Five Types Of Talent Behind The Great Resignation

Published 4 months ago
Closeup shot of an unrecognizable woman using a laptop while working from home

Last summer, Shannon Harrell left a marketing role at Nestlé to work in the then booming telehealth industry at Teladoc Health. Several months later, as her new employer’s stock was falling amid disappointing results, Harrell switched her LinkedIn status to “open to work.” By April, she’d been recruited to run strategic communications and channel marketing at pet insurer PetPartners. 

“I saw the writing on the wall,” Harrell says. “The growth of that category looked a little uncertain, so I was—as anyone would be—concerned.”

Harrell is what McKinsey would call a traditionalist, one of five types of talent that has spurred The Great Resignation—and may be key to defeating it. In a new study released Wednesday, the consultancy analyzed data and surveyed more than 13,000 workers worldwide to determine what motivated people in different industries to quit over the past two years in order to figure out what might make them stay.

One thing that cuts across all types of workers is a persistent sense of optimism. Three-quarters of respondents felt it would not be difficult to get a job that’s comparable to, or better than, their current role. “People are confident enough that they don’t even need the other job in hand when they do move,” says Aaron De Smet, a senior partner and co-author of the report. “They’re like, ‘I’ll just quit and go find another job,’ and they’re not worried about it.”

Quitting Trend That Just Won’t Quit

With record-low U.S. unemployment and 11.3 million open jobs, it’s easy to understand the optimism. High demand has enabled more than half of those who quit to not only move into new jobs but also move into new industries. Only 6% made what could be considered a lateral move within their industry. The public and social sector had the greatest attrition rate in the survey, with 57% leaving the sector, while healthcare and pharma had the least.

What matters is that many of them aren’t returning to their former industries or even the job world anytime soon. Of those who quit without a new job in hand, only 47% have returned to the workforce, with 29% returning to traditional full-time employment. “Some companies are waiting for those people to come back,” De Smet says. “And they might be waiting a long time.”

The Five Personas of Quitters

That means employers have to recognize who is open to new jobs—and figure out what it will take to hire and retain them. In the study, McKinsey identified five personas:

  • Traditionalists — Like PetPartners’ Harrell, these are career-oriented workers who are willing to make some trade-offs for the right price. They’re less likely to quit without a job to go to and more likely to stay if they get enough money.
  • Do-it-yourselfers — They emerged as the largest cohort in the study, a group that tends to value flexibility, meaningful work and compensation. Typically 25 to 45, they can be self-employed or doing gig work or part-time jobs. They want flexibility and a friendly work environment.
  • The caregivers and others — These are the people at home but are wanting more. Typically 18 to 44, with more women than men, they decided to sit it out at home and are looking for roles with flexibility that allow them to still continue their caregiving and responsibilities outside their jobs.
  • The idealists — Typically a younger cohort of students and younger part-timers, 18 to 24, this persona wants flexibility, strong organization culture and clear career advancement trajectories. They ranked belonging to an inclusive and welcoming community more highly than the other personas.
  • The relaxers — These are a mix of retirees, those not looking for work and others who might return to traditional work if the job is right. They want meaningful work and balance. Many retired workers are increasingly returning to work following a surge in retirement during the onset of the pandemic.

To appeal to these cohorts and address the attrition-attraction issue, companies need to double down on their value propositions—both traditional, which includes pay, title, benefits and career paths, and nontraditional, which involves flexibility, company culture and personalization, McKinsey outlines.

“There are some super talented people out there sitting on the bench because the offer is still the traditional offer,” De Smet says.

By Emmy Lucas, Forbes Staff