What happens when employees leave jobs they’ve had for years in order to pursue new opportunities – and then realize they’ve made a mistake? That’s the question many workers are faced with in 2022, as the Great Resignation has paved the way for a new trend in the labor market: the Great Regret. 

In 2021, when the job market restabilized more than a year after the pandemic began, we saw a massive uptick in workers leaving their employers for new jobs. The Great Resignation forced many companies to reconsider the quality of experience they provided to their employees and job candidates – as it became clear that employees will have more power than ever before in the post-pandemic workplace.  

Employees feeling more empowered in their career trajectories was undoubtedly a positive development. But for many, pursuing new opportunities has come with consequences: recent studies reveal that one in five employees who left their job during the Great Resignation regrets their decision. 

What’s driving this regret? Are employees simply unsure of what they want in today’s strange and constantly-changing workplace – or is there a major blind spot that’s keeping employers from retaining talent? 

The Impact of the Great Regret: Job-jumping is on the rise as employees struggle to find footing in new positions. 

The Great Resignation sent many organizations into crisis mode, as they experienced unprecedented employee turnover during an already complicated phase of pandemic-era reacclimating. The Great Regret poses just as many challenges.  

On the surface, there’s an obvious productivity downside to hiring employees who end up unhappy in their new roles. Onboarding is expensive, particularly in the digital workplace era, and struggling to get new hires engaged in their roles results in slower time-to-productivity and ultimately higher HR and IT costs. 

But there’s another major consequence: the Great Regret is only exacerbating the issues brought about by the Great Resignation. According to recent LinkedIn research, the share of workers who had been at their previous job for less than 12 months when they took a new role rose by 6.5% last year. In other words: employees are jumping from one job to another much faster. Gone are the days where workers believe they must stick with a new job for more than a year, even if it hasn’t lived up to their expectations.  

To solve this problem, we must first look at the reasons behind this employee regret – and what employers should consider during the hiring and onboarding process to mitigate risk.  

Employers must set clear expectations for hybrid work to avoid the consequences of “shift shock”.  

The Great Resignation was driven by employees who no longer felt fulfilled, properly compensated, and connected with their current employers. Their expectations evolved, and their employers did not evolve to meet those expectations. The Great Regret, conversely, is being driven by employees whose new employers immediately fall short of their expectations. 

The Muse, a job search site, recently conducted a study on more than 2,500 workers who have left one job for another in recent years. More than 72% of these employees have experienced “shift shock” – the feeling of surprise or regret that comes with starting a new job and realizing that it’s different than they expected. 

The study goes on to reveal that 41% of employees would only give a new job two to six months if they experienced shift shock, and 80% believe it’s acceptable to leave a new job before six months if it doesn’t live up to your expectations. 

The question is: why are so many of today’s businesses failing to meet the expectations of their new employees?  

The answer is twofold. For one, today’s employees – particularly younger generations – have vastly different expectations than workers did in pre-pandemic times. A recent study by Zety found that while candidates still consider the predictable factors, like competitive salaries and benefits packages, there are many new expectations driving their decision-making: 

  • 62% want to work for a company with “values that match their own”. 
  • 61% expect their employer to have a purpose “that goes beyond merely making a profit”. 
  • 49% want to work for companies that have “a strong brand reputation”. 

These expectations aren’t exactly earth-shattering secrets – yet modern businesses struggle to meet them, particularly as they adjust to so many new challenges in the era of hybrid work and rapid digital transformation. 

That’s why it’s more important than ever for employers to be transparent during the hiring and onboarding process. If a company hasn’t fully figured out their philosophy around flexible work, for example, the worst mistake they can make is promising a new candidate that they’ll have total freedom over how and where they work.  

Oversimplifying and overpromising might land a company a fantastic new hire. But within six months, that new employee will likely be casting their sights on the job market once again because their expectations were not met. 

Companies cannot transform overnight or change their core values to keep candidates and employees happy. But as they do evolve over time, they can increase employee satisfaction and decrease turnover by cutting out the empty promises and misleading job descriptions. As difficult as it may be to hire the right talent in an employee-driven market, it’s even more difficult to retain the right talent.  

A transparent hiring process tells candidates exactly what role they should expect, what working at the company will actually be like on a day-to-day basis, and what the company’s priorities for the future will be – no matter how dynamic and filled with change that future might look like. With these expectations established, businesses will be able to hire great employees who won’t soon develop a Great Regret.