The Great Part About What's Happening Isn't the Resignation – It's the Reawakening

While companies need to put some real thought and effort into how to better meet the needs of job seekers, it is still a two-way street.

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Something great is definitely happening in the world today, but to call it the Great Resignation is an injustice. Just look at that word: resignation. It implies giving up without resistance. It paints a picture of people quitting their jobs and walking out only to sit at home and not go to work anymore. But that doesn't describe job seekers today. It's much deeper than that.

New technologies are facilitating an abundance of employment possibilities, and people are reevaluating their options. With this newfound collective leverage, job seekers have awakened to their power and are taking action and making demands before they're even hired, a fact that companies would do well to recognize. Instead of looking at "resignation" as the greatness of this moment, leaders need to start considering it a Great Reawakening if they want to understand what's happening and how to move forward.

What's Really Going On?

When the pandemic sent people to work from home, employers and employees alike realized that the work was still getting done. Everyone woke up to a better sense of the real needs an office meets and the ones that can be met without it. Many people who lacked the financial security to take three months off and decide their next steps were forced to take that time away from work, and in the process, they ended up discovering they had many other options.

Not only were tech platforms making it easier for them to start their own company or find independent work, but people also had more access to company information and could be more particular about choosing a better fit. This trend is disrupting the way companies normally attract and keep quality people, so they have to step up if they hope to get them on their team.

Companies have gotten comfortable in their ways of doing business, but business is changing, which means they need to change along with it. By changing their conditions, business leaders can end up less frustrated with job seekers unwilling to accept their conditions. If they keep coming to the negotiating table with the same offers — more money, two weeks of vacation, maternity leave — many job seekers still won't want the job. If the old ways of working are no longer working, it's up to company leaders to change their processes of considering and hiring job seekers so they have a better chance of finding the right people.

Are Leaders Making the Problems Worse?

While company leaders are frustrated about a lack of available workers, job seekers are frustrated that they don't get responses. Not every job application results in an interview, and oftentimes companies don't send messages to let people know they've been received. In a 2020 LinkedIn poll, 93% of respondents reported a potential employer ghosting them after an interview or other contact for more information. Technology like applicant tracking systems (ATS) might filter out qualified candidates because their demands don't fit into companies' old systems. Many companies have stringent requirements for what they can offer, especially when it comes to salaries, so if job seekers come asking for more, these companies might never reply.

But companies no longer have the upper hand in hiring, which means they need to update their criteria for which applications they dismiss. Harvard research found the long-standing management practice of screening candidates for credentials they lack rather than what they can bring to the table is causing significant constraints in the candidates who companies consider, even though hiring these "hidden" candidates resulted in better talent performance and retention. After months of feeling dejected and frustrated over application processes that filter out highly qualified people or their application getting ghosted by company after company, many of these people turn to independent work options or start their own business. I know, because I'm one of them.

The Marriage of Job Seekers and Companies

When I started my company, one of the main reasons was that no one would hire me in Hungary despite the fact that I had more than the necessary qualifications. My friends and I decided to start our own job board to bring in the kind of offers we wanted to see, which required us to take a deep look into company culture and what it attracts.

It's not as simple as saying that companies don't care, but they have systems and processes in place that make it difficult to find a healthy marriage with the culture they offer and the right kind of job seekers. Instead of just focusing on understanding why employees are resigning, it's important to understand why job seekers and companies are so out of alignment with their expectations.

Fortunately, companies are noticing this misalignment and experimenting with benefits that might not have been considered only a few years ago. UK banking company Monzo just announced it will start offering employees three-month paid sabbaticals for every four years they stay with the company. Others are offering four-day work weeks or workplace mental wellness programs. My company has a three-month onboarding process that involves an accountability buddy, events every week, and announcements to create a buzz about a person before they arrive for their first day so they can already start to feel like a part of the team. Not only is this an employer branding opportunity, but it's also a productivity and innovation opportunity because happier people lead to a more productive company.

While companies need to put some real thought and effort into how to better meet the needs of job seekers, it is still a two-way street. Job seekers need to be more proactive in looking for jobs that align with their goals instead of waiting for the right one to fall into their lap. We still have a long way to go, but as companies start making the necessary changes to match this new business dynamic and job seekers make an effort to find their perfect fit, we're going to end up with more employees who love their jobs and more innovative companies.

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