Unemployment rates have been declining in recent months, but the headline dominating the news is the Great Labor Shortage of 2021. Companies that struggled to keep the lights on during the pandemic are now struggling for entirely different reasons. It’s not the stay-at-home orders affecting business this time; it’s the lack of applications for open positions. And while that’s certainly a substantial problem, there is a more significant threat on the horizon.
It’s time to brace for the Great Resignation.
In the early months of the pandemic, employees were just thankful to have a job. They saw their colleagues laid off and furloughed repeatedly and were hopeful that the pay cuts they experienced would be the worst of their experience. As the year progressed, the volume of business increased, but the size of the workforce did not. The workload they’ve managed has been unsustainable for months, but they stayed because they were optimistic that help was on the way. Optimism only lasts for so long before desperation sets in. With open roles sitting unfilled for months, the same employees who were thankful to have a job are now burnt out and resentful for the demands being placed on them every day.
While the grass may not actually be greener at any other company, perception is reality. And if the perception is that the current employer isn’t actively solving the workload problem, then a mass exodus is coming.
This should be a terrifying warning for all employers. Remember, when organizations decided which employees to furlough and lay off, they kept the most impactful employees. They acknowledged the risk of losing some historical knowledge, but kept the people who possessed irreplaceable knowledge/skills. Those employees, the MVPs, are the ones who will make a job change in the coming months. Organizations are on the verge of losing priceless legacy/historical information at a time when they will struggle to fill any open positions.
The next few months will be a true test for great leaders. Leaders who haven’t ensured that their employees feel valued, appreciated, and seen will be the first to experience the Great Resignation wave. Employees who lack faith in their organization and leaders are at the highest risk for turnover. Sadly, if employees lack faith now, chances are it’s too late to retain the talent. Employees mentally resign and withdraw months before formally resigning. As a result, there has never been a more important time to ensure you have a strong knowledge transfer strategy in place before it’s too late. If you haven’t done the work to keep your employees happy and engaged, the need to address knowledge transfer is overdue.
It’s time to take a critical look at your workforce and think through your disaster recovery plan if each one resigned tomorrow. What will you do next?