Are people really quitting their jobs en-masse? And if so, what are they doing when they leave?
It’s surprising how quickly rumour and anecdote become folklore. Never more so than in times of crisis or uncertainty; or when social and economic landscapes evolve in unpredicted ways.
One such piece of popular wisdom is that whole swathes of the working population are leaving their jobs for something better. Speak to friends and neighbours, and they’re bound to know of someone who has done just that. Details, however, can be elusive.
The Great Resignation – sometimes dubbed the Great Quit – is a fascinating and dynamic phenomenon. And the choice of appellation is also interesting. ‘Resignation’ suggests the inevitable, but ‘Quit’ (used more often in the US) sounds purposeful and positive.
One person leaving a job is unremarkable in the macro sense. But more than 3%* of the workforce is currently actively on the move (and a staggering 40% increase in resignations compared with pre-pandemic numbers*) has consequences throughout the economy.
Some are ‘simply’ moving jobs for a better opportunity, but a significant minority are setting up in business for themselves, and this has an energising effect – for them, their community and for the country more widely.
The first glance can often be deceptive
In February this year the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) unpicked some of the data around this trend. Their article, ‘The Great Resignation -fact or fiction’ combines their own research with data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). It gives a revealing picture of what the numbers look like and what they might mean. It’s worth a read.
In our article here, we’ll also consider implications specific to those who have handed in their cards and set up for themselves.
Context - what the numbers seem to say
The CIPD analysis is broad ranging and gives some really useful background to the ONS numbers, which might otherwise be difficult to interpret. It’s also worth noting that not all data is equal – in the sense that points in time for different elements considered are…well, different.
Among the figures are the following highlights:
Mid-life Crisis or work-life balance?
The ONS measured ‘resignation’ separately from ‘chose to leave previous job for family or personal reasons.’ Logic suggests a significant overlap. Here there was a dip in the spring and summer of 2020, but a return to the pre-pandemic average since then. Resignations dropped to match, but have increased steadily since September 2020.
It’s difficult to pin exact numbers to motivation. Stories in the news and on social media suggest that many people resigning do so because they now prefer the flexibility of working from home at least part of the time. In a labour market where there is a shortage of employees, and where businesses offer that choice, mobility will increase.
Why did people resign, and what impact has that had?
Some people – probably a minority – have resigned for other related reasons. Perhaps they have seen a way out of a toxic environment or found employment in a sector where they’d always dreamed of working.
With more vacancies available than employees, anyone seeking a new job (or being head-hunted) is more likely to secure the job they want and they’ll resign as part of the move. After successive lockdowns, many people have come to value their time out of a strict working regimen more than before, and some will have retired early.
There is also an important minority which punches above its weight: those setting up their own business – by choice or because they have been given a gentle nudge. Finally, they have ‘thrown off the shackles’ of employment. They’re ready to work for themselves and perhaps become an employer too.
In the 21st century, and almost without exception, that means going online.
Thus, one of the many consequences of the pandemic has been a surge in demand for business-to-business services. Naturally enough, B2B includes website development and design, and a whole raft of marketing and advertising specialties.
Commercial realities – and opportunities
For a serial entrepreneur, setting up a new venture is the bread and butter of existence. For the former employee, making their first step towards autonomy, it’s a major change. It’s daunting, but it is liberating too!
Preparation is key, and most people starting out for themselves will be doing so in a sector where they already have expertise.
From our experience at Future Point 4 Business, most pandemic start-ups and the newly self-employed are pretty good at turning a concept into a clearly defined product or service. They have a clear vision of what they want to do and how things will fit together. Where the help is needed, however, is getting the whole thing into the market – and, once there, making that space permanent and larger.
Discovering a new way of life
We’re happy to have worked with a number of new businesses over the last couple of years. These are ventures which probably would not have started were it not for the pandemic and the ‘great resignation.’
Without exception these entrepreneurs are talented and highly motivated.
Many have a clear vision of how their marketing will look, but are not sure how to get there. Others benefit from time dedicated to thinking hard about the purpose of their business, their brand and how to keep their branding dynamic.
Once the core concepts are clear, we’ve found it pays to give time to brand building and marketing in a range of media to suit the client – but always including activity online via a website and on social media.
Brand building is more than designing a logo, although that is crucially important. Brand building goes to the heart of capturing the hearts of the target audience and growing the business from there.
A great product really helps, of course, but so does re-enforcing positive messages – from video animation that sits neatly on a mobile, to long term social media activities.
Above all what really counts – and it’s what’s kept us buzzing - is the passion and commitment that comes with starting your own business.
Perhaps that has been another important consequence of the pandemic. More than ever (and even in times of economic challenge) we see evidence aplenty of people taking control over their own destiny – and we never get tired of helping them make it work.
* CIPD and ONS, CIPD Voice https://www.cipd.co.uk/news-views/cipd-voice/Issue-33/great-resignation-fact-fiction#gref The Great Resignation – fact or fiction?
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