‘The Great Resignation:’ Local experts explain why employees are leaving the workforce

National News

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a historic 4.3 million Americans left the workforce in August of this year.

In North Carolina, the labor force has lost about 90,000 workers. That leads to labor shortages and economists pondering what was the cause and how do we salvage this.

9OYS spoke with local experts about the contributing factors that led to what economists have coined, “The Great Resignation.”

Dr. Cody Chullen, associate professor in the College of Business at East Carolina University said he wasn’t surprised.

“If companies have actually been actively monitoring the wellness of their workforce and kind of gauging the engagement of their workforce, it shouldn’t be a surprise to them as well,” Chullen said. “The pandemic basically provided the perfect cocktail for burnout.”

Chullen said the pandemic has made workers re-evaluate what they are actually getting out of their jobs.

“For a lot of people, they’ve given a lot of time to a company and they’ve been with an organization for many years, they feel like they’ve been loyal. And then they are hearing all these things about reduced hours, furloughs, layoffs, and think well maybe it’s time for me to reconsider my path.”

Dr. Cody Chullen, Associate Professor in the College of Business – East Carolina University

NC State Economist Dr. Mike Walden is coining it something else.

“I think the ‘Great Resignation’ is really tied to what I would call ‘The Great Re-allocation’,” Walden said. “What we are seeing happen is a re-allocation of workers in the post-pandemic and post-recession period.”

It’s something Walden said makes this different than any other recession in our country’s history.

“What we think has happened is a lot of folks said to themselves, ‘I’m going to upscale during this. I’m going to learn coding, I’m going to take some courses, I’m going to finish up my degree that I didn’t, so when the economy comes back I’m able to move up the economic ladder.'”

Dr. Mike Walden, Economist – NC State University

Employers need to re-think what their employees really need, and it’s not necessarily just better pay. Chullen said employees shouldn’t have to choose between good pay and their mental health.

Chullen and Walden agree companies need to work on creating a positive work environment where growth opportunities are available. They also believe the way work is performed is a way people can do it and enjoy doing it. Employees want to feel and see support from the organization they work for.

Chullen said businesses should be attuned to warning signs of burnout and occupational stress, like repeated tardiness, being late to meetings and late to work in general. He also pointed out taking extended breaks at work and even psychological job withdrawal, like noticing someone in the meeting isn’t paying attention or has zoned out. Chullen said those are all warning signs that someone is indeed burned out.

“Companies need to try and proactively manage that before the person exits the company altogether,” Chullen said.

Not doing that, Chullen said, is exactly how we ended up where we are now.

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