In recent times, a new phrase has emerged - The Great Resignation. It's accompanied by a startling statistic: 4.4 million American employees voluntarily left their jobs in September 2021. While the idea of people willingly walking away from their jobs may initially seem alarming, this trend is more about individuals redefining their careers and lifestyles. They are actively searching for better opportunities, higher pay, