Intro commentary by Mark Oden: In growing the business to well over 40 employees, having only had indirect management experience prior, I’ve learned to see my employees for who they are, beyond what they have accomplished, and to hear their needs truly.  This article provides insight into my learnings on both partnering with unions as well as partnering with employees, and offers insight into the future, where the union, hiring managers (of union or non-union employees), and employees may all look at one another's needs and find a way to meet them, collectively and for the benefit of all. As you read this article, I would love to welcome any feedback you may have.

The Mass Exodus

So what exactly is “The Great Resignation?” To provide context, every individual has needs, and the needs and desires determine the motivation we have for each and every action we take. As a hiring manager, when determining how to retain talent in the workforce, it is vital to understand what is important to our employees–what their fundamental needs are.

Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist originally published his idea, Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”, in 1943 which can be seen as a standard for what an individual’s needs are, and how an individual is consistently working to better their needs and move up Maslow’s Hierarchy.  One interpretation of Maslow’s Hierarchy is that individuals are not only working to better their life to move up Maslow’s Hierarchy, but they are also working to better their life in improving each stage of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs - Source: Adobe Stock; Image by Jamil Dawodu


In short, The Great Resignation occurred, one could surmise, because employee’s base Physiological and Safety needs were simply not being met during this time. There has been a shift in the factors that are valued by employees, which have not consistently been met by employers, therefore leading to a mass exodus from the workforce.

To elaborate, over 47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021. Studies by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that many people left their roles because they want freedom and flexibility in the work they perform, to help them live the life they want to live. More and more people are choosing to “Work to Live” and not “Live to Work.” 

Source: Adobe Stock; Image by Jamil Dawodu

The COVID-19 pandemic was an accelerant in employee’s realization, leading to a widespread reevaluation of career and benefits for many, highlighting income inequality and other struggles American workers face. The groundwork for The Great Resignation had already started, even before COVID-19 with millions of Baby Boomers, defined as born between 1946 and 1964, already retiring. The pandemic sped up this schedule, causing many to take their retirement sooner.

In addition, Gen Z (born 1997 to 2012) and Millennials (born 1981 to 1996) were expected to refill the workforce, to replace Boomers. As an ABC report noted, this notion changed during the pandemic. Many workers of all ages began reporting burnout and reevaluating family life in the early days of 2020.

UA Director of Education and Training Ray Boyd said, “We’re extremely excited at the United Association to tap into our membership that represents Generation Z. Our leadership is comfortable enough to understand that they are the future, and they have a grasp on technology that is going to be beneficial for us to sustain as an organization. Having the opportunity to cultivate a culture of inclusion, gives our membership a chance to really express themselves and brings out the best to benefit the United Association and our contractor base. It’s time for us as leaders to create opportunities.”


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