How Workers Can Make the Most of the Great Resignation

There’s a reason you’re leaving your job. Make sure you don’t jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. Better yet, with a small change we can extinguish the fire altogether.

November 2, 2021
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2
min read
Photo by Van Tay Media on Unsplash

If you’ve been paying any attention to the job market you know we’re in the midst of the Great Resignation. It’s been written about in CNBC,  Inc., the BBC, and pretty much every other major media outlet. People are leaving jobs in record numbers. While some are dropping out of the workforce completely, most people are leaving for new jobs.

The reasons vary. Money is a factor for some, but in most cases, it isn’t the primary reason. The top reasons employees are quitting include: flexibility / working from home, corporate culture, how companies treated employees (particularly how they were treated the past few years), and better opportunity.

What does this mean for your next job? It means you likely care about more than just the role. Often, we look at jobs based on the job description and compensation. In the case of the former, it’s things like objectives and responsibilities of the role, size of budget or team, nature of the product or service, size of the company, etc.

All of that is important, as is compensation, but it belies an important factor that only just now is being talked about: the environment. As you look for your next role, be sure to look at this critical component. During the process, ask questions like:

  • What is the work environment like?
  • How many hours a week is the expectation for this role?
  • What’s the work from home policy?
  • How would you describe the company culture?
  • Can you provide examples? [To the prior question; lots of companies talk a good game, look for actions not words, although ask politely]
  • What personality traits help someone succeed on this team / in this company?
  • In what ways does management solicit employee input?
  • Can you provide an example of how employee input changed company culture or policy?
  • What did the company do to help employees during the pandemic?
  • Where will this job lead me to in five years?

You may have been hesitant to ask such questions before, e.g., if I ask, “How many hours a week is the expectation for this role?” they might think I’m lazy and don’t want to work hard. In fact, a question like that helps set expectations to make sure both sides are on the same page. At this moment in particular, employees have the upper hand and you’re very unlikely to lose the opportunity by asking. At the same time, it makes sure you don’t wind up in another job infringing on your work life balance which may be why you left your last job. And if you really don’t feel comfortable, pull out the list above and say, “I read a great article that recommended some questions I’m now asking companies.” This way it seems like you're following a given list and not actively probing for something only a lazy employee is worried about.

Asking these questions now serves two purposes. First it helps you find the right next job. It’s not just the role or the compensation. If you’re leaving because of culture then make sure your next job meets your cultural needs, including flexibility, management support, and other aspects that matter to you.

Second, it sends a signal to employers. If one candidate asks about culture, they think it matters to the one candidate. If seven out of ten candidates ask about culture, HR will report to leadership, “Employees are asking about this. We need to be competitive with the culture we offer.” By asking you’re helping yourself and helping others and companies feel pressure to offer better workplace culture.

We’ve facing one of the biggest changes in the labor market in a century. Whether it’s just a blip or a sea change will depend on how strongly workers act. While actions do speak louder than words, don’t count on companies to correctly interpret those actions, also use your words. In this case, use them to ask questions about what matters to you.

By
Mark A. Herschberg
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