The Future of Work: Are We in the Midst of a Turnover Tsunami?
July 5, 2021 | Future of Work
by ExperiencePoint

You might have heard the term “turnover tsunami” in business news of late. Or maybe you’ve witnessed the beginning of a mini exodus at your own organization. The end of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to bring a tidal wave of job-quitting, driven by numerous forces. 

It’s a trend predicted to create massive talent gaps across industries over the next few years. Coupled with some of the workforce shifts we’ve already explored in our The Future of Work series, the turnover tsunami will have managers and executives scrambling to fill important gaps.

What’s Behind the Turnover?

According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), many people clung to their jobs at the height of the pandemic, grateful to have financial security during uncertain times. In fact, according to the SHRM April 2020 had the lowest U.S. “quit-rate” that the country had seen in nine years, after seeing high rates of job-switching before COVID-19.

But other people weren’t able to prioritize financial security. The shuttering of schools and daycares made work untenable for some parents, with women experiencing the brunt of the blow. A sobering statistic from The Washington Post relayed that, as of October 2020, 2 million women had left their jobs, making women’s participation in the American labor force the lowest it had been since 1988.

Another pandemic phenomenon has been rampant psychological burnout, with employees feeling overworked and underappreciated. A recent article in Canada’s major national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, recounts people describing being stretched too thin, as layoffs and budgetary tightening meant their list of responsibilities grew without commensurate remuneration. The feeling of non-stop work was often compounded by lockdowns and work-from-home policies, blurring the boundaries between on and off time. In the Globe article, a sales associate in the fintech industry explained his decision to quit as “death by a thousand cuts.”

But those who stayed in their positions throughout the worst of it might be feeling differently now. The world looks different in the aftermath of a storm and people seem to be reevaluating what their jobs mean to them and the role they play in their lives. The pandemic drove home the notion that life is short and time is precious, sparking people to reassess their values, ambitions and careers. Employees across disciplines and industries are feeling emboldened to seize opportunities and take big risks. If they don’t feel that their current job aligns with their reassessment, they might throw caution to the wind and look elsewhere.

Getting Ahead of the Deluge

Turnover is expensive and detrimental to company morale. A lost employee is a loss of years of institutional knowledge. Add to that the costs of recruiting, hiring and training and you’ll get a sense of why employers hate goodbyes.

Prevention is always better than a cure and companies need to get ahead of the tsunami. This begins by truly listening to your employees and hearing their needs and concerns. Business as usual won’t be the same post-pandemic, and employers will need to reevaluate how they can best accommodate their employees’ new desires and demands. Your people must feel connected to both their work and to the company’s culture. They must see a future for themselves at your organization and believe in the organization’s long-term vision.

In our next blog post in The Future of Work series, we’ll look at ways that building organizational culture and capabilities can keep your employees motivated, inspired and happy in their work. Stay tuned!