Early on in the pandemic, younger workers in low-wage sectors such as retail, food service and healthcare were the ones quitting their jobs, Vox’s Recode reports. What’s happening now, however, is that more experienced employees in higher-paying professions, including finance, technology and other knowledge-sector fields are driving the workplace exodus.
Many of the higher-paying older knowledge workers who have spent more than two years working from home are not keen to come back to the office and return to the stress they remember from this experience pre-pandemic. And with more knowledge workers deciding to just quit rather than return to work, this may be inspiring their peers to do the same. “Workers who have this experience, that switched a job, that became more flexible, talk about it and how they had a great experience, and that leads their neighbor or their friend to do the same,” Luke Pardue, an economist at Gusto tells Vox. Gusto provides payroll, benefits, and human resource management software to small- and medium-sized businesses.
Recent research from Pardue’s firm, which normally works with employers that have about 25 employees, shows that average tenure of workers leaving their jobs has gone up for every age group and for almost all industries.
Visier, a people analytics firm, reviewed a dataset of companies with more than 1,000 employees and found that between the first quarter of 2021 and this most recent first quarter, the highest growth of people resigning were those ages 40 to 60 and who had worked for more than a decade. The growth in resignations for workers ages 40 to 45 was 34% from first quarter 2021 to this year’s first quarter. For those ages 45 to 50 and 50 to 60 the growth rates over the same span were 37% and 34%, respectively. The next highest growth rate was 31% for those 35 to 40.
“Don’t look for one thing that’s driving the Great Resignation,” Ian Cook, Visier’s vice president of people analytics, told Recode. “It’s actually made up from a combination of different patterns and will continue to change as the labor market changes and as the economic recovery changes.”
A Future Forum Pulse survey of 10,818 knowledge workers from January 27 to February 21 and spanning the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K. found that 34% have returned to working in the office five days a week. That marks the highest percentage since Future Forum started conducting these surveys June 2020.
“With this shift, employee sentiment has dropped to near-record lows, including 28% worse scores on work-related stress and anxiety and 17% worse scores on work-life balance (compared to the previous quarter),” Future Forum notes.
Some employers that let older staff leave two years ago during the pandemic have sought to hire these veteran employees back. BH Cos, a national apartment management, development and design company, said goodbye to many older employees two years ago when it outsourced their responsibilities, Society For Human Resource Management reports.
Charlotte Flores, vice president of human resources for the company, is in charge of hiring and has focused a lot of attention on older workers. “These employees are valuable because they are seasoned, and that's not always easy to find today,” Flores said. “If you have someone with 20 to 30 years of property management experience, who wouldn't want to keep that kind of talent?”
Over the past year, BH has re-recruited employees, with 35% of the rehires since 2020 being over 40 years old and 20% being over the age of 50. About 25% of the firm’s total workforce is over 50 years old.
“The average tenure for some of our employees is around 2.5 years, so this makes their experience even more valuable,” Flores said.
Of the five million Americans who quit their jobs during the pandemic, almost 70% are older than 55, researchers from Goldman Sachs say.
Samantha Holy, vice president and chief HR officer at LEO A DALY, a Houston-based global planning, architecture, engineering and interiors firm, says employers need to get creative in how they try to woo back older workers. “The opportunity to be mentors speaks to a lot of older employees,” Holy says. “Senior workers are a great resource for providing mentorships within the company on projects such as design, architecture and planning. Mentoring is becoming a cultural expectation. It's so important to have the right people staffed on the right projects.”