Updated Feb 5, 2022 - Economy

A "great resignation" silver lining for HR

Illustration of a briefcase-shaped storm cloud with a silver lining

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's not exactly the "great resignation," but more like the "great reorganization": Millions of Americans want to quit their jobs, but many of them would happily stay at their companies in different positions.

What's happening: 1 in 3 candidates who sought out a new job in the past year searched internally within their organization first, according to a new report from the consulting firm Gartner.

As workers in the era of COVID, "we’re more open to re-examination," says Shonna Waters, a vice president at the career coaching company BetterUp.

  • "For some people, that means moving somewhere new or pursuing a passion, but for a lot of people it could also just mean looking around and saying, 'I want a higher-level role,' or 'I want a different role at the same company,' or 'I want my time to be used differently in my current role.'"
  • Many people want change at work, but also want to retain the friendships and reputation they've built within a company, she says.

That's good news for stressed-out human resources departments navigating the post-pandemic avalanche of quitting. It means they might be able to fill some of those mounting job openings with applicants who've already gone through on-boarding and are familiar with the firm.

Yes, but: "Historically, that's been very hard to do," says Brian Kropp, chief of research for Gartner’s HR practice. "Employees find it really hard to navigate an internal labor market, and most companies sadly have such little knowledge about the skills and capabilities of their existing workforce."

Applying for a new job at a new firm is a familiar exercise, says Waters. "But not every company has a clear process for making those changes internally."

  • According to Gartner's study, just 17% of candidates applying internally say their managers are helpful in the process. Just 20% say they feel supported by their peers.
  • And hiring managers can be biased against people who already work for the company, Kropp says. "There's an emphasis on hiring a fresh face."
  • When someone is selected from within the company, they've often been picked out before the role is even publicized.

What to watch: To retain some of those "great resignation" workers who might want to stay on in new roles, companies will have to rethink their hiring practices and biases.

  • One solution is to open up applications for a job a week early to internal candidates to encourage them to apply, says Kropp.
  • Firms can also promote stories of workers who have made a successful transition from one role to another. Employees often hear from leaders who have worked their way up in a company, but not as much from those who've moved laterally across departments, he says.

The bottom line: There's a misconception about the "great resignation."

  • "People have gotten bored," says Kropp. "They want different. But it doesn’t need to be that different."

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Feb. 3.

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