Introducing the New Workhuman Survey Report: The Great Resignation

September 14, 2021 Mike Lovett

how the great resignation will shape the future of work

As companies begin to get back to a version of pre-pandemic business, they are being met with a palpable shift in power.

Their employees, after a year and a half of uncertainty, stress, burnout, and isolation, are now more certain than ever of what they will and won’t tolerate at work.

And right now, those employees are making it clear that if their companies can’t or won’t create a more human workplace, they are more than happy to look for an opportunity elsewhere.

Welcome to the Great Resignation.

In this survey, we polled more than 3,500 workers in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, and Canada on their connection to their jobs and companies and what’s on the horizon.

Our findings were in line with what’s made headlines through much of 2021. Nearly 4 in 10 said they’re planning to look for a job in the next 12 months, a projected voluntary turnover that could cost businesses around the world billions.

And while the stakes are high, the report also reveals simple, yet proven workplace practices that can help your organization thrive even amid uncertainty.

Here’s a look at some of the most intriguing findings:

  • What a difference a year makes. In Workhuman’s December 2019 survey, 92% of workers responded that they expected to be in their role for at least a year and 59% said they planned to be in their role for five or more years. Now, 38% of workers plan to look for a job in the next 12 months.
  • Flexibility is king. The pandemic has shifted the employer/employee relationship and crystallized what matters most to workers. Of the workers planning to look for a new job, 30% cited “more flexibility” as the primary reason for doing so. That number jumped to 39% for Black employees on the job hunt. However, for job-seeking women, higher pay was the number one reason for looking.
  • Working parents are the greatest flight risks. According to our survey, 64% of respondents have experienced burnout in their career and 41% said it happened in the past few months. That stress has been amplified for parents who are more likely to report feeling stressed than non-parents. Of all respondents looking for a new job, 65% are working parents seeking ways to better manage family and work responsibilities.
  • The Atlantic divide. The search for a new job is more pronounced in Europe vs. North America. Forty-six percent of workers in the U.K. and 42% of workers in Ireland are looking for new jobs compared to 36% in both the U.S. and Canada.
  • The power of appreciation. Saying “thank you” remains one of the simplest ways to make a difference in someone’s day and, according to our survey, is a demonstrative, quantifiable act of retaining workers. About one third (34%) of workers reported being thanked in the last month and they are half as likely to be looking for a new job (26% vs. 49%)
  • Recognition is all the rage. For the fourth straight year, the percentage of employees who were thanked for their contributions at work has increased. About one third of respondents from this survey reported being thanked in the last month. Overall, about half of respondents have been thanked in the last 1-2 months. On the flip side, more than 50% of respondents have thanked someone for their contributions in the last month.
  • Gratitude is a game changer. Of the survey respondents who were recognized in the last month, as opposed to never, receivers of gratitude are: 2x as likely to be highly engaged, 3x as likely to agree their work has meaning and purpose, 4x as likely to agree their company’s leadership team is appreciative of their work, 4x as likely to be happy at work, and 3x as likely to say their company culture got better during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also less likely to be stressed than their non-recognized peers.
  • Check-ins are critical. With dramatic shifts in where works gets done, clear, consistent communication should be a top objective for organizations and leaders, as it helps employees stay on track and maintain priorities. When workers have weekly check-ins, they are 2x as likely to: see a path to grow in the organization, feel meaning and purpose at work, trust their manager, and feel a sense of belonging at work.
  • Psychological safety drives success. With a renewed urgency in fostering belonging and inclusion in the workplace, a more nuanced lens in which to view it has emerged: psychological safety. Harvard professor Amy Edmondson defines it as a shared belief among employees that they can bring their whole self to work without the fear of humiliation if they speak up with ideas, questions, concerns or even mistakes. Google’s People Operations team finds psychological safety is the number one indicator of successful teams. And it has a direct tie with the great resignation. For those looking for a new job, their sense of psychological safety rating is significantly lower (3.1/5 vs. 3.6/5) than those not looking.

Employees are stressed, they’re burnt out, and they’re demanding more of their employers. If your organization wants to mitigate that stress and the potential turnover it can lead to, practicing recognition, regularly checking in with employees, and cultivating a psychologically safe working environment will not only help steer the current of uncertainty now, but set you up for long-term success in building a business that people want to a be a part of.


Interested in learning more about what the Great Resignation means for the future of work? Check out the latest episode of the Workhuman podcast to find out.


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