Remember when people were jumping from one job to the next during the dot-com craze?
Remember when we, as recruiters and leaders, worried about how to attract and retain that rare breed, Millennials, as they were entering the workforce? And remember the term, “war for talent”? That became a buzzword over twenty years ago!
If you don’t remember any of this, no worries. The bottom line is that “the Great Resignation” is not actually new. History isn’t repeating itself. We’ve simply been spinning in the same wash cycle for over 20 years, talking in new terms about the same challenge of attracting and retaining great talent.
What do we have to show for it? A glut of flashy incentive programs and perks that we have offered to draw people in and keep them “happy.” We did this because we had to compete for talent. We did this because others were doing it. We did this because employees said they wanted it, so we obliged. And yet, people left. They’re still leaving.
So, what’s different this time? Why, in our minds, is “the Great Resignation” not simply a new phase in a mostly linear trend? Because this time, a global pandemic and countless human atrocities happened and keep happening. We are changed. We are confronted with the preciousness of life. We know that how we spend our time matters. People won't tolerate a bad job, a bad boss, a bad relationship, or a lack of purpose and meaning anymore. It is an awakening, an awakening to what people have always longed for: to matter, to make a difference, and to have meaning.
People are questioning how to create the professional life they truly desire. Can they create healthy work boundaries? Can they be considered a high performer and have their well-being? Can they find a professional role that is meaningful and joyful? When it comes down to it, we have all been looking and looking for a place where we can most simply put, be us. A place where we feel valued and cared for. A place where our ideas, our thoughts, and our wisdom are welcomed and we are not limited in our striving by biases about our age, race, gender, sexual orientation, upbringing, or what our resume says. A place where we are trusted to do great things without having to sacrifice our well-being, our boundaries, or the precious time we have with the people and the things we love in life.
We have all been asking for a place where we can be the people we have always been. Not perfect, maybe a bit broken, but special and valuable, nonetheless. Where we finally and unabashedly get to be us.