It’s Not the Great Resignation Anymore…Welcome to the New World of Employee Free Agency!

Free Agency 

Two weeks ago, our longtime, fantastic office manager came into my office and let me know she was leaving our company to take another job.  For her, it was the hardest thing she probably ever had to do in her professional career, verified by the tears and fears of leaving a job she loved for the unknown world of more money and career change.  I looked at her, let her know how much she has meant to our organization, and then told her how excited I was for her future, knowing no matter where she is employed, she would always be a rock star. 

For many employers, the resignation of key employees starts the "save them" engine offering more money, promotions, better flex time, and anything that can be thrown their way to reconsider. 

Don't waste your time.  If you have key employees, know that they are leaving at some point.

Look at your own background.  If you have been in the same job for more than five years, you are in the minority.  The only way to help prevent (nothing is 100%) employees from leaving, instead of trying to save them when they put in that two-week notice, give them whatever you would give them if they did that NOW!

The immense challenge for employers is their employees are in a post-pandemic marketplace that has elevated them to free agents.  With so many jobs open (1.8 open jobs for everyone looking-Feb 2022 BLS) and employers not questioning candidates' short stints with previous companies, you hire them if the job seeker has the skill set.  Their new free agency status lets job seekers check you out for ninety days (instead of the other way around), and if it doesn't line up, they are off to the next gig.

Truck drivers are a great example.  This world was turned upside down when Walmart announced that they are paying (and training) truck drivers a $110,000 salary this month.  For smaller trucking companies, they can't touch this compensation (and benefits) and may lose their top drivers.

Instead of fighting it, employers have to accept that no matter how great they think they are taking care of their employees,  sometimes, people want to experience other opportunities.  Unlike the "gig" economy where you hire specific skills on a contract, 1099 basis, the "free agent economy" is a considerable cost when you add in W-2 compensation, benefits, training, etc., and most likely will be gone in a short time.

What can you do to help curb free agents from using your company as a rung on their career ladder?

Any way to stop this?  Here are some thoughts:

- The “Great Resignation is headline news and not precisely accurate.  Most of the employees quitting their jobs are in the hourly sector.  Companies offering $15.00-$18.00 hours post-pandemic (hospitality, call center, customer service, etc.).  If you're a sous chef, you can increase your salary every three months with a different employer to make more money.  Please communicate with your employees today (yes, the stay interview), shower them with recognition, and have a better retention rate.

- Hire better.  It sounds simple but sometimes (including us), we hire to fill a job and hope that person will become a superstar. You don't need to hope; hire superstars. They are out there; you have to rework your recruiting process.  Spend more money on recruiting upfront with better job titles, job descriptions, robust job board strategy, and digital campaigns. 

- The great "regret."  Google this, and you will see so many who quit their jobs and took others are now leaving that job.  They thought it was better than your job and paid more.  With all the buzz about employees leaving their company because of bad bosses etc. (read this), we are finding out many walk into worst situations and now are quitting again.  We are in a “quit cycle,” and since we have over 11 million jobs open, we will see a lot movement.  This is great news for companies that want to upgrade their current staff.  The only challenge is you have to make sure your recruiting process, onboarding process, training, and career promises are all on point when they start.  That is the home run.

I am looking forward to watching the career journey of our operations manager now that she is gone. I know we were a big part of her professional growth and offered many things other employers can't duplicate (company cruises, half-price sushi, etc.).  The "Great Boomerang" era is right around the corner!

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