What If The Great Resignation Isn’t?

in business, Data, Featured, Uncategorized

There’s endless talk in HR circles about the Great Resignation. A report by McKinsey & Company, for example, sounds the alarm because “more than 15 million US workers—and counting—have quit their jobs since April 2021, a record pace disrupting businesses everywhere.”

The McKinsey report is fascinating for its survey findings comparing why employees say they leave to why employers believe they leave, with some stark distinctions.

But the report, and just about all of the endless accounts about an employee exodus, falls short by failing to provide context for the so-called exodus. Specifically, they ignore the fact that quit rates plummeted in the Spring of 2020. McKinsey blares, “The Great Attrition is happening—and will probably continue.”

But is it? And will it?

Here’s a graph of quit rates — number of quits as a percent of total employment — from 2011 through July of 2021 (The blue line is turnover; the dotted line is a trend line for the entire period.):

Quit Rates 2011-2021

US Quit Rates (and trend) as % of total employment, 2011-through July 2021.

Pent-Up Attrition?

“Quits are voluntary separations initiated by the employee,” BLS explains. “Therefore, the quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs.”

It sure looks like the current rate of resignation is fairly close to trend. In fact, the quit rate for July 2021 was unchanged from the previous month, and the last three months were all lower than April 2021. The data suggests that some of what’s being called The Great Resignation is actually pent-up attrition. We may — may — just be on the tail end of a dip.

When we hear “15 million workers have quit their jobs since April 2021,” we should question whether April 2021 is the proper baseline. This shouldn’t diminish some of the dynamics currently taking place in the labor force, but at least suggests that it may be quite a while before we really know — based on data — what those dynamics are.

Good Work: Getting Real About Job Characteristics, Job Design, and Job Crafting at “Impairment Without Disability” 2021

in industrial organizational psychology, job crafting, job design, Uncategorized, Wellbeing
Impairment Without Disability logo

I’m honored to be among the distinguished slate of speakers presenting at Impairment Without Disability 2021, where I’ll discuss the science behind “Designing Jobs People Want To Do.”

IWD 2021 promises “No fluff, no fodder.” YES! We need more conference hosts that respect our work — and the employees we serve — enough not to waste our time with celebrities, motivational speakers, athletes, and new-age wonks who have no idea what we do. Those speakers may give attendees a lift during the hour of their presentation, but the growth that comes from information, case studies, and idea-sharing can last a lifetime and facilitate results that spread exponentially.

If you’re interested in supporting the wellbeing of sick or injured workers, join us at this year’s all-virtual IWD Conference 2021, November 18. Register here.

Check out conference organizer Jason Parker’s LinkedIn post, below, for more info.

There’s Mental Health in Them Thar Workers

in Uncategorized, Wellbeing, Workplace Mental Health Resources

woman with gold face

In the red-hot employee mental health industry, two of the reddest, hottest companies — Ginger and Headspace — announced their merger. As reported by Stat:

The new company, called Headspace Health, will have a reported value of $3 billion, placing it in the top echelon of companies vying to own significant chunks of the mental health market….Headspace, which sells directly to consumers as well as to businesses, is focused on self-directed meditation and mindfulness…Ginger also offers self-guided treatment in addition to text-based coaching and video-based therapy and psychiatry.

Oliver Harrison, CEO of digital mental health competitor Koa Health, magnanimously blogged that the merger represents “a tremendous moment signaling the growing market demand, innovation and transformation for digital mental health and wellbeing.”

This might be true, but we might also conclude that this is a moment in which two unrelenting enterprises join forces to, as Stat said, “own chunks of the market.”

Innovation? Later in the post, Harrison quotes HR expert Josh Bersin:

“Bigger companies with thousands of customers try to innovate, but the demands of their large, existing customers distract their engineering teams and they can rarely innovate like they did when they were small.”

A colleague recently described employee mental health as a modern day gold rush, with money gushing into it from exuberant employers — clawing for precious solutions, while surrounded by barkers hawking unauthenticated replicas — and venture capitalist prospectors jumping aboard the gravy train.

Tremendous Moment? Or Wild West?

Headspace and Ginger are joining hands as they stake their claim in the mental health landscape. Good for them. We can only hope it also turns out to be good for care seekers, employers, and mental health in general.

In other news, in-person therapy is now available at Walmart. Find it somewhere between the ammo, tobacco products, and baby strollers.


“Gold face” image courtesy John Vasilopoulos via Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/users/sjv_john-9645453/

The Truth About Mental Health First Aid Training

in Featured, Mental Health First Aid, Uncategorized

As a certified Mental Health First Aid™️ instructor, I was delighted to see this critical analysis of MHFA posted by distinguished professor of Organizational Psychology, Rob Briner…

Should Mental Health First Aid Be Required?

One of my LinkedIn connections recently posted a poll asking whether employers should be required to have a certified MHFA person at the workplace. More than 1000 folks responded, and 70% said “Yes, it should be required.” Some commenters asserted that anyone answering “No” had never experienced mental health problems and/or didn’t care about them.

