Gone are the days of “quiet quitting” and “quiet firing.” The pendulum has swung from the Great Resignation to “The Big Stay” in which workers are sticking with their current jobs. According to a recent CNN report, almost 50 million people quit their jobs in the two years following the worst of the pandemic, citing pressures such as burnout, general job dissatisfaction or child or elder care needs. Amid a tight labor market, many were also able to find a better job, with better pay. Beyoncé even released a song about it, suggesting employees quit their jobs amid economists’ predictions of a recession. But times have changed, and workers are staying put.
Economic Jitters And ‘The Big Stay’ Trend
As the workforce anchors down in their jobs, staying for longer periods of time, what does that mean for the job market? Erin Lazarus, solutions architect at SHL, believes the employee market is heading back to pre-pandemic levels. “The candidate shortage and competitiveness in the market is waning,” Lazarus says. “With more candidates coming back, candidates have less leverage to get great offers and companies aren’t clambering as much to find the best talent, so employees are starting to have less leverage again.” Three major banks—Silicon Valley Bank, Republic Bank and Signature Bank—failed this year. According to the CNN report, employers are less concerned about hiring and resignations, big corporations have thinned employee ranks. And several high-profile companies—including Bed, Bath & Beyond, David’s Bridal, and Tupperware—have filed for bankruptcy.
In preparation for a potential recession, companies are investing less in hiring new workers and working towards increasing manager effectiveness, according to Jon Greenawalt, senior vice president and general manager of transform & services at 15Five. “As the jitters around the health of the overall economy persist, roughly four out of five employees fear losing their jobs during a potential recession.” Add in the studies that show 87% of job seekers have jitters leaving and finding a job, and 53% say starting a new job is scarier than a trip to the dentist, holding a spider or snake and skydiving. And more workers are in for the long haul.
Greenawalt agrees. “Employees are much less likely to voluntarily quit their jobs than they did during the Great Resignation,” he acknowledges, while citing that there are drawbacks. “While people may be staying put they are being asked to do more with less, adding to already high levels of burnout, low job satisfaction and an unprecedented drop in labor productivity over the past few years. Much of this drop in productivity can be attributed to ‘quiet quitting’—which frankly is just another way of saying that employees are actively disengaged. In fact, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is now the lowest it’s been in almost a decade.”
Although productivity is down, a recent Gallup report found that people are more satisfied than ever with work. According to the analysis, after dropping in 2020 during the pandemic, employee engagement is on the rise again, reaching a record-high of 23%. This means more workers found their work meaningful and felt connected to their team, manager and employer. That’s good news for global productivity and GDP growth, Gallup notes.
The Bigger Picture
“With this shift, it’s also important to take into account the big picture,” Lazarus points out. “During the Great Resignation, so many people left their jobs in favor of a new opportunity. We also know that people tend to be highly engaged early on in their organizational tenure and stay in a new role for at least one to two years before making a move. So, while ‘The Big Stay’ is partly reflective of market shifts, it’s also a byproduct of the fact that many employees are new in their role.” According to Lazarus, this collective data tells a larger story. “A huge number of workers took new roles in 2021-2022, often wiping out institutional knowledge along the way, meaning productivity is down while companies rebuild strategy and process without historical knowledge, and people are mostly happy because they are new in role and likely building strategy and process from the ground up.”
“If companies expect to successfully navigate the challenges of the “Big Stay” and increase productivity while doing more with less, they are going to have to drive up engagement,” Greenawalt insists. “Highly engaged organizations perform two times better and are 23% more profitable on average. Front line managers are the key, with 70% of a team’s engagement influenced by their manager. This is why manager effectiveness is the top priority for HR this year.”