New Research on the “Great Resignation” Offers Surprisingly Good News

New Study from Strada Education Network Reveals a Silver Lining at a Challenging Time

The pandemic has unquestionably transformed how millions of people work, and it has caused many U.S. adults to reassess their personal and professional opportunities. The first year of the pandemic brought layoffs, furloughs, and changes in shifts, hours, and pay. By April 2021, fully half of U.S. adults saw their work change in some way, according to a May 2021 study from Strada Education Network. The number of U.S. workers leaving or changing their jobs sharply increased. This phenomenon, commonly referred to as the “Great Resignation,” has left employers, educators, workers, students, and policymakers struggling to make sense of it all during a time of rapid change.

To better understand these workforce transitions, Strada surveyed approximately 4,500 adults between the ages of 18 and 65 during spring 2022 about the employment and education changes they’ve experienced since the start of the pandemic. The authors of the study were Melissa Leavitt, Andrew R. Hanson, and Dave Clayton.

The research reveals some hopeful news. The data show nearly half of people who voluntarily sought out different employment during this period did so because of a positive, forward momentum to seek advancement, higher pay, new opportunities, or a better fit.

People also are trying to better understand the relationship between education and employment in a changing economy. In a time of economic uncertainty, we would expect to see enrollments increase, but instead they are on the decline. And for individuals without one, confidence in the value of a college degree has dropped significantly.

For employers struggling to retain their employees, training and the opportunity for career advancement can be significant factors in keeping staff. Almost three-quarters of people who quit their jobs said they would be interested in employer-provided training. Employees who advanced in their jobs or had more control over their workload or work environment expressed the greatest amount of happiness with their employment. In fact, they were significantly happier than those who received a raise.

“These findings represent a tremendous opportunity for employers,” said Leavitt, director of research at Strada. “Employers can help their employees integrate education into work and help them get on those pathways to advancement that are associated with more happiness and satisfaction.

The study also shows that postsecondary education is seen as a valuable resource for people navigating different changes and stages along their career journey. This could present a major opportunity for educators struggling to address falling enrollments.

“We may have had the relationship between job loss and education upside-down,” said Clayton, senior vice president of research at Strada. “People who advanced at work or started a new job were the most likely to enroll, compared to those who lost their jobs. This has significant implications for employers, educators, and state policymakers working to attract, retain, and develop talented workers.”

Complete results of the study can be found here.