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Ray’s Ramblings: Why Is The Great Resignation Happening?

Ray Allegrezza discusses the Great Resignation, and more importantly, why it's happening and what it might mean for the furniture industry

Considering that some 48 million Americans quit their jobs last year, it made sense for me to talk about the impact of the Great Resignation and what that means to the home furnishings sector.

Those numbers certainly were a bitter pill to swallow, especially for a sector like ours that has struggled for years to recruit and retain A-grade players.

Now, just as the pandemic seemingly refuses to go away, recent stats from the Department of Labor indicate that the Great Resignation is still grating on the businesses of frustrated employers.

According to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS)  from the Department of Labor, a record 4.53 million workers quit their jobs in March of this year, eclipsing the previous series high of 4.51 million in November 2021.

This mass exodus from the workplace is just one of the challenges facing home furnishings employers. 

The second, and even-greater challenge is why this is happening. 

Fortunately, a new Harris Poll study, spearheaded by two very sharp executives, Libby Rodney, Chief Strategy Officer, and Abbey Lunney, Managing Director, Thought Leadership, have done the heavy lifting for us.

The study, titled “The Future Of Ambition, Americans Refocus on Prioritizing Happiness and Redefining Success,” is based on a custom survey that was conducted online in the United States by The Harris Poll between April 7-10, 2022, among 2,121 adults aged 18 and over.

In addition, the company also conducted salon sessions on March 24-25, 2022, which focused on what it means to live a well-lived life,” according to the Harris Poll.

As a company on the cutting-edge of thought-leadership research, Harris has conducted a myriad of studies during the last two years to help businesses understand both those changes as well as changes in consumer mindsets.

What follows is only a partial summary of this comprehensive report. To read the study in its entirety, click here:

According to this study, “The way people talk about the last few years sounds as if they were awoken from a distorted reality and fundamentally shifting away from the hamster wheel of burnout culture…” 

With that in mind, and as people start to rebuild their lives, the Harris Poll wanted to determine what a “well-lived” life looks and feels like today? 

The report identifies three major consumer attitude shifts and points out the ramification and implications that each of the shifts could mean to brands.

Shift #1: Ambition 3.0 

As the result of the pandemic drastically reframing employee needs, wants and goals, Americans are recreating their identities away from burnout culture and moving away from corporate culture altogether.

The study said, “Similar to the ‘overview effect’ when astronauts return to earth and have a new awareness of Earth as a tiny, fragile ball of life, we have experienced a cognitive shift that life is fragile and not guaranteed. Even in New York City, rampant with workaholics, the average office worker intends to reduce time in the office by 49%, according to Bloomberg.

Implications For Brands: Consumers confirmed challenges when rewiring their entrenched mentality and, as a result, are looking for new brands and allies that support them in this process.

The Harris study advised that brands can show up by creating new signals, solutions, and supportive structures that reinforce consumers’ emerging return-on-lifestyle goals. As one example, it cited LinkedIn, which now offers a “career break” feature to allow space for non-linear and other diverse work patterns.

Shift #2: Energy Is Today’s Top Currency

Consumers made it crystal clear that you can have all the wealth and influence in the universe, but without the energy to channel it, it’s pointless. Consumers were already shifting their focus from money to time before the pandemic, but now it’s further evolved into energy management. 

Not surprisingly, consumers reported prioritizing their energy where it has the maximum impact as well as seeking things outside of work that give meaning to life.

Implications For Brands: The study concluded that “Brands should actively consider their community network effect: who are you building community with, why do they show up, who do you collaborate with, and how do you cultivate it? How do you frequently create space for your audience to build community with your brand? Is there an opportunity to reward people for getting together and connecting?

Shift #3: Life In Beta

For most Americans, the amount of change we’ve lived through in the last year is unprecedented. According to the futurist Jane Gonial, the word “unthinkable” was mentioned over three million times in the news reports in 2020 and 2021.

This continuous shock and disruption have created a resilient consumer base who are more risk-forward, hypermobile, and willing to take bets on themselves.

Pre-pandemic, people expressed to us how they needed to plan, to have laid out options, and to have backup plans for their backup plans. But the pandemic had no rulebook, so people had to figure out what the future looked like moment by moment. 

Everyone had to be more flexible and open to change, and it trickled down into how they fundamentally continue to see their future personal, and work lives.

Americans are expanding their mindsets around what is possible and taking swings, jumping into the unknown, and moving across the country to create momentum in stagnant environments.

In other words, they are living a life in beta. This ability to harness intuition, go with one’s gut, live in the messy middle, and survive in less structure will be key to riding the waves of changes that will continue to rise over the next decade.

Ending on a high note, the study concluded that, “Optimism is still at the heart for most Americans, but it manifests differently when compared to the past.”

However,  this optimism is less driven by blue sky innovation and more focused on a serious sense of personal responsibility. Rather than the notion that a better future can just happen, today’s optimism is driven by the ability to address reality, wrestle with discomfort and act with integrity, the study concluded.

Mirroring this shift in consumer mindsets, the study predicts a return to more traditional brand values. Integrity, fairness, and humility now outrank flashiness, innovation, and creativity. Americans are looking to brands. to drive meaningful change more than ever before. 

Implications For Brands: Brands should actively consider their community network effect: who are you building community with, why do they show up, who do you collaborate with, and how do you cultivate it? How do you frequently create space for your audience to build community with your brand? Is there an opportunity to reward people for getting together and connecting? 

Clearly, the Harris Poll confirms that the pandemic has resulted in workers rethinking their lives, priorities and much more.

As you go about the business of actively recruiting new hires keep in mind your employment offer needs to take all these paradigm shifts and changing consumer dynamics into consideration if you want to best future employees to consider working for you.

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