In addition to revealing naïveté about workplace regulation, the responses to this poll exemplified

  1. The limited understanding of MHFA possessed by people advocating it
  2. Employers’ and HR leaders’ eagerness to solve complex problems with simplistic, trendy solutions, while ignoring substantive evidence-based strategies.

MHFA Cons and Pros

In the US, employers would have good reason to proceed with caution when implementing MHFA in the workplace.

  • MHFA certification seems unnecessary — having more to do with protecting revenue and intellectual property rather than mental health
  • As for the virtual training, to quote the CEO of National Council of Mental Wellbeing (from his “Happy New Year” email to instructors): “To put it simply, the technology just didn’t work.” (I chose not to offer virtual training until the tech problems are addressed. But NCMW was undaunted, continuing to charge thousands of dollars for virtual training that the organization acknowledged “caused countless frustrations.”) 

MHFA’s greatest potential is to play a supporting role in a comprehensive solution — albeit, I’ll maintain, a role likely to prove valuable when implemented in the proper context and with realistic expectations.

Facty Wellness Study Facts Get Factier

in Employee Wellness Programs, Featured, Uncategorized, Wellbeing

Now that year-3 data is out, yielding findings just as blah as the year-1 findings (meaningful outcomes nowhere to be found), I’m re-sharing this 2019 post about the BJ’s Wholesale wellness study. Little has changed. Indeed, these facty facts have gotten no less facty. In fact, they may be factier.

Tip: If you —  like many critics of this research as well as media reporters confused by the study design  —  think the BJ’s research was primarily a study of intervention outcomes, or that it only looked at physical health and health care costs when wellness programs these days are all about happiness-ishness, or the program was sub-par because it consisted of “modules,” you’ll find this post enlightening.

The 4 Factiest Facts Overlooked in the Latest Wellness Study Kerfuffle

Podcast: Wellness, Job Insecurity, Unemployment, and Authenticity

in industrial organizational psychology, job strain, Uncategorized

This episode of the Redesigning Wellness podcast (below) is brilliant. Kudos to Chrissy Ball, Michelle Bartelt, and Scott Dinwiddie for having the courage to share their experiences and feelings around job loss. Thank you Jen Arnold for organizing and facilitating a bold conversation.

My take: As much as we wellness pros talk about “authenticity,” we rarely display it. Perhaps we feel obligated to project a veneer of exuberance. Indeed, this often seems to be expected. (I had a boss lament that she’d always imagined her wellness director would be “peppy” — which I proudly am not.) These panelists model real wellbeing as they describe hard times — anger, sadness, fear, and separation (as well as resilience, connection, and growth).

This conversation reminds us of the psychosocial influences on wellbeing that too often are obscured by our preoccupation with behavior change. Key amongst these is *job security*, as well as employment itself and role identity.

As we listen, we’ll do well to think of workers who are struggling — single parents, folks living on the poverty line, et al — and how their wellbeing is threatened by job insecurity and unemployment. How can we, as wellbeing leaders, help?

225: Job Loss During a Pandemic with Chrissy Ball, Michelle Bartelt, and Scott Dinwiddie

Work-from-Home Is Usually Out of Reach

in Featured, Uncategorized

hand reaching out to village of homes

The National Wellness Institute asked, in a LinkedIn poll, “What work week environment do you envision as being the most optimal for high-level wellness and high productivity?”

Confirming similar survey data from other sources,

  • 3% favored being in the office 5 days a week
  • 20% preferred 4 10-hour days a week
  • 53% said a hybrid of 3 days in the office, 2 days remote
  • 24% wanted to be remote the whole work week.

I wonder, when I see data like this, how one would have responded if they worked in a store, in a hospital, on a tarmac, at a restaurant, at construction sites, on a farm, picking up trash, or driving a bus.

Only about 45% of US employees work in occupations for which working from home (aka telework or remote work) is feasible, according to an analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This may be an overestimate, as BLS had determined just a year prior that 29% of employees “could” work from home.

Employers should grant workers as much flexibility as possible (for achieving the goals of both the organization and the employee) regarding when and where they work. But we should consider whether increased work-from-home opportunities for office workers will amplify disparities already prominent in the US.

To assume office work is the norm is a shaky way to start the conversation.

Mental Health First Aid — Q & A with Bob Merberg, MHFA Instructor

in Mental Health First Aid, Uncategorized
Photo by Bruno Scramgnon from Pexels

Near the end of our 2020 Wrap-Up on the Redesigning Wellness podcast, host Jen Arnold asks me about Jozito LLC’s plans for 2021, which gave me a chance to explain how employers can offer Mental Health First Aid training to support their leaders, managers, and workforce at large. The section starts around minute 52:00 (the YouTube version below should go right there). And, below, I’ve provided a summary (adapted from the podcast), in question and answer format. Continue reading »