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Navigating the Great Resignation

“In local government where positions are essential to community operations, employee vacancies can prove troublesome. To combat this, we have complied tips and best practices for hiring and retaining employees.”


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the number of Americans quitting their jobs has reached the highest level on record. The most recent report showed that more than 4.5 million people voluntarily left their jobs in November, a number that was higher than any other in the two decades the government has been keeping track of the quit rate.

As public entities have seen this past year, hiring new employees has been a revolving door where one candidate come in, gets hired, and then leaves for a better position with higher pay. In local government where positions are essential to community operations, employee vacancies can prove more troublesome than if a position flipping burgers or making lattes remain unfilled.
This trend, which has come to be known as “The Great Resignation,” looks poised to continue in 2022. To combat this, we have complied tips and best practices for hiring and retaining employees.

“The Great Resignation” has gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic as lower-wage workers have sought out new opportunities and quick wage increases in the returning labor market. In fact, research from Visier reported that one in four people quit their jobs last year. Most of the turnover has occurred in hospitality, food service, and other low-wage sectors, but every industry has been affected to some degree.

Chart showing the increase in number of jobs from August to November 2021

Recent data shows that workers switching jobs are experiencing higher wage growth over a 12-month period when compared to workers staying at a job. In December 2021, the difference was a 3.4% increase in wage growth for a “job-stayer” compared to a 4.6% increase for a “job-switcher.”

Interestingly, even with all of this quitting, initial unemployment claims are at their lowest point since 1969, falling to a low of 199,000 for the week of November 20. This could be occurring for a number of reasons including the continuous adding of jobs to the economy, which increased by 210,000 in November. On top of that, the unemployment numbers only reflect the number of Americans that are out of a job but still looking for work. In this case, these numbers do not reflect workers that quit or resigned and are no longer looking for employment.

Two charts displaying Colorado vs the national average in job quitters and unemployment rate>

The major drivers behind “The Great Resignation” appear to be the lack of benefits, toxic work environments, and low wages coupled with rising inflation. Nearly nine in 10 respondents to a survey conducted by Momentive indicated they were “somewhat concerned” with inflation, and six in 10 were “very concerned.” The only group that said they were better off now when compared to a year ago were those workers whom received a pay raise that matches or beats rising inflation. However, only 17% of workers reported receiving a pay raise that achieved this.

Hiring Employees for Keeps

By way of the factors we listed above, workers are in a unique position of power to seek higher wages, better benefits, and improved working conditions at their places of employment. However, this doesn’t need to be seen as a rough patch for employers. On the contrary, this is the prefect chance to take a closer look at recruitment strategies and work requirements in order to hire the best talent looking to leave their current position.

Provide full-time or part-time remote work options

Remote work is here to stay. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, close to 70% of full-time workers are working from home. As we approach the two-year mark of the pandemic, work-from-home has become a mainstay for many companies that have either adopted it full-time or on a flexible schedule. On top of that, workers agree that having the option to work from home would make them happier, and according to an Owl Labs survey, one in two workers won’t return to a job if it doesn’t offer remote work, once the pandemic has ended.

According to a study released by Upwork, the expected growth rate of full-time remote work over the next five years has doubled from 30% to 65%. A recent survey conducted by Bankrate asked respondents to select what they value most in workplace flexibility amid the pandemic. The top response was flexibility, selected by 56% of respondents, closely followed by higher pay, selected by 53% of respondents.

Statistics have also shown that productivity has increased for employers that have made some degree of switch from in-office remote work assignments. 10,000 employees surveyed by the Becker Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago reported being just as productive working from home when compared to in-office. On top of that, 30% reported being more productive and engaged at home.

From the employer’s perspective, this increase in productivity is corroborated. According to Mercer, an HR consulting firm, 94% of 800 employers that participated in their survey reported work productivity increasing or remaining the same since employees started working from home.

Refine job postings as a success profile

Hiring decisions are traditionally focused on two factors: knowledge and experience. However, as workers change jobs like partners in a square dance, employers know there is more to hiring the ideal candidate than what is found on the resume. In attracting and retaining new employees, the first place to start is with updating the job posting.

To make sure a candidate is a good fit for a role, turn your job posting into a success profile. Success profiles incorporate key skills, competencies, and personal attributes that an employer would deem required for the success of an employee in a given role. They are comprised of five parts:

  • Experience: the knowledge gained through involvement of an activity or subject
  • Behaviors: the actions performed which result in effective job performance
  • Strengths: the parts of the job done regularly, done well, and that act as motivators
  • Ability: the potential to perform to standards
  • Technical: the demonstration of specific skills and qualifications

In short, success profiles allow employers to hone in on what they are looking for in potential employees, while at the same time outlining what that employee has to gain by taking on the advertised role. They also can aid in lowering the chances of an unsuccessful hire as well as discovering if a candidate is suited for growth within the company.

Consider an RPO

RPO stands for “Recruitment Process Outsourcing.” Simply put, RPOs act as an extension of an employer’s HR department to deliver staff to fulfill job openings when they arise. They reduce the cost per hire and help employers streamline the hiring process by managing the supply and demand imbalance of workers. The market for RPOs is forecast to grow by over 13% between 2020 and 2025 due to the need, in part, for streamlining the hiring process.

With RPOs, the service they provide can be scaled up or down depending on the needs of the employer and the volume of applicants. It also allows the focus of recruiting and hiring to be left to an industry that specializes in it.

Enhance benefits

When creating job postings or interviewing a candidate, the benefits an employer provides can be make-or-break when it comes to filling an open position. The number one thing employers can do to improve their success is to ensure compensation is on par with similar roles across the industry. On top of that, employers can also offer an increase in vacation benefits, and if the program doesn’t already exist, provide employees with a retirement plan with employer match.

Weathering the Storm

As “The Great Resignation” continues into 2022, don’t forget to invest in current staff and key players that continue to perform in their roles. It’s important to keep an ear to the ground and solicit and implement feedback. It can be easy to get caught up with job vacancies and the struggles of hiring, but by taking care of the employees currently on the payroll, employers can mitigate risk and prevent a bad situation from becoming worse.

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