A prospective consultant told me that he loved what he did during a recent interview. He had been working up the ranks for a long time, continually added skills and experience, and was in a place of high trust and value to his organization. He shared with me that he loved his profession had excellent skills but was not interested in working 70 hours a week at this point in his life and career. He asked, "Were there other options?"
I sense this familiar feeling is likely a symptom of what is referred to as the "Great Resignation."
What is contributing to this trend?
According to an article on Forbes, there are many causes, including:
- Lack of flexibility (20%)
- Instances of discrimination (20%)
- Contributions and ideas not being valued (20%)
- Insufficient benefits (19%)
- Well-being not supported by the company (16%).
The Atlantic talks about a "Great Reshuffling" of people and businesses around the country. For decades, many measures of U.S. entrepreneurship declined. But business formation has surged since the beginning of the pandemic, and the largest category by far is e-commerce.
According to Dr. Laura Hamill, an advisor at Limeade, in a recent Forbes article,
"The mass exodus workplaces have experienced over the past several months is unprecedented—burnout levels reached an all-time high. There was a societal breakdown when it came to the ecosystem of work, home, and well-being. People reached their limits."
Ian Cook points out in the Harvard Business Review that there was a record-breaking 10.9 million open jobs at the end of July of this year. He studied more than 9 million employee records from more than 4,000 companies. He gleaned two critical points:
- Resignation rates were highest among mid-career employees.
- Resignations were highest in the tech and health care industries.
And finally, on November 26, Seattle Times business writer Jon Talton notes that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national "Quit rate" jumped to 3% of the nonfarm workforce in September, the highest number since tracking began 20 years ago. He notes that 4.4 million people voluntarily left their jobs in September. Think of that number: 4.4 million resignations in just one month. The number is staggering.
But consider this: Talton also cites a Harris Poll conducted in October that indicates that 76% of respondents want their employers to offer more flexible work, whether in schedule or location.
Of course, many other issues contribute to what we're seeing today, and it's not my intention to unpack them all here. But it's clear, at least to me, that quality of life plays a significant role in forcing many of us to rethink what we are doing, why we're doing it, and for whom.
I think it's important to point out that this is undoubtedly a first-world problem. It seems to be more prevalent in senior-level white-collar roles than at lower-paying jobs, where most workers don't have the option of stepping away from their jobs, especially after almost two years of riding the pandemic roller coaster.
Since the pandemic, parts of our economy saw a fundamental shift towards contract work or other gig work.
Research shows nearly 8 in 10 companies (78%) are willing to look outside their city to find skilled job candidates, given talent shortages. In addition, many employers are leveraging outside agencies to help recruit (44%), onboard (33%) and manage (46%) contract workers.
Pew Research Center surveyed U.S. adults in August 2021 and found that 16% of Americans have ever earned money through an online gig platform in at least one of the following ways:
- Driving for a ride-hailing app
- Shopping for or delivering groceries or household items
- Performing household tasks like cleaning someone's home or assembling furniture
- Running errands like picking up dry cleaning
- Making deliveries from a restaurant or store for a delivery app
- Using a personal vehicle to deliver packages to others via a mobile app or website such as Amazon Flex
There are new options available to workers who fundamentally want something different, whether based on location, variety, work hours, or a host of other options.
In any event, the trends are undeniable. But what is to be done about it?
Familiar territory and another option
We understand this new world. Our consulting team consists of almost 200 individual contractors at the CFO Selections family of companies. They work with us from anywhere from three to five days per week on various client assignments, including special projects, interim roles, and ongoing part-time or "fractional" assignments.
Small to medium-sized companies and nonprofits have embraced this concept, realizing the benefit of having access to senior financial expertise and leadership while investing in a partial person and doing so without all of the benefits and taxes associated with an FTE.
Correspondingly, our consultants enjoy working with a wide variety of clients and assignments, with the opportunity to apply the wisdom and expertise they have gathered over the length of their careers and do so on a manageable schedule of their choosing. These roles provide them with a creative, reasonable, and lucrative way to present their skills to the universe. On the other hand, our clients hire us because they know our consultants have "been there, done that" on multiple occasions and can help them solve their problems or ramp up their growth paths right away.
I know that I have been able to apply many types of skills and learning to my client assignments over the past eight years as a CFOS consultant. I have had the opportunity to help turn around companies, help bring out the best in client employees, and assist my clients in launching themselves on a sustained growth path. Over the past two years, that work has also included assisting clients in re-evaluating their businesses, customers, and employees to both survive and lay stronger foundations for the future. It hasn't been easy, but it has been tremendously rewarding. (And I control my schedule.)
An option for you
There are options to the underlying causes of the Great Resignation. If you're a financial professional who would like more control over your schedule, continue to do rewarding work, and move towards the kind of work-life balance you choose, we might be a good option. Our ASP brand provides services to clients in the bookkeeper to Accounting Manager skillsets, while our CFO Selections brand works in the Controller and CFO spaces. One might be right for you.
Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Kurt Maass is a versatile and accomplished executive with 30+ years of experience in finance, accounting, and operations roles. He has worked extensively in the wireless, landline telecom, ecommerce, manufacturing, and energy conservation sectors, including serving as divisional and public company VP-Finance and CFO, in addition to public accounting firm experience.
He brings a unique perspective from working with both very large companies (managing operational and capital budgets in excess of $2B annually) as well as very small early-stage start-ups, where he has actively participated in multiple equity and debt financing rounds. He is experienced with the International Financial Reporting Standards, having converted a Canadian-GAAP reporting company to IFRS for stock exchange reporting purposes.