The Great Flourishing – Why People Are Quitting Their Jobs

#WF14 Truman’s Leap and What It Might Tell Us About The Great Resignation

Hi, I’m Andy Spence and this is the Workforce Futurist Newsletter about the rapidly changing world of work.

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Is ‘The Great Resignation’ An Illusion?

In case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight…

Truman Burbank in The Truman Show (1998)

There is talk of ‘The Great Resignation’.

4 million people, or 2.7% of US workers, quit their jobs in April, beating a record going back to 2000.

41% of workers globally are considering leaving their current employer this year according to a survey from Microsoft.

There are reports of employers being unable to hire enough workers in specific sectors such as hospitality, and offering generous signing-on bonuses.

To provide a bit of context to the complexity of the situation.

In 2020, around 255 million full-time jobs were lost worldwide – “four times greater than during the global financial crisis in 2009” according to International Labour Organization.

6 million fewer people resigned in 2020 than in 2019 - so we have had no attrition for a year. It is far too early to work out what is happening to the economy in the Digital Covid Age and I’m sure the Labour Economists are pulling their hair out at the moment.

The Great Resignation is only part of a really complex, swirling labour market. 

Before I give a view on some of the underlying currents impacting the workforce – grab some popcorn for a brief movie interlude.

Why Did Truman Make The Leap?

The movie ‘The Truman Show’ evolves around Truman Burbank, a Sales Executive at an insurance company. His entire life is streamed on live television – but he doesn’t realise it.

Truman is an unwitting protagonist in a virtual world run by a corporation.

The Truman Show throws up many interesting questions in a world with mass surveillance, virtual economies, and constant infotainment.

One implied message from the filmmakers is that we accept almost everything in our lives without examining it closely.

In the last 18 months, many people have had time to examine their lives more closely.

Nicholas Christakis of Yale University has studied the patterns of past pandemics and identifies shifts that mark society in their own way.

  • collective threat prompts growth in state power – 👍

  • the closeness of death which brings caution while the disease rages, but spurs audacity when it has passed - watch out for the Roaring Twenties

  • the overturning of everyday life leads to the search for meaning

This search for meaning also includes what makes ‘work’ meaningful.

37% of UK workers think their jobs are meaningless which is so sad.  Academic research has found that the time when people found their work meaningful were often intensely personal.

Seeking meaningful work is an example of a pull factor for applying for a particular job, and its absence might be a push factor for leaving a job.

Push and Pull Factors 

Has anyone felt that like Truman, they were an unwitting protagonist in a virtual world run by a corporation?

This might be a clue to why some people would want to quit their job.

Other push factors might include:

Leaving a toxic workplace, low wages, changes in circumstances, something better to do for example free 24x7 quality entertainment courtesy of Twitch, YouTube, etc., no financial incentive as already compensated, health concerns, etc.

An example of some of these push factors are included in this article about the restaurant industry.

Employers will need to provide more than just wages to the changing demands of the workforce.

Pull factors might typically include:

More cash, signing on-bonus, looking for a sense of community, and belonging.

Labour 1 Capital 0  - and the pendulum might be swinging back to employees for global demographic reasons.

The term, The Great Resignation, is an employer-centric view. The worker resigns from their employment, but they will mostly continue to work – just not for you. 

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The Great Flourishing

Rather than see this as people Quitting for negative reasons, I see people making changes for positive reasons. 

More than half the world’s working-age women are not in the labour force and there is a big opportunity for economic inclusion:

In my essay, Unleashing The Decentralised Workforce, I describe how some people are leaving employment to earn income from sources outside traditional employment.

An untapped workforce will utilise digital infrastructure to achieve its economic potential outside of traditional employment, changing the nature of work, the firm, careers, education, and welfare.

Like Truman, people are making the leap into the unknown – anything is better than the current situation. To build new things, join new communities, learn new skills, earn from skills and talents. 

This is not ‘The Great Resignation’ but ‘The Great Flourishing’

Examples of people making a living outside of traditional employment:

What ‘The Great Flourishing’ Means for Employers

Some implications for employers:

  • Get used to Churn - a new generation of Web3 technology will enable more seamless movement between work contracts as more people choose to work independently on projects

  • Employers need to offer more than just higher wages and signing-on bonuses - the biggest competition for workers in some sectors is not the rival supermarket, but the pull of 24/7 streaming entertainment

  • The employer brand - aka Why would I want to work for you? now includes all types of contract, agency, and freelance workers, not just the ones who show up on an internal org chart or payroll

  • New types of organisations are forming to challenge incumbent industries – watch out for the competition

  • Massive demand for individuals to learn and upskill

Do share with me your comments, experiences, and insights.

  • Can you relate to Truman?!

  • Are you planning to Quit your job?

  • What will you be building next?

Let me know what you think…

More on Newsletter Sponsorship

I started writing Workforce Futurist regularly rather spontaneously on New Years Day – with an intention to write something optimistic about the world of work.

After 18 articles the newsletter has plenty of subscribers, regular readers, and more importantly to me - started some great conversations and collaborations.  Today’s article is all about making changes, and that includes me too.  Many people are making a living independently from their content. Platforms like Substack (which hosts this newsletter) enable this with paying subscriptions from readers. I want to keep Workforce Futurist free, so will not be adding paying subscriptions.  From the next regular edition on August 1st, the articles will include a sponsor.  I will only include sponsors where I can recommend the product or it fits with the values of the newsletter.  If you are interested in sponsoring some articles, let me know.

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