Top Ten Work Trends Quarterly Updates

A diverse group of SIOP members are serving as Trend Champions for the people-related work trends that SIOP members collaboratively predicted to be the most impactful in 2022. Each Trend Champion has expertise in and professional passion for their trend subject. SIOP appreciates their service to the profession in providing quarterly updates on their chosen topics.

Find the full list of topics and links to the other Top 10 Work Trends here

Trend #6: The Great Resignation

2022 3rd Quarter Update

While the war in Ukraine lingers on, the inflation, looming recession, and rising gas and electricity prices get a hold on households and companies worldwide. This is probably likely to affect the dynamics associated with The Great Resignation in the next quarter and is, therefore, the backdrop of this quarterly roundup. 

Over the past couple of months, many companies heavily debated the return to work. A recent Fortune piece describes how the worries about disconnection might refuel The Great Resignation. Many efforts were put into getting the people back in the workplace in the hope of reconnecting colleagues and increasing the commitment and engagement of employees. However, the media regularly mentions rising gas and electricity prices, making companies reconsider this movement back to the offices. Also, this financially daunting situation is likely to affect individuals when they consider changing jobs: “I may postpone a job change till next year, I fear the insecure situation and risks in this context” or actually: “I want to pursue a better-paid job because I need it.” 

Together with feelings of disconnection, salary appears to be the most mentioned reason for the many job changes in the past couple of months. Reconsidering salary, pay, and reward systems and benefits seem necessary, is pushed on the agenda, and is also already one of employers' main tactics. Alan Fergusson also lists some suggestions in Forbes where personalized benefits for employees are one of the key approaches to retaining talent and also caring for employees. Especially since companies are struggling to attract talent, good practices for current employees are worthwhile especially since they might also radiate to potential future employees.

The Great Resignation trend appears to be still in full force; people still seem to reconstruct their ‘ideal career.’ The conscious recalibration of one’s job description, tasks, and responsibilities appear to steer people towards ‘Quiet Quitting’, also referred to as the next phase of the Great Resignation. We might reflect upon this trend again along both perspectives; while it might be a safety mechanism that helps the individual employee safeguard their sustainable employability, optimal functioning, and being able to perform; employers are likely to see it as a threat for productivity, contagiousness, and the company culture. Next to reflecting on both perspectives, the falsification of the paradox from the business perspective when we intertwine these perspectives (the company might actually be able to retain employees by letting them use quiet quitting as a coping mechanism), the reasons for and mechanisms associated with quiet quitting also uncover some potential advice, which ties in with the quarterly update of Trend 3.

2022 2nd Quarter Update

More fine-grained analyses of The Great Resignation continue to unfold during 2022. The insights from Q1 about worldwide differences and similarities continue to be studied, discussed, and disentangled, and stories that illustrate this trend are still shared. In this 2nd quarter of 2022, we may notice two dynamics in both popular and academic literature: (a) the inclusion and interrelation of different perspectives, and the alignment of different roles in The Great Reshuffle, and (b) comparisons of different professions. 

First, the role of employers and employees continue to intertwine in light of the Great Resignation. Reasons for resignation are identified and uncovered where psychological contract and social exchange steer individuals towards decisions to change jobs. The Q2 update of Trend 4 also refers to these reasons. A recent analysis by Alexander Serenko (2022) balances the turnover and leave dynamics of individuals with the organization's perspective. Companies are confronted with talent and knowledge loss and may benefit from conscious and explicit knowledge management, which also affects national knowledge capital. Recent work by Madgavkar also relates the current mobility shift to talent management. Organizations may look differently at mobility and adjust their perspective and talent philosophy to match contemporary movements. I am curious to see how the domain of Talent Management may also shift. Besides these shifts, worries rise about inflation, recession, and economic downturn. This is likely to affect individuals’ decisions, although the line of thought about leaving may already have been prompted by the movement and is then likely to persist. 

Second, different professions are studied in light of the great resignation, for example, healthcare workers (Boston-Fleischhauer, 2022). How can we turn this movement around and how can we reshape jobs and design them in a socially responsible way and make them future-proof? Elements to consider are flexibility (for example, through self-scheduling); well-being and healthy working conditions; skill use, development, and growth; purpose, calling, and compensation or pay. While this is especially crucial in shortage occupations, the great resignation seems to have triggered the awareness of the importance of the job and embedded career design, responsible employment, employership, but also critical, proactive, and skeptical or perceptive followership, and (psychological) contracts. 

