The Great Resignation is coming to an end this year, says the professor who coined the term

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Nobody can predict the future, but when it comes to the future of work, we’ll trust the expert who foresaw the defining workplace trend of the pandemic era.

Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of organizational behavior at University College of London, coined the term “Great Resignation” way back in May 2021 during an interview with Bloomberg.

“When there’s uncertainty, people tend to stay put, so there are pent-up resignations that didn’t happen over the past year,” Klotz said at the time. The rate of those resignations was compounded by the “many pandemic-related epiphanies” about values, passions, and the need for work-life balance.

Suffice it to say, Klotz hit the nail on the head. Forty-seven million Americans quit their job in 2021; 46.6 million quit last year. That’s a relatively small dip, but Klotz says this year will bring a precipitous fall as the labor market evens itself out.  

Thanks in large part to the threat of a recession and a millions-strong wave of layoffs across sectors, quit rates have slowed so much that “it’s like the pandemic never happened,” Klotz told CNBC Make It on Wednesday, adding that they seem to be plateauing.

The pandemic definitely happened, but what hasn’t lasted is job hoppers’ pandemic-era confidence that a great new job is always around the corner. Workers’ optimism that they’ll find a strong new role has dropped precipitously, Klotz said, and workers have become much less likely to quit if they don’t have something new lined up. “As more companies reduce hiring, job seekers will have fewer options, and quitting becomes harder to do.” 

That might explain why so many people who have joined the Great Resignation recently are having a harder time finding a job than expected. Even if quitting has gone out of fashion, employers are going to work overtime on attracting and retaining talented workers this year, Klotz predicts. That may take the form of expanding benefits, upping salaries, and potentially even bending on return-to-office mandates

“If you’re getting what you want from your current job, there’s less incentive to quit,” Klotz told CNBC. “We can’t discount the fact that millions of jobs are better now than they were three years ago, thanks, in large part, to the policy changes companies have made.”

Minor technicalities 

Now, the data doesn’t quite back Klotz up. According to the latest JOLTS report, released Wednesday, U.S. job openings surged to 11 million in December 2022: a five-month high. And nearly half of workers plan to ask for a raise this year—and say they’ll likely quit if they don’t get one. But you can’t argue with the expert, although Klotz acknowledges some caveats himself. 

Not every industry’s employers have regained total power, Klotz said. Sectors like health care, retail, and transportation are still feeling the squeeze of two years of Great Resignations and have continued hiring at a rapid clip to stem their losses. 

Plus, other experts predict that even if the Great Resignation becomes demoted to just the Good Resignation this year, bosses won’t retain the upper hand for long. 

“Beyond the near-term noise of the boom-and-bust economic cycle, there are very clear labor-supply headwinds across the advanced industrialized world,” Aaron Terrazas, chief economist at jobs site Glassdoor, told Fortune last month. “Aging demographics and slow immigration mean that the pendulum of the market should swing back toward employees before long.”

“The Great Resignation, quiet quitting, and record levels of job openings proved that the war for talent is over and talent has won,” added Carin Van Vuuren, chief marketing officer at SaaS company Greenhouse. “The power will remain in candidates’ hands and they will continue to be selective about who they work for and where—this could be the first recession that we see job seekers win.”

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