According to Merriam Webster, this is the definition of revolution:
I can’t say if the shift we are witnessing in the employment landscape is sudden, radical, or a complete change. But it is most certainly pronounced.
In case you need a refresher, here are some of the latest stats: There are 10.4 million job openings according to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. The same department said 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August. And yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the September jobs report notes the unemployment rate at 4.8% — or 7.7 million Americans are out of work.
The way I see it, each of these numbers represent different characters in the unfolding story of what is being called the Great Resignation.
And let’s not forget how others responded to furloughs, layoffs, or business closures; they started a business. According to the Census Bureau, 4.4 million new businesses were started since the beginning of the pandemic.
Maybe your job, business, or industry aren’t reflected in any of the numbers noted above. Maybe you’ve been thriving in the midst of…everything. (My business has, and I am so incredibly grateful.)
Nevertheless, if the way you work and your financial stability haven’t been shaken by the pandemic’s impact on the current labor trends, it would be myopic to think the shift we are witnessing doesn’t affect you. After all, you and I don’t work and live in a vacuum.
I have more to say on this front, but before I do, allow me to share several things I find fascinating about what is happening right now in the American workforce and economy.
The quitting is occurring in the businesses/industries that were greatly impacted by the pandemic (think: restaurants, hotels, retail, and some health care providers, as examples).
You have some unions striking for the first time in years (think John Deere; the UAW is currently on strike for the first time in 35 years!). Did you know October 2021 has been coined “Striketober” due to the number of unions and union workers on strike or threatening to strike this month?!
A pandemic would serve as the catalyst for a shift in not only how some people work, but also alter their relationship with work, too.
A lot of companies – both large and small – have been caught off-guard by the shift in the power dynamics due to the tight labor market.
A Most Interesting Relationship
Labor shifts are not new. In fact, the Atlassian has a great infographic detailing the history of work, decade by decade from 1950 to 2020 – click here.
Also not new: The relationship between shifts in labor trends and the economy.
With all of it, this is what I find truly poignant: Workforce changes affect not only how we (as a culture) work, but also the relationship between the employer and employee.
A personal example: When I started my career at Bankers Trust (now Deutsche Bank) in the mid 1980s, we had a defined benefit plan. Sometime before the 90s, that was converted into a defined contribution plan (or 401k plan).
This is an example of a shift in the employer/employee relationship in terms of the firm shifting the responsibility of retirement planning from them to the employee. And it’s a reflection of what was happening more broadly: the number of retail mutual funds were expanding, because these investment instruments were becoming an important part of the U.S. financial and investing system.
One of the benefits of having started my career in the late 1980s is that I’ve seen a few workforce shifts. Though, admittedly, I didn’t always notice them until we were steep in the midst of the change.
With this latest shift, I am noticing it as it is occurring. Plus, I am picking up on how the power dynamics have shifted, as well.
When the labor market is tight, employees have more power and tend to make choices from a more empowered position. They have more options to consider, and more freedom and flexibility to explore them. This is absolutely happening right now!
As an entrepreneur or small business owner, the “battle” for talent is more than a notion…and more costly, too.
Eventually, the labor market will loosen. Because like everything it ebbs and flows.
But as the story of the Great Resignation continues to unfold, it begs two looming questions:
- Do the employment numbers I shared at the top reflect a short-term reactionary blip?
- Or, do they portend that a permanent history-making phenomenon is afoot?
I have absolutely no idea!
The answer, however, will be quite revealing.
It will tell us whether this is the start of the next great revolution in terms of the way we work and how. And, it will expose what shifts, in the employer/employee power dynamics, are here to stay.
Can I bring this closer to your door? The answer will help you as you rethink the choices you’ve made and the ones still to be made.
From where I sit, what is happening right now is reinforcing an opinion of mine: I don’t think everyone needs to hang out a shingle and be an entrepreneur or small business owner. But I do believe that everyone who works as an employee needs to think like and approach how they manage their money as if they were.
And if the Great Resignation, possibly “Great Revolution,” has you rethinking the way you work and you need some help navigating these waters, let’s talk. I’ve got openings to work with me in my private 1:1 coaching practice.
Whether you’re an employee exploring your next move, or an entrepreneur/small business owner doing the same, shifts require a combination of soft- and hard skills…and a strategy and framework for making (sometimes hard) choices – especially about your money and creating a business that prioritizes the health of your personal finances.
I often tell my coaching clients and workshop participants, “you’re always in the front…” But there’s a huge difference between being in the front making choices because you’re being pushed by your circumstances vs. being in the front making choices because you are leading the change you want to create. I’d love to help you do the latter.