By now you’ve probably heard about—or experienced—”the Great Resignation,” a term coined by Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, to describe the wave of people rethinking or quitting their jobs post-pandemic. Some 4 million people quit their jobs in April, the highest reported number since the Bureau of Labor started publishing the data in 2000. Klotz and others cite myriad reasons for the departures. Some people, having tasted virtual work, are seeking more flexible arrangements than their current bosses allow. Many are rethinking their priorities after the health crisis; they’re taking sabbaticals or pursuing work that offers them a greater sense of purpose.
Employers looking for ways to stem the tide of resignations might find some inspiration in this issue. Our ranking of the Best Workplaces for Innovators highlights companies that encourage employees at all levels to contribute ideas that become brilliant new products or processes. This kind of empowerment can be a potent retention tool, says Paul Daugherty, group CEO for technology and chief technology officer at Accenture, Fast Company’s research partner on the project. “Mission is important, but we wanted to reward workplaces that truly enabled people to be innovative and pull together, especially during the unique circumstances of the pandemic.”
Creativity, too, is a powerful antidote to professional ennui. Our annual look at the Most Creative People in Business spotlights individuals who have used their imaginations and energies to make transcendent strides in their sectors. Consider Fred Stokes, of Lowe’s, who, during the lockdown, helped expand the retailer’s revenue from contractors by building a platform contractors could use to consult virtually with homeowners. Or Google’s Julie Rapoport, who secured affordable recycled aluminum for the company’s Pixel 5 phone, reducing the device’s carbon cost by 35%.
But there’s another reason people might quit their jobs: burnout, which disproportionately affects working mothers. One in four women with children under 10 say they considered leaving the workforce during the pandemic, compared with only 13% of men with younger kids, according to research from McKinsey & Company. Women told researchers that they were exhausted from taking on more household and child-rearing duties, and that they felt judged by coworkers for accessing flexible work options.
One leader who understands these issues intimately is Katie Porter, California congresswoman and one of our Most Creative People in Business. Porter may be best known for questioning CEOs and politicians, but she’s also a single mother; and she’s backing legislation that would make the child tax credit—intended to help cover day care and other child-rearing expenses—available to single parents claiming up to $150,000 in income, up from $112,500. “Women are having to put family front and center, and they’re exiting the workforce, and that has long-term consequences [for businesses] if they don’t bounce right back in,” Porter told senior writer Ainsley Harris.
If enacted, the measure could help up to 400,000 families. It wouldn’t end the strain on working mothers, but it shows the creative thinking that employers and lawmakers need to embrace if they hope to slow the Great Resignation.