Our last few years have significantly impacted the state of employment. Now, along with widespread vaccines in the US, Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index is forecasting a shift in our job model from remote to hybrid work. This is not the only change looming, however. The talent landscape has fundamentally shifted, and part of that is what some are terming the “great resignation.”
This past August, as the economy struggled to get back on track amid the pandemic, nearly 4.3 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs, according to the Labor Department. This followed an exodus of 4 million in July of 2021. The most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics covers October 2021, during which 5.9 million people separated from their jobs, again with 4.2 million quitting voluntarily. The industries most affected in these stats are transportation, warehousing, and utilities, followed by finance and insurance and entertainment industries. Now, as the year ends, is the great resignation beginning to hit the field of engineering?
Some recent surveys suggest that tech will soon be one of the industries hit hardest by resignations. Microsoft’s report found in surveying 2800 tech-industry professionals that as much as one-third had plans to look for a new job within the next few months. Young workers are quitting their jobs to pursue better offers at a higher rate than older, more established workers—according to the Harvard Business Review, and the resignation rate is particularly high among those aged 30 to 45. While many employees who may have wanted to leave prior to the pandemic held on due to uncertainty, this may only compound separations in the coming months as money has been available for startups and smaller companies and people themselves feel more settled.
This means it is likely that a significant number of mid-career technology workers may be edging out the door, especially as a survey by Dice Insights indicates 36% of technologists feeling burned out by workload, excessive hours, lack of recognition, and lack of challenges through 2021. There is not one universal root cause; instead, the havoc of the pandemic has manifested in different ways throughout lives and workplaces. But with industry jobs already highly paid and in demand, tech workers are really reshuffling the industry, moving between jobs but with new demands.
These demands include and dictate the bounds of the hybrid work model—the ability to work remotely, more flexibility in work hours, and more time spent on tasks the workers deem meaningful. Without access to the in-office perks that have been used to lure tech workers in the recent past, what separates one job from another other than the work itself? Especially as remote-work products have been more and more in demand, many tech workers have been burnt out by the demands of maintenance and upkeep for these platforms during the pandemic. Higher user rates mean more than just increased demand on the platforms. It also means the users will have higher expectations for how well it functions. But, at the end of the day, how satisfying is the work to maintain software to help get food delivered?
Whatever the answer, more and more tech workers, removed from the office environment, have been asking the question. This pairs with a new wave of start-ups and young public companies, with attractive potential for growth that workers may not see at their current jobs and some increase in public stigma around bigger tech names like Amazon and Facebook. All of this data and the coining of the phrase “The Great Resignation” itself has spawned articles offering advice on both sides: For employers, how do you implement retention strategies with a landscape of employees so burnt out and looking to leave? For employees, how do you leverage the state of the industry into increased benefits and greater job satisfaction?
For the former, this can mean really understanding the particular reasons that result in turnover and tailoring retention programs to their business, their employees, and the current state of the industry and world. Remote work and flexible hours and location are certainly on the table, as are more tailored individual work plans. Reduction of digital exhaustion also looks to be a necessity as time spent on Zoom meetings has left many feeling tired and overworked. For employees, there is a unique opportunity to negotiate for what they want their career to look like, whether that means flexible and remote work, parental leave and childcare assistance, and, should they choose to leave, a chance to look for a career that really aligns with their values and the work culture they desire. As the industry continues to shift and shuffle, both sides of the equation will be tasked with creating new cultures and structures that support the ways in which we now live.
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