New Year, Old Reality: Navigating the 'Great Resignation' to Achieve 2022 Goals

employee experience everything disc great resignation thriving culture training and development Jan 14, 2022

Happy NEW year! 

As we think through and finalize goals and vision for 2022, it is critically important not to negate the reality that all things aren't new. 

Employees are still quitting their jobs, so the 'great resignation' is still an element to consider and stop if the plan is to achieve goals set in 2022. 

In the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently 10.6M job openings and a total of 4.5M people who most recently quit their job. That means many people are seeking employment, and many organizations are trying to backfill vacant roles. 

This ratio of job seekers to job openings indicates that it is easier to find employment at any given time. So, on the one hand, you as the people leader need to recognize that your employees have options, and the question for you to answer is why your employees would choose to explore those options

On the other hand, you must consider that the gap between Job Openings (10.6M) and Job Seekers (6.3M) is an untapped opportunity, which means ~4M employees (including yours) not actively seeking jobs have options as well. This reality makes the second question for you to answer, how do you get your employees to stay?

This reality isn't entirely bad for you as the Human Resources (HR) and Talent Acquisition (TA) Leader trying to develop retention and hiring strategies if you look at a few other statistics to see the untapped opportunity differently. 

So, let's explore these statistics below:

  • The major worker groups that make up the unemployment number are blacks at 7.1% and Hispanics at 4.9%, whereas all other worker groups are 4% or less.
  • 2M of the 6.3M unemployed has been without a job for more than 27 plus weeks.
  • 4M employees are underemployed, which means they are working part-time, desiring full-time opportunities.

The most alarming statistic is that 5.5M people currently want a job but are not actively looking for work. Of this 5.5M, 62% have not searched for work within the past 12 months. In comparison, the remaining 38% have not searched over the past four weeks. There are several reasons for this, which I have outlined below: 

  • 1.1M are prevented from searching for work due to the pandemic
  • 0.5M are not available for work 

These two data points indicate that ~4M people currently want a job but have given up searching for one. However, suppose we break down that 4M number further. In that case, we find that 1.6M of the 4M were available to take a job, but 28% of them were discouraged and stopped searching due to thinking there wasn't any work available. This thought is because they could not find work, lacked schooling or training, or experienced age and other types of discrimination by the employer.

Aside from discouraged workers, 10% felt they couldn't seek employment due to family responsibilities. In addition, 10% exited the job market because they were in school or training, and 8% left the job market due to being ill or having a disability. The remaining 44% were not actively looking for work primarily because of child-care and transportation problems.

If not already clear, my point in sharing these statistics is to bring awareness that millions of people are desiring and available for work. However, as a people leader, you're struggling to find "good talent." You focus your efforts on how to "attract," "hire," and "retain," but the question is who. Who are you attracting, who are you hiring, who are you retaining? Suppose you are strategizing your human capital needs on the premise of hiring talented employees from other organizations or keeping your talent from going to another organization. In such cases, you're simply strategizing on how to poach and not get poached versus ensuring the development and culture to cultivate, grow, and enhance talent is viable and accessible to all.  

People leaders are in a whirlwind right now. They must complete annual performance review conversations, finalize budgets, and set new goals for the newly rolled out 2022 initiatives. They're picking up where they left off before the holiday break, struggling to keep the optimism and increase the morale of their burnout employees. All while trying to hire for vacant roles and hoping that no one else quits before they backfill.

HR and Business Leaders have a unique role here because they must help reduce their people leaders' panic and sense of uncertainty around managing the workload, with an overflow of resignations and other moving parts related to the future of work. 

People leaders have three questions:

  1. What is the future vision of work?
  2. How do we proactively get ahead of the increasing number of resignations and ensure others don't quit due to burnout?
  3. What's the hiring plan for the job openings we can't seem to fill?

All of these questions are valid and require answers. However, the answer isn't for one department (i.e., the HR team) to figure out. Instead, it must be a joint effort across all levels of the organization. This effort involves reskilling employees to operate in this new reality, managers up-leveling their management skills to know how to communicate, develop, and motivate their employees effectively, and leaders doing the work of visioning, gaining alignment, and championing execution.  

The hard truth is that people at all levels within the organization are tired and unsure how to balance optimism vs. realism. Unfortunately, this balancing act creates mixed messaging because the vision and reality don't align. 

In a recent article published by McKinsey & Company, "'Great Attrition' or 'Great Attraction'? The choice is yours," they found that employees are craving human investment. A study they conducted found that "Employees were far more likely to prioritize relational factors, whereas employers were more likely to focus on transactional ones." These findings mean that employers are looking at pay and benefits to attract and retain, whereas employees are looking to feel valued and have a sense of belonging.

If your strategy to attract, hire, and retain, revolves around what's convenient for you as the people leader, then yes, it will be a struggle to fill your increasing number of job openings. What does convenience look like: an experienced hire with the proper training that has minimum family responsibilities, child care figured out, and a "good" fit for the culture. Managers' needs aren't enough to keep employees motivated to stay or inspired to push through their burnout. Managers must willingly create an employee experience that lets their employees know they are valued (not just needed) and heard. Employees need to know that they belong and are not wasting precious time doing work that doesn't matter or help them grow as professionals.  

The key to stopping the great resignation is to see it as an opportunity. To recreate the culture by understanding employees' needs and developing their skills to help them thrive.   

I'm curious to know how you and your organization perceive the 'great resignation,' the struggle and impact it's having on your teams, and how you're strategizing to create a thriving culture this year.  

To continue the conversation, I will be facilitating an exclusive virtual roundtable to explore and underline ideas, concerns, and questions on creating a more engaged culture that re-energizes employees and help them thrive.

Let's give 2022 the best chance for success. Feel free to comment below, and if interested in attending the virtual roundtable, please click the link below to express your interest.   


Smet, A. D., Dowling, B., Mugayar-Baldocchi, M., & Schaninger, B. (2021, December 17). 'great attrition' or 'great attraction'? the choice is yours. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, January 4). Job openings and labor turnover summary - 2021 M11 results. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, January 7). A-38. persons not in the labor force by desire and availability for work, age, and sex. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 7, 2022, from

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, January 7). Employment situation summary - 2021 M13 results. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 7, 2022, from

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