The “Great Resignation” is an unprecedented phenomenon that has affected all industries, including staffing in the engineering marketplace. With this wave, we’ve witnessed millions of people quit their jobs in 2021. As we all try to get back on track and walk the road to a new normal, we’ve seen various predictions for the future happen at a fast pace, such as the shift to hybrid work and e-commerce.
Before we imagine where we are heading from here, let’s look back at what drove this workplace behavior that led to the Great Resignation. We will also cover its effects on the engineering job marketplace, how the conversation has shifted and progressed, and what you need to know as an employer.
The Great Resignation in the Engineering Landscape
The Great Resignation had a significant and long-lasting impact on almost all industries. Specifically for engineering and tech, the landscape has fundamentally shifted due to this phenomenon. Below is a brief overview of how the Great Resignation transpired and how it affected the engineering marketplace.
What Caused It?
Economists say that no single universal root cause led to the Great Resignation. However, it was a confluence of a number of factors, including but not limited to:
- Surging prices of basic commodities and the wages being unable to keep up
- Low-wage roles with no career advancement opportunities
- Severe stress, burnout, and pandemic fatigue
According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, the intent of people to switch jobs has nearly doubled. Additionally, in an article published by Verdict, only a mere 29 percent of surveyed STEM professionals are interested in staying in their current roles. This is despite STEM-related roles being in all-high demand, especially in cloud engineering, data management, and artificial intelligence.
Alongside this collective workforce mood, we can expect to see many mid-career workers in both engineering and tech sectors reconsider their jobs and short-term and long-term goals. Unfortunately, this workforce behavior we saw driving the Great Resignation shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
The State of Engineering Education Sector Affecting the Talent Pipeline Amid the Great Resignation
While the job market dealt with the Great Resignation, the disruption brought about by the pandemic has also greatly impacted the engineering marketplace pipeline and talent landscape. Due to the pandemic restrictions and mandates implemented worldwide, engineering students were forced to adapt to online and modular learning.
The introduction of alternative learning structures was a good solution, although an insufficient one. Engineering students from disadvantaged backgrounds particularly face greater difficulty adapting to these structures. As a result, many students could not continue their education, while others had their engineering apprenticeships put on hold or withdrawn entirely.
According to the Royal Academy of Engineering, all of the disruptions we have experienced over the past few years have widened educational disadvantages and restricted access to engineering at a time when a generation of talented and diverse engineers is needed to help rebuild the economy.
These issues present profound implications for engineering education and skills, as well as the future of the profession. When fewer engineers are joining the workforce while those on the other side of the spectrum are quitting, how does an organization gain a market advantage?
The Evolving Conversation on the Great Resignation
As we leave the pandemic behind and continue to find our way in the new era of work, the change in the employment landscape has caused everyone to re-evaluate priorities. To spin the Great Resignation into a more productive discourse, we can see two more phenomena taking shape in its wake.
The Great Re-Evaluation
The phenomenon where people have started to rethink their priorities in their personal lives and what they want out of work is called the Great Re-Evaluation. The pandemic, working from home, and social isolation provided sufficient time for employees to reassess and contemplate.
Looking within, people started to question whether their jobs were worth giving up on the things they care about the most. It signifies a reset and realignment of priorities with well-being. It’s become a business imperative to understand and adapt to the shift in why and how people work.
What the Great Re-Evaluation Means to the Engineering Marketplace
There will always be churn. That’s the one thing that we cannot avoid in terms of employee retention. For organizations looking to ride the wave of the Great Re-Evaluation to their advantage, there is no other way but to embrace the candidate-centric climate of today’s labor market.
It all boils down to understanding what engineers want out of work and being flexible enough to accommodate these demands. It may include transitioning to a hybrid work model, creating individualized work plans, and focusing on goal-oriented processes. It can also mean providing support and appropriate tech, cultivating a great workplace culture and robust employee relationships, and creating a better compensation package. You may also consider filling gaps with freelance engineering talent.
The Great Reshuffle
Now, if the Great Resignation implied that a tidal wave of workers left the workforce, the Great Reshuffle focuses simply on reconfiguring what a person’s career looks like. A large portion of the people who re-evaluated what they want in life now rejoin the workforce—migrating to new roles or different industries and bringing different sets of skills.
With a greater desire for flexibility, many plan to switch jobs or sectors. In an article published by The Guardian, 6,000 employees were surveyed, and 69 percent of them felt confident about moving to a new role in 2021.
What the Great Reshuffle Means to the Engineering Marketplace
The Great Reshuffle doesn’t have to be tantamount to losing talent. Rather, it presents a huge opportunity for you and your organization to welcome new talent and increase engagement with your current engineering teams by internal mobility, upskilling, and reskilling.
Today’s engineering landscape calls for us to value skills over academic achievements. Place a greater emphasis on transferrable or soft skills over technical skills, which can greatly help you scale your business in the context of hybrid work.
Bridge the gaps in skills through development programs. This might mean creating mentorship programs where high potential employees can meet with key people in your organization and learn about skills related to their roles. Build out a suite of short courses as well.
Putting your people at the center of your retention strategies through offering career advancement opportunities is a great way to tell your engineering team: “I hear you. I understand what you want, and you don’t have to go anywhere else to find it.”
These “pandemic epiphanies” continue to shape the way we work. While some of the changes were starting to see maybe temporary fixes, most of them are here to stay. With the workforce evaluating what they want, organizations are called to re-evaluate how they operate.
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