Can Technology Reverse the Workforce – Depleting ‘Great Resignation’ of 2021?
Although remote and other technology appears to be an underlying cause of the 2021 “Great Resignation,” it may also hold the key to a “Great Return.”
Many believed the mass exodus from the workforce had peaked in April when a total of 24 million had quit for the year. But month-over-month attrition rates have remained staggeringly high. More than 4 million Americans quit their job in July. During September and October, the monthly dropout rate hovered around 4.4 million, and the year’s tally exceeds 38 million and rising.
What makes this modern-day phenomenon perplexing is that the U.S. carries upwards of 10 million job openings, with an annual high of 11.1 million during July and 10.44 million in September. These heightened numbers seem to indicate everyday people are quoting David Allan Coe’s 1978 hit by telling the corporate world to “take this jobs and shove it, I ain’t working here no more.”
Technology Sector Hit Hard by Great Resignation
To date, at least 40 percent of the existing workforce indicates they are contemplating leaving their position. In the U.S., more than 70 percent of people in the technology industry say they are on the fence. Many appear to be positioning themselves to quit in favor of another job or just fall out of the workforce over the next 12 months.
Economists and employment experts point to wide-reaching reasons why people are dropping out in record numbers. Free money in the form of stimulus checks and the sharp increase in remote opportunities are considered driving factors. Cynics simply shrug off the movement, indicating over-entitled Millennials and Gen Z employees don’t have the work ethic of other demographics or can’t handle the stress. Such remarks are typically echoed from one generation to the next.
- Failing Technology: Faltering laptops, networks, and systems frustrated employees who were thrust into work-from-home situations. Many had little or no experience working offsite, and the change was incompatible with a healthy work-life balance.
- Toxicity: Low incomes, stressful workloads, and feelings of under-appreciation reportedly led many to quit.
- Loss of Control: Pandemic displacement and return to brick and mortar facilities took away a sense of ownership. Employees tended to believe they were not “heard,” and their jobs felt dissatisfying.
Among technology sector professionals, more than 90 percent of employees were disgruntled about the lack of training and learning opportunities. It may seem counterintuitive, but the very technological advancements that helped shepherd workers through the height of the pandemic appear to be infuriating them.
But living in the technology age means that nothing stands still. New developments and innovative ways to utilize existing technology could prove invaluable in reversing quit rates.
Can Technology Help a “Great Return” to the Workforce?
It’s important to avoid looking at the Great Resignation solely through the lens of technology. There are wide-reaching cultural and economic factors in play that can also provide insight into employer solutions.
For example, Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao indicates that companies may be shooting themselves in the foot concerning remote talents. He recently posed the question about how companies such as Amazon and Microsoft planned to compete over the same technology talent. Will they offer salaries based on adjusted regional averages or higher ones to prevent employee migration?
That same concept applies to small business owners who find themselves in a global talent pool. But in terms of the role technology plays, the following strategies can help usher in a Great Return to the workforce.
- Collaboration Tools: Easy-to-use apps and devices can help bridge the culture gap. Although people from different walks of life come to the organization with unique perspectives, collaborative tools support team building. Better remote connections typically lead to better results.
- End Big Brother: Supervisors who suddenly lost in-person monitoring were pleased to discover surveillance technologies. Loyal and hard-working employees find the use of screen activity monitoring, mouse click counting, and other metrics offensive. Organizations would be better served to use technology to fairly evaluate productivity based on outcomes, not the process.
- Maintain Remote Flexible: A recent Gartner study indicates more than half of the global workforce expects work-from-anywhere options. In 2019, only 17 percent of employees held that expectation. Given this live-work trend, company leaders would be well-served to invest in remote infrastructure.
Thought leaders who pivoted to remote workforces during the height of the pandemic are tasked with reevaluating their use of technology. Just as improved infrastructure, agility, and a willingness to adapt buoyed productivity, new strategies will help professionals adapt technology to a shifting business landscape.