So far, 40 million American workers have quit their jobs in what’s been coined the Great Resignation. And this relentless upheaval in U.S. business shows no signs of stopping. On February 1 the Department of Labor reported that employees continue to quit and job openings are rising — at near-record levels.
Those leaving their jobs are being dubbed the “Great Resigners”. Paul Sechrist is among them. He left financial firm Navient in December 2021 and has now started his own business in an entirely different industry — food delivery.
He worked at Navient for seven years and intended to stay and scale the corporate ladder. Those plans fell apart when the Covid-19 pandemic forced him to work from home. “I was just looked at as a replaceable number [having] no clear path up the corporate ladder without burning myself out constantly,” he said.
The stress and anxiety became too much. So, he quit.
He then latched onto a franchise prospect and launched Snap Delivered: Nashville, which touts itself as a “fairer” food delivery company with lower prices and fees.
Burnout is one of the biggest reasons “great resigners” give for why they are looking for new opportunities, according to research published in January 2022 by Cengage Group, an education technology company. The research polled 1,200 people who either quit their job in the past six months or are seriously planning to do so in the next six. A whopping 89% of respondents blamed burnout for their decision to leave, while 91% cited wanting more money and 83% said a lack of growth in their current positions had prompted their exit.
Regardless, of their motives for leaving, staying afloat is a big challenge for the Great Resigners’ as they transition and find new ways to make a living. The majority of people participating in the Cengage survey said they had to cut back on expenses, take a part-time job, and dip into savings or take out a loan to finance their dreams. And 73% said they had to move back in with their parents.
“Younger people can, and often should take calculated risks,” said Dennis Consorte is a small business expert at Digital.com – a website that helps small business owners make buying choices. “Many of them tapped into their retirement savings to explore new businesses because the lockdowns showed us that a life without purpose is not a life well-lived,” he added.
Paul Sechrist cashed in his 401(k) [retirement savings and investment plan] to launch Snap Delivered: Nashville. He’s not worried. “I may miss out on some stock market gains, but money means nothing if you are miserable every day,” he said. “Working at a job that you don’t love, that doesn’t make you feel fulfilled is going to cost you more than any amount of money in the long run.”
One outcome of the mass resignations has been a flurry of entrepreneurship. More than two in five Americans plan to start a business in 2022, according to new data from Digital.com. The study, which polled 1,250 people, cited the desire to earn more money, to be one’s own boss, and to pursue a passion as the three biggest motivations for becoming entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, more than 400,000 new businesses were launched in December 2021 alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“It’s a great time to open a small business,” said Consorte. “After being socially isolated for so long, people are realizing that community matters. I believe that will translate into more support for local shops, consultants, and other small businesses.”
Cengage Group’s CEO Michael E. Hansen believes employees must acknowledge that this “Great Reassessment” is happening. “While a certain level of turnover is expected and even healthy for an organization, the burn and churn of a constant stream of employees leaving can be very expensive and damaging to a company’s productivity, but more importantly, it has a corrosive impact on company culture,” he said.
Employers should seize the moment to shake up their approach to employee relations, according to Hansen. Attention should be paid to giving employee raises, but that alone won’t cut it — providing staff with benefits packages that include opportunities for growth and developing new skills will be more compelling, he added.
More than three-quarters of the people Cengage surveyed are either taking or have completed a course to acquire new skills, particularly in areas like technology.
“Making it easy for employees to upskill or reskill through employer-sponsored education — be it internally or through an outside education provider — signals to employees you are thinking about their future and are willing to invest in them.” said Hansen.