can also be a time for you to share your vison of how the team will be “even better” once the transition is completed.  Yes, you need to stay tactical for the moment – reassigning work quickly and clearly – but also take this time to re invigorate your team around its vision for the future.

Have you been impacted by a valued employee’s leaving or higher-than-usual turnover? 

We’d love to help.

If you are an employer who needs to replace a valued employee or looking for the right solution to fix a short term turnover issue, give our Partner Services team a call at 425-637-3312 or complete the form below for a direct connect.

Who Are We?

PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest employers find and hire employees based on the “right fit” for over 45 years.

A 5-time winner of the coveted “Best in Staffing” designation , PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.

PACE services include temporary and contract staffing, temp to hire auditions, direct hire professional recruiting services, Employer of Record (payroll) services, and a large menu of candidate assessment services our clients can purchase a la carte.

To learn more about how partnering with PACE will make a difference to how you find and hire employees,  contact our Partner Services and Solutions team at 425-637-3312, email us, or complete the form below.

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