As unlocked-down employees return they’re looking for change

In dire need of business transformation... © Flickr/cc-licence/scottpartee

In dire need of business transformation... © Flickr/cc-licence/scottpartee

  • It seems a proportion of the workforce is getting all existential with many deciding that it’s time for a career and life re-think
  • That’s fine for them, but for employers... not so much
  • It’s another layer of disruption to the business just when least needed 

A major consequence of the personal disruption brought on by the pandemic, it was widely predicted at its onset, would likely be an uptick in job and career disgruntlement as employees started taking stock of their situations when working from home and began asking themselves the big questions: what am I doing here? Have the last x years been worth it? What would I do differently if given the chance? And when are my groceries being delivered? That sort of thing.

Then as time goes on disgruntlement can easily turn into a steely resolve to seek out a role somewhere else when the lockdown (or series of lockdowns in the case of the UK) finally ends. 

For employers such reappraisals are not all bad. Of course there’s disruption as people move on and have to be replaced (or their roles have to be reorganised); on the other hand, employers don’t want to keep on people who aren’t happy. If emotional turbulence leads them to identify their problem and its solution and they’re able to happily move on to a more suitable position, all the better.

A new study from the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) seems to bear out the widespread prediction of employment kerfuffle as the world rounds the bend into Covid-19 year Two. 

The study also goes some way to explaining why digital service providers are likely to be hit harder than most businesses because of the level of turbulent change and growth they’re now expeirencing, in part because of the impact of the pandemic itself, which has accelerated the enterprise migration to the cloud. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic, combined with rapid technological developments, is profoundly changing the workplace. At the same time, businesses are increasingly seeking to build strong and diverse talent pipelines," said Justina Nixon-Saintil, IBM Vice President and Global Head of Corporate Social Responsibility. "IBM SkillsBuild is designed to give aspiring professionals a powerful set of resources at no charge to help them cultivate meaningful careers that they can be proud of."

Being IBM there’s lots of numbers

The study reveals that fully one in four employees surveyed globally plan to switch employers in 2021. Even as the economy as a whole saw the loss of global working hours equivalent to 255 million full-time employees in 2020, the study shows that voluntary job changes and skills development are still top of mind in today's labour market as employees may be seeking career changes due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only that but the study implies that those who voluntarily made job changes in 2020 may be on the move again in 2021 for many of the same reasons. 

Here are some of the most frightening numbers: one in five employees surveyed voluntarily switched employers in 2020. Of those surveyed who said they switched employers, more than half were generation Z (ages 18-24) (33%) and millennials (ages 25-39) (25%).

Of the 28% of surveyed employees who plan to switch employers in 2021, the need for a more flexible work schedule or location and increased benefits and support for their well-being were cited as top reasons why. And they weren’t just switching employers - a quarter of the surveyed employees indicated that they planned to switch occupations in 2021.

Employees want work-life balance and career advancement opportunities.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has changed employees' expectations of their employers, and leaders should take a more empathetic and personalized approach to attracting and retaining talent, especially for Gen Z and Millennial candidates and employees who may be more likely to make voluntary employer or occupation changes," said Amy Wright, managing partner, IBM Talent & Transformation. "That can include developing tailored learning plans and career paths for employees, fostering inclusive and flexible cultures and removing bias in hiring with the help of technologies like AI."

The full study is available at:

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