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SHRM Research Highlights Lasting Impact of the 'Great Resignation' on Workers Who Choose to Stay

New data reveals organizational pain points as companies scramble to reduce employee turnover

Alexandria, Va. — Today, SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) shared findings from a new survey, 2021 SHRM Surviving the Great Resignation, that highlight the needs and rationale of workers – loyalists – who chose to stay with their current employer amid a wave of job resignations that is sweeping the country, leaving no industry, position or experience level unaffected.  

According to SHRM research, nearly half (49%) of U.S. executives surveyed report their organization experiencing much higher turnover than usual in the past six months alone. Most (93%) executives also report having open positions in that same timeframe, with slightly more than 4 in 5 (84%) agreeing that openings are going unfilled for longer periods than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Employees are leaving their jobs to pursue new opportunities in record numbers, making hiring and retaining talent a significant challenge for employers across the country," said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, SHRM's President and Chief Executive Officer. "It's a candidate's market and organizations must respond by recognizing the need to think differently in how to recruit and retain talent, revisiting benefits and flexible work schedules, along with broadening the talent pool for open positions." 

More than 2 in 5 (41%) U.S. workers are actively searching or planning to search for a new job in the next few months – a recent shift witnessed during the pandemic. In fact, of these workers, over two-thirds (68%) have considered a career change over the pandemic.

There is a divide between what employees believe are the most important benefits to make them stay versus what executives believe. The top three reasons U.S. workers are searching for jobs are for better compensation (53%), for better work-life balance (42%), and for better benefits (36%). Meanwhile, the top three reasons U.S. executives think workers are searching for new jobs are better benefits (28%), better career advancement opportunities (28%), and discomfort in the workplace due to COVID-19 (26%).

The survey also shows a clear generational divide between younger and older workers' opinions on some of the most common issues that lead to employee resignations. Since their colleagues left, younger millennials and Generation Z – who make up the majority of the current U.S. workforce – are more likely than earlier generations (Generation X and Baby Boomers) to wonder if their pay is enough (63%), acknowledge better opportunities outside of their current job (60%), think about leaving their job more often following a direct colleague's resignation (50%), and report feeling more isolated (35%) and less loyal toward their organization (28%).

While the great resignation is showing no signs of slowing down, there are plenty of loyalists who decided to remain in their role. Following their former colleagues' exits, more than half (52%) of those who chose to stay say that they've had to take on more work and responsibilities. These workers are now left to reconsider their options as 30% report struggling to get necessary work done, 27% feel less loyalty to their organization, 28% feel more lonely or isolated, and more than half (55%) now wonder if their pay is high enough.

Business leaders are taking steps to combat the great resignation by offering more competitive benefits for both new recruits and remaining employees. More than half of organizations (58%) report that beyond normal yearly increases, they are offering higher starting salaries and wages than last year. Among HR professionals who said their organization has seen higher or much higher turnover in the past six months, 42% said their organization has implemented new or additional remote work or flexibility options to reduce turnover, 32% have increased employee referral bonuses and 28% have introduced new or additional merit increases.



Methodology: A sample of 200 executives were surveyed using a third-party online panel. The survey was administered July 2, 2021 to July 8, 2021. For the purposes of this survey, we refer to "Executives" as those who are working as a paid employee for an organization with 50 or more employees, supervise at least 1 employee and hold a Vice President role or above.

A sample of 1,150 employed Americans were surveyed using a third-party online panel. The survey was administered July 2, 2021 to July 8, 2021. For the purposes of this survey, we refer to "U.S. workers" as those who are working as a paid employee.

A sample of 1,187 employed HR professionals were surveyed through SHRM membership from July 6, 2021 through July 21, 2021 and a sample of 1,034 employed HR professionals were surveyed through SHRM membership from August 31, 2021 through September 7, 2021.  Only HR professionals who were currently working for an organization (either remotely, in-person, or through a hybrid model) were eligible to participate in this survey.

About SHRM
SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. As the voice of all things work, workers and the workplace, SHRM is the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today's evolving workplaces. With 300,000+ HR and business executive members in 165 countries, SHRM impacts the lives of more than 115 million workers and families globally. Learn more at and on Twitter @SHRM.



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