With Covid-19 and the subsequent worker’s market, the set of reasonable worker actions has expanded in many ways. This is the first of two posts showing how observers have identified and interpreted these possibilities.
First is Kelsey Koberg’s May 10th Fox Business contention that “America experiencing a ‘great shift,” not a great resignation, argues economic expert.” The pundit is “Milken Institute senior director Eugene Cornelius,” who maintained that such quitting was usually really a way of looking for better jobs instead of finishing employment, particularly “opportunities for advancement” and higher pay. It makes sense, as the stronger a job market is, the less workers need to hold on to their positions while seeking others.
A related interpretation came from Brock Dumas, in the same publication on June 8th, when he asked “Why are there still so many Americans quitting their jobs?.” He cited a career strategist, Julie Bauke, saying that “the changes companies are seeing now are multilayered but largely inevitable” – these differences included younger workers replacing retiring baby boomers, many correctly or otherwise considering themselves underpaid departing, and “a mismatch between people and their skills and what they want to do, with the work that needs to be done.” Bauke recommended “a novel concept called actually talk to your people and ask them what they want” – she would have done well also to advocate the similarly non-revolutionary idea of paying them more.
Another look at people leaving the workforce and reappearing was “Many who lost jobs during the pandemic would return for the right pay and position, CNBC survey finds” (Steve Liesman, CNBC, June 8th). This study showed that an amazing 94% of those who “became unemployed during the Covid pandemic… say they would consider” that, which would help in “returning the labor force participation rate to where it was before the pandemic.” The most common factors respondents considered regarding coming back to work were flexible hours and salary, with retirement benefits unsurprisingly lowest.
Successful candidates are doing well with another thing becoming more common, as we see “Americans leveraging multiple job offers” (Paul Davidson, USA Today, published in the Times Herald-Record, July 17th). Those getting more than one acceptance are more able “to negotiate for higher pay and benefits… forcing employers to snap them up quickly or lose out to rivals.” Companies must more than before heed the rule of making good offers to people they would not like to see working for competitors. Top reasons for rejecting offers, per a survey Davidson cited, were low salary and an “inconvenient location” (27% apiece), “a job description that didn’t match the actual requirements” (11%), “a desire for remote work” (10%), and “an inflexible schedule” (8%). Some basic things here, but in such matters they bear emphasis.
Indeed, per Trey Williams in the July 26th Fortune, “Bosses are oblivious to why employees are really quitting. Here’s what they need to know.” A high-ranking industry figure who wrote a report on attrition conveyed that workers were most likely to leave because of “not feeling valued by their organization, not feeling valued by their manager, and not feeling a sense of belonging at work,” completely different from employers’ perceptions of “compensation, work-life balance, and burnout.” The human side is maybe more critical now than ever, and the old truism that people quit bosses instead of companies has strengthened if anything.
Next week, we jump to October and later, and look at quiet quitting, side hustles, and control over work lives.