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Opinion | The Great Resignation will become the “Big Bounce Back” in 2022

In natural science, Newton’s law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. You’ve no doubt heard about “The Great Resignation” this year. Well, in 2022, employers will have to get ready to manage the “Big Bounce Back.”

Rick Snyder
Rick Snyder was governor of Michigan from 2011 to 2018.

News this week that more than 4 million Americans quit their job in November is a continuation of a puzzling trend for employers. The pandemic has not only caused a major disruption to the economy, it has frayed the employer-employee relationship in new ways.

I believe the pendulum will swing back in the new year, with a rush of people back into the labor market. There are currently more than 10 million job openings in the U.S. And our economy is continuing to grow. The jobs are going to be filled.

But employers – particularly CEOs and small business owners – need to get ready. They need a new playbook. The rules have been changed, and they didn’t write them.

This is a leadership challenge that they have never had to face.

Government needs to also participate in rethinking its role. Government is a service provider to society and needs to do more to create an environment of success rather than trying to be the economic engine driving our economy.

Here are four ideas that will shape how fast and large the “Big Bounce Back” will be:

  • Employers need to become more proactive and create better places to work. Many people dropped out of the labor force since they didn’t feel valued, treated right or were disconnected from feeling part of something. Remote work turbocharged this effect. Also, in some cases, employees didn’t see “purpose” driving the organization. Flexible work will be the new norm. “Purpose” needs to be part of the workplace culture.
  • Wages and salaries are going to keep increasing. The pandemic shifted the supply and demand balance for labor, and there is now a seller’s market for skills. It is driving up the cost of labor – increases that were overdue. Government doesn’t need to artificially interfere through minimum wage initiatives. Higher labor costs contribute to the current inflationary pressures. The “Big Bounce Back” should help reduce inflationary pressure.
  • We need to rethink how we view the labor force and not marginalize an important talent pool. Many Baby Boomers leaving the workforce to retire will get tired of watching too much TV or bored with home projects. They can help balance supply and demand in the labor market – employers have to adjust their thinking to create new kinds of job opportunities and roles for part-time or project-based work. This ‘new thinking’ should also address retention, so we hang on to our employees rather than having to incur costs to lure them back. One of our greatest historical economic misfires is how poorly we engage with our older citizens. On the very big picture level, our national and global economic well-being will be in jeopardy if we don’t find ways to attract many of these departing people back into the workforce. 
  • We have a disconnect between our social spending priorities and outcomes versus the needs of workers and employers in today’s labor market. We need to have better programs to help people who have others to care for. Without access to affordable, quality childcare, many people are not able to work fulltime. Also, increasingly, there are many people who are caregivers to family members other than children.  These pressures create major employment challenges. Also, we must improve our efforts to help people leave poverty and achieve independent, economic success. We need to revise our social safety net and our education system to create many more and better paths for meaningful employment for millions of Americans who want to participate in the economy and experience economic stability.

“The Great Resignation” is a failure in leadership – a condemnation of the status quo. Our nation cannot afford the brain drain and economic loss of millions of employees walking away from their careers. Also, our society needs to get millions of job openings filled so that the social and infrastructure services we all benefit from are properly supported.

It’s time for a new dialogue with fresh ideas about how work is valued and delivered in our society. Those who anticipate and make changes now will get the best results from the ‘Big Bounce Back.’

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