Recently, I asked (mainly Dutch) executive students the following question: “Who has an employee they want to get rid of? Or would like them to leave ‘naturally’ or based upon their own intent?”. Just about everyone raised their hand. Next, I asked them how many of them wanted to leave themselves in the next six months, the following year, and the next three years. Nobody wanted to leave at this moment; barely anyone expected to be willing to leave in the next six months. This also indicates another tension in stay-leave dynamics (cfr. The Unfolding Model) and mindsets about resignation and labor market movement. Moreover, it links talent management with the turnover of employees. What is our view upon reasons to leave and how do individuals themselves experience these reasons?

In harmony with Trend 4, some additions towards a ‘Great Retention Approach’: in the exchange between the employer and the employee: we may openly discuss talent management and our view upon talent (and shared mindset); we would want to understand what makes employees satisfied with their job in the current organization, the team/group/department, and the organization itself; also the career perspective of employees (“where do you want to be?”) and install briefings, intervision sessions (“how did you overcome hurdles, setbacks, or adversities during your work?”) and exchanges between employees.

2022 1st Quarter Update

At the end of 2021, the ‘Great Resignation’, coined by SIOP member Anthony Klotz, gained even more traction and spread worldwide, fueling a discussion on the presence and applicability of this trend in different contexts. Different parts of the world started to consider a movement like the great resignation and study whether it also happened within their continents. Moreover, this discussion trickled down within different countries and triggered an even more fine-grained study of the numbers of resignations, employment movements, job changes, and (temporary) unemployment.  

Next to the shift to a more microlevel (nation level by the end of 2021) focus on ‘The Great Resignation’, a shift appeared towards looking for explanations as to why a movement like a big quit appears. A couple of explanations are being discussed in popular media. For example, employees continue to struggle with The Great Disconnection, or make their own Great ‘Reevaluation’ of their jobs or so-called a ‘re-imagination’ of their ideal job. Therefore, individuals may restudy the balance of their employment and their position and role of this employment within their career (narrative) and life, reconsider and weigh alternative (employment) opportunities, and become more critical about their person-job, person-supervisor, and person-organization fit. This fuels the urge for HR professionals to rethink – among other things – the psychological contracts and the resolutions that were made. Also, within companies, retention remains a key element to consider at a more general level and to think about how employees can stay healthy, motivated, and committed to their work and the organization. 

The role of IO-psychologists within this trend or movement is to take two angles: (a) bottom-up: to analyze the current employment of an employee and how one may be (re)considering and (re)building its own employment status, balance, and career, and (b) top-down: to help organizations safeguard contextual factors and consider company-specific factors at play at the root cause of resignation. This taps into different associated trends, for example, Trend #2: Ensuring Inclusive Environments and Cultures, Trend #4: Talent attraction and retention in a candidate-driven market, and Trend #5: Caring for Employee Well-being

We may expect the following topics to play a crucial role in the media during the next quarter. At the level of the individual: People continue to reconsider their jobs, the content, and the context (for example, work-life balance, the feeling of being connected with colleagues, a sense of belongingness), ‘survivors’ or employees who stay within organizations with high turnover rates will suffer from heavier workload, cynicism and potentially affected by contagiousness to act similarly to the ones who left. At the level of supervisors: Leadership will probably gain visibility in the analyses of the great resignation as it lies at a more fine-grained level of analysis and a lower level within organizations instead of a worldwide trend. And at the level of employers: Differences across employers like how employers take care of employees, or their perspective on the Great Resignation and whether it is taken seriously as a potential threat and something to be aware of, may shed light on different movements when organizations are being compared. In brief, the trickling down of a more fine-grained discussion will probably persist, and the more fine-grained analysis will prevail. 


Champion: Ellen Peeters, PhD

Ellen Peters, PhD

Dr. Ellen Peeters is an Assistant Professor at the TIAS School for Business and Society where she teaches Organizational Behavior and Leadership, and Human Resource Management courses and is the Academic Director of the Pre-Master. Dr. Peeters’s research interests and activities include careers (incl. release or turnover: resignation and dismissals), adversities, shocks or events, and resilience with an underlying link with responsible human resource management. Her research is published in Personnel Review; Journal of Career Development; Journal of Career Assessment; International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research; and International Journal of Nursing.