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From the Great Resignation to the Great Rethink: Changing the reality of the workforce

shifting the great resignation
Posted at 12:28 PM, Feb 02, 2023

DENVER, Colo. — You've heard the term Great Resignation, which referred to the 25 million Americans quitting their jobs at the beginning of 2022. Now, experts are shifting the concept to the Great Reshuffle or Great Rethink as this trend is far from over.

The Great Resignation created the idea that people were leaving the labor force forever. But new hard data is proving differently: people didn't quit working altogether, they are switching jobs.

"Our society has been fundamentally changed by this disease, and I think this has given people pause about, 'Is this how I want to live my life?'" said David Blustein, a professor of counseling psychology at Boston College.

In many cases, people left jobs that gave them little ability to have control over their lives. For quite some time, this seemed temporary, but experts are saying this shift is just the beginning of the next chapter of the workforce.

A new study indicates that about 81% do not regret leaving their previous job and are generally happy about their workplace decisions. It was done with 1,200 respondents ages 25 and up who quit their jobs between May of 2021 and May of 2022. Blustein points out people are putting life before work, something that up until this point has been foreign to the American workforce.

"What's going on is, I mean, I guess we can call it a 'Great Rethink' about work," Blustein said. "I think we're going to see this continue to evolve as the years and decades ensue."

The reality is, he says, the newest generation of the workforce will avoid industries and companies that aren't providing flexibility. The focus is no longer on paying dues.

David Bechtold is an associate professor of business management at Metropolitan State University Denver. He says what's new is that people's trajectories have changed. The typical model of retirement is on the road to extinction.

"Though I still think there will be opportunities for people coming out to have a lot more control over what they are going to do and what they want to get out of their first job," Bechtold said. "So, we're really into a very unusual dynamic with a lot of uncertainty and a lot of erratic behavior."

The pandemic opened up opportunities for untraditional work settings, but 2023 is proving those opportunities are now becoming models for how workplaces need to operate.

"The level of flexibility and freedom I think is a good thing because it requires employers to think through how are they going to acquire, manage and retain their employees," Bechtold said.

"It allowed people the experience that they could combine their personal and work lives. It will never go back," said Cristina Banks, the director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Health Workplaces at the University of California Berkeley.

Banks says while more employers are getting on board with this shift, there is still a disconnect.

"Employers want it one way, and the newly empowered workers want it a different way," Banks said. "Employers are going to suffer by not evolving."

She points out that employers are the ones currently at a disadvantage because at this moment, the options are plentiful for workers.

"There are still more jobs out there than employees to fill by significant number," Bechtold said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in November of 2022, there were about 10.4 million jobs available, but just 6 million people looking for a job.

"That will be the great equalizer. When there are more people entering the job market and there are fewer jobs to be filled," Bechtold said.

The Great Resignation is in the past, but now, we are facing the Great Rethink, giving an opportunity for employees and employers to get on the same page about changes to the workforce that aren't going anywhere.