The Great Resignation keeps marching on. In seven months during 2021, workers quit in near-record numbers. In fact, recent data shows about 38 million employees voluntarily left their jobs between April and December alone. And while many of those that left were older workers who decided to retire earlier than planned, a concerning number that left the workforce were younger workers – especially Millennials (born between 1982 to 2000) and Gen Z’s (born after 2001).

Lack of Learning Opportunities

In a recent survey from YPulse, they asked Millennials and Gen Z’s “What new skill or topic do you plan to learn more about this year?” While both groups agreed on many of the topics, there were several differences as noted in the chart below.

Learning Desired Millennials Gen Z
Financial / money management  




Art / design / crafting Yes Yes
New language/ foreign language Yes Yes
Entrepreneurial / business skills Yes No
IT / coding / computer science Yes Yes
Cooking / baking Yes Yes
Trading skills/ cryptocurrency Yes No
Fitness/ weightlifting Yes Yes
Play a new instrument Yes Yes
Construction/ DIY skills Yes No
Gardening Yes No
Mathematics No Yes
Technology No Yes
Counseling skills / psychology No Yes
Science No Yes

A Retention Strategy

So what does this have to do with the Great Resignation? Actually, it could be the enticement that savvy employers could use to recreate and sustain their workforce. Raising wages and adding traditional benefits is not always the answer; younger workers want more.

As the survey showed, learning is an item of importance to younger people. And having a well-educated and well-rounded workforce is not only good for the retention of employees, but good for business overall … yet many employers are missing the boat on this one.

Instead they are offering higher starting wages, paying out hiring bonuses, and using other old school hiring practices, when in fact, those tactics don’t always work with these two younger generations of workers. Smart employers would offer free-tuition or regularly scheduled company-sponsored training. In other words, give the masses what they want to come and work for you and stay with you.

And there is another side to this strategy – not only would it attract more talent interested in bettering themselves, but it could be the one thing to stop the hemorrhaging of talent leaving out the door.

Toxic Work Culture

Another major reason noted by people having left the workplace is they felt they no longer could work for a company that had a toxic work culture. As a matter-of-fact, employees left their job because of a toxic work culture 10 times more than they did because of low pay. Just another indicator that pay is not the most important benefit to younger workers.

What is a toxic work culture? In their eyes, it was one where:

  • Employers failed to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Workers felt disrespected
  • Unethical behavior or low integrity was the norm
  • Employees were abused – either verbally or physically – by managers
  • A cutthroat environment where colleagues undermined each other in an effort to get ahead

In reading the above toxic work culture reasons, it is no wonder that fast food, retail, and hospitality industries were some of the top ones top suffer – each of these industries had 11% attrition rates.

While not toxic work culture, four of the other top reasons for turnover were:

  1. Job insecurity
  2. Burnout
  3. Failure to recognize performance
  4. Poor Covid-19 response

If you want to hire and keep good people, you have to know their struggles and motivation. Knowledge is empowering to not only recruit but also retain the next workforce.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.