The Great COVID-19 Job Churn

consequences of covid

Why 2021 Will Be a Year of Massive Job Turnover

I’ve been in the executive search business for most of my adult life, and I’ve never seen anything like this: More people than ever are looking to move on, and more businesses, not-for-profit organizations and places of worship are looking for new leadership.

That’s why I’m predicting that one of the unexpected consequences of COVID-19 will be what I’m calling the Great COVID-19 Job Churn. All jobs change over time, but the pandemic has accelerated the pace like never before. Entire industries have been disrupted. Office jobs have become remote. All of that change will generate a lot of turnover across all age groups, particularly among those who are moving up their retirement. I believe this trend could result in as much as a 20% change in our national workforce at the executive level. Here’s why:

1. People Hunkered Down in 2020.

Turnover is part of the natural order of the labor market. But a lot of the turnover that would have naturally occurred in 2020 simply didn’t, leaving a backlog of people who are ready for a change once normalcy returns. Some people didn’t want to inject the uncertainty of a job change into an already crazy year. Others stayed at their jobs out of a sense of duty to their companies. Whatever the reason, the market has a latent buildup of job seekers just as baby boomers continue to retire at a record pace. 

2. People Are Rethinking Their Options.

We are creatures of habit, and our habits often form ruts that are hard to escape. One silver lining of 2020 is that everyone’s work habits were broken. The lockdowns and remote working has given a lot of people a chance to reevaluate why they do what they do. People have had time to think, and the pandemic has made the entire world remember that life is short. The result is a massive number of people asking big questions about life and vocation.

People who hadn’t considered leaving their jobs or seeking new opportunities have had a long break from their regular routines and are starting to think about what’s next. They’re not just considering pay or job title, but why they work. This dynamic has been going on for a while (just look at how many views Simon Sinek’s talk on “Why” has garnered). COVID-19 has accelerated the conversation, which will directly accelerate turnover in 2021 and send an unprecedented number of corporate executives into the nonprofit sector, vacating their coveted C-suite roles.

3. People Want to Move Closer to Home.

People aren’t just asking why they do what they do; they are questioning where they do what they do. The pandemic has already and will continue to usher in a great geographic redistribution of the workforce. Record numbers of people are leaving urban areas for more desirable places to live. 

Just as COVID-19 accelerated remote meetings, it has created a world where many jobs can be done from anywhere. Record numbers of people state they are working in a fully remote setting. Compounding these factors, the crisis of 2020 has made many people want to move back home, closer to family and friends, or closer to aging parents or growing grandchildren. Once the dust of the crisis settles, more people will be ready to move than ever before. With those moves will come a rapid increase in job turnover.

Preparing for Turnover

If you’re thinking of making a change, know that you’re not alone. This might be exactly the year to take a leap—just make sure it’s for the right reasons.

If you’re a supervisor trying to keep your team from leaving, focus on creating an irresistible work environment and making sure you pay your people fairly. Additionally, make a list now of the people you really want to keep in 2021 and consider a raise or bonus. It will likely cost you less to invest in these areas than it will to replace a valuable employee.

One final piece of advice: Buckle up. Mark my words, no matter how wonderful a boss you are and how cool your company is, the Great COVID-19 Job Churn is coming.

Read more from William Vanderbloemen »

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