Why Workers Keep Saying ‘I Quit’: Understanding the Great Resignation

Tired S&D worker

As we’re closing in on year two of the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve likely heard the term “The Great Resignation” by now. But what exactly is it, and why has it hit certain industries so hard?

The Great Resignation is a phenomenon that started during the pandemic – it’s an ongoing trend that’s resulted in millions of workers choosing to leave their jobs voluntarily. In August alone, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs – that’s 2.9% of the entire workforce in just one month. COVID-19 has allowed many people to pause and rethink their careers, goals, and evaluate their overall working conditions. With working from home becoming the norm for many, those who were not able to do so began seeking roles that would allow the flexibility of telecommuting. Many others realized that their current jobs did not provide the work-life balance that others could and chose to leave for that reason as well.

Notably, industries that require in-person service have been hit the hardest. Logistics and distribution companies have been among some of the most affected by the Great Resignation of 2021, and there are lots of reasons why. With massive shortages in staffing occurring simultaneously with increased demand, and some of the highest employee turnover rates across the board, the effects of the pandemic have taken a massive toll on these workers in several ways.

The glaring reasons for labor shortages in logistics and distribution

When employees perceive working conditions as unsafe and stressful, they’re not likely to stay – and potential employees will be hesitant to apply for those same positions that might expose them to risk. For example, in distribution centers and warehouses, there is often limited space to socially distance and, in some cases, poor handling of CDC-recommended tasks such as wearing masks and keeping supplies like disinfectants and sanitizers in stock. Factors like these increase a worker’s likelihood of leaving a position they deem unsafe.

Front line and hourly workers were often highly praised at the beginning of the pandemic for their commitments to keeping the economy functioning and showing up in-person to work, despite the risks. But now, the glimmer has seemingly worn off. Logistics and distribution center workers have begun to feel undervalued and underappreciated, and career burnout is on the rise. Employees in industries where working from home is not an option want better working conditions, better pay, better benefits, and flexibility.

How to maintain your talent

The silver lining? You can use the Great Resignation of 2021 as an opportunity to evaluate areas of need within your company. There’s never been a better time to invest in the employees you do have and show that you’re just as loyal to them as you hope they’ll be to your company.

Start by assessing the skillsets of your employees. With practices like reskilling and upskilling you can, respectively, train your employees to learn new skills that might apply to a different job field at your organization and reteach them how to improve performance within the jobs they currently hold. You’ll find that these opportunities for development can be a great way to engage your workers, showing them how committed you are to their success at your organization. In line with reskilling and upskilling, consider how to enhance the technology that your workforce has access to. Modernizing and improving the employee experience through technology can make a world of difference for those who rely on it in their daily jobs. It’s also important to remember that advanced technology is simultaneously eliminating millions of manual jobs – in fact, over 100 million workers may need to switch occupations by 2030 for this reason alone. Although some jobs may be eliminated with the introduction of new technology like robots and AI, new jobs with different skills are also being created. By reskilling and upskilling employees, you can retain your best employees and move them into these new roles.

It’s also a great time to re-examine your company’s benefits programs. It’s more than likely that pay is not the only reason that employees are leaving companies. Though fair and generous wages are a large factor in the equation, the ability to swap shifts and work remotely, as well as access to good healthcare benefits have also become increasingly important to employees as a byproduct of the pandemic. If your company does not offer substantial perks in these areas, you may end up losing valuable employees to the competition. There are lots of things, big and small, that your company can do to entice your workers to stay – and to stay happy. Some organizations are even offering to pay for the entirety of employees’ school tuitions.

Another thing to consider is allowing your employees to work more flexible schedules. The pandemic has complicated life in many ways, but one of the largest stressors has become balancing childcare and sickness with job responsibilities. Many variables come into play – caretakers can get sick, or daycare or in-person school can close when an outbreak occurs. Allowing employees to work flexible schedules when they need to will increase engagement and profitability as well as help identify flight risks.

Looking forward, it’s clear that there are many opportunities for positive change because of these unprecedented and stressful times. The Great Resignation has proven that from this point on, transformation is necessary for the logistics and distribution industries to thrive. Keeping your company staffed and your workers happy is imperative to the success of your business. The lesson here? Companies will need to continue to adapt to the changing desires and needs of their workforce to avoid shortages in the market in the future.

Check out UKG’s recent webinar Beyond the Great Resignation: An Action Plan for Hiring and Retention for more insights on transforming the employee experience.

Watch it here.