Four out of 10 people (43%) who quit their jobs during the pandemic now admit they were actually better off at their old job. This revelation comes from a six-country survey of nearly 4,000 people by UKG, a leading provider of HR, payroll, and workforce management solutions for all people, that examines sentiment about quitting during the Great Resignation, including if job leavers felt that they made the right decision, the disconnect between managers and employees about why people quit, and the chances workers would boomerang back to their old job.
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"Leaders and organizations don't own people's careers. If someone has an amazing opportunity for themselves and their family, great leaders will embrace the move and let strong performers know the door is open if they want to return. Great leaders should also never be blindsided by someone quitting," said Aron Ain, chairman and CEO at UKG. "Yet, those open conversations about career desires and new opportunities only happen if the manager and employee share trust - which is the magic glue that holds all relationships together. Jobs reports show that 47 million people quit in the U.S. alone last year1, and our survey indicates that nearly half of those people feel they ended up worse off in their new job. With trusting relationships where people can comfortably communicate their true desires about life and work with their manager, they may not leave their job in the first place."
The full report, "Resign, Resigned, or Re-Sign? Pandemic-era job quitters and their managers wish they had a do-over," compares survey responses of 1,950 employees who voluntarily left their jobs since March 2020 with 1,850 people managers who had people on their teams quit across France, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, the U.S., and the U.K.
Employees Are Quitting in Haste, Many Feel Their Old Job Was Better Than the One They Left For
With more job openings available than people to fill them, employees have more choices than ever before in this hyper-competitive job market. One in 5 people who quit say they were not actively looking for a new job, and 41% said they contemplated quitting for less than a month before they gave their notice. Unsurprisingly, that same 41% of employees admit they quit their jobs too quickly.
Of people not fully satisfied in their new role, 62% admit, "The job I quit was better than my job now." When all job leavers were asked what they missed most about their former job, the top answer was their peers/coworkers (38%), followed by familiarity and comfort in the role (31%), the customers they served (22%), compensation/pay (19%), and work-life balance (16%).
Lack of Trust or Lack of Listening? Managers and Employees Disagree on Why People Leave
While pay/compensation tops the list of why people have changed jobs in the last two years, fewer than half of all pandemic-era job changers actually received a pay raise at their new position - about a 15% bump, on average. In fact, 1 in 5 people took a pay cut to move on to a new role.
Outside of pay, there's a significant disconnect between managers and employees about other reasons people resign. When asked why they believed their people quit, managers only correctly named two of the next top five reasons for quitting: poor work-life balance/burnout and lack of career development opportunities. Employees say not feeling valued or like they belonged, frustration with executive leadership, and poor company culture were the other top reasons. That said, a full 25% of employees admit never discussing frustrations with their managers before they gave their notice.
Additionally, 3 out of 4 managers say their organization supported them in their efforts to retain good people, yet only 48% of employees flt like their old boss made an effort to keep them. People managers also overestimate the relationship they have with their teams, as 91% believe they create an environment where employees are comfortable communicating frustrations - yet only 64% of employees agree.
Boomeranging Intensifies, as Millions Return to Good Managers - If Those Managers Don't Quit First
Nearly 1 in 5 people who quit during the pandemic have already boomeranged back to the job they left. For those who have not yet gone back to their old job, a whopping 41% would consider it if it were an option. Similarly, 60% of managers believe employees made the wrong decision in leaving their roles, and 72% feel these departed employees would consider returning within the year.
Specifically for U.S. employees who boomeranged back to the job they left, quitting was done for more personal reasons, such as family care matters, a desire to move locations, and lack of flexibility. Boomerang employees also more readily admit that they left their original job too quickly (64%), and half (49%) say they had been looking for a new job for less than a month.
It's clear that employees who return to their old jobs had a strong and supportive manager. Compared with all job quitters, boomerang employees say their manager fostered an environment where communicating frustrations was possible (77% vs. 64%), made an effort to keep them (77% vs. 50%), and conducted at least one stay interview when they were previously employed there (77% vs. 55%). Boomerang employees were also more likely (66%) to discuss looking for a job elsewhere when they first began contemplating quitting.
Yet, good managers are also likely on the quitting block, as 2 in 5 are contemplating quitting themselves - and that number skyrockets to more than half (53%) of leaders in the U.S. and the U.K.
"Nearly half of all people who recently quit would say their resignation was anything but great," said Dr. Chris Mullen, executive director at The Workforce Institute at UKG. "While it's promising to see organizations open to welcoming back millions and millions of boomerang employees2 - even more than when we first studied it back in 2015 - leaders would rather keep their good people. Our data shows that it might only take one bad day or one bad experience for employees to start looking elsewhere in today's job market. We must continue to build trust between managers and employees by conducting impactful one-on-one and career discussions, and holding stay interviews to ask why happy employees remain before it's too late."
At UKG, our purpose is people. As strong believers in the power of culture and belonging as the secret to success, we champion great workplaces and build lifelong partnerships with our customers to show what's possible when businesses invest in their people. Born from a historic merger that created one of the world's leading HCM cloud companies, our Life-work Technology approach to HR, payroll, and workforce management solutions for all people helps 50,000 organizations around the globe and across every industry anticipate and adapt to their employees' needs beyond just work. To learn more, visit ukg.com.
Research findings are based on a survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of UKG across the U.S., the U.K., Mexico, Netherlands, Germany, and France between December 23, 2021, and January 22, 2022. The survey was conducted in two separate groups: 1,950 employees who voluntarily quit or changed jobs at least once since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 (excluding those who quit due to discrimination), and 1,850 people managers who have been in their roles at least six months and had at least one employee on their team quit during the pandemic. The project's objective was to better understand the attitudes and beliefs of job quitters and people managers alike amid the Great Resignation, including why quitters have left and what managers and organizations could have done differently to make them stay. All interviews were conducted online with adults 18+.
Footnote 1: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics January 2022 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Report, 47.4 million people voluntarily left their job in 2021. Of U.S. employees surveyed who voluntarily quit or changed jobs since March 2020 (excluding those who quit due to discrimination), 39% answered "I was better off in my old job." 0.39 x 47,400,000 = 18,486,000
Footnote 2: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics January 2022 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Report, 47.4 million people voluntarily left their job in 2021. Of U.S. employees surveyed who quit their job since March 2020, 17% have returned to work at the organization they originally left. Globally, 18% have returned to their old job. 0.17 x 47,400,000 = 8,058,000 U.S. employees alone.
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