YFCS September Blog: How Power Shifted During The Great Resignation of 2021

Parents holding a baby looking at a laptop

The Youth, Family, and Community Sciences graduate program publishes a monthly blog written by students, alumni and faculty sharing important topics and helpful resources related to the field of family science. In the September blog post, YFCS Graduate Certificate Coordinator Jessica Williams discusses how the power has shifted in the workplace and what experts are calling ‘The Great Resignation.’

Forced resignations were a theme at the beginning of the pandemic and before we knew it, The Great Resignation of 2021 was upon us. Following the latest surge of the pandemic, an exceedingly large number of individuals have handed in their resignation. In April, 4 million people, or 2.8% of Americans, quit their jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this as the highest quit rate in 21 years. I was actually included in these statistics and submitted my registration to my past employer before I had another position confirmed. I knew that it was time to move on and that this was the perfect time to do it. This has affected organizations at all levels and throughout industries across the globe but especially in the areas of nonprofit and family science.

The events of this pandemic have slowly allowed a shift of power within the workplace. Employees now have an advantage, and employers know it. Individuals who were stuck in isolation began to learn about themselves and how their employers treat them during a crisis. Many individuals began to reevaluate their current positions and started searching for employment that would allow them to make certain changes. Some of these changes included the usual suspects, like work from home flexibility, better benefits, increased salaries, and the most important one of treating employees well. Other individuals searched for employment within companies focused on social justice, diversity and inclusion, and corporate philanthropy. The companies that have ignored this shift, that doubled down on the bottom line over the well-being of individuals, have experienced higher turnovers.

The lines between the public and private sectors have begun to overlap with employees focusing on how companies handle social issues with nonprofit agencies seeing an increase of applicants coming from the private sector. The private sector, which once chose to remain silent to not offend, has now leaned into social issues like race, gender equality, and LGBTQI rights. Rather than take offense, the public is seeking out CEOs who speak up and lead the way. When a stand is not made, customers respond by taking their business elsewhere. Leaders are being measured, not just for their business acumen but for their decency as human beings. Much of our economy has been focused on the concept that the only social responsibility of a CEO and a company was to deliver a profit to its shareholders. While profitability is imperative to success, there is a growing understanding that not taking other stakeholders (community, employees, vendors, and the planet) into account is actually an injustice to shareholders in the long term. Today’s culture has higher expectations of leadership and management than previous generations. As a result, a company can have the best product in the world, but still will not succeed without a clear set of values and a growing relationship built on trust with the customer. 

The way for companies to survive and keep their best employees during this Great Resignation is to exhibit an unnatural adaptability to see people, listen to people, adjust to people — and meet them where they are. The best career path isn’t always a straightforward one. In the end, it comes down to a work-life balance. It looks different to everyone but the goal should be for an individual to have a passion for their career, an employer they are proud to work for, and enjoyment out of their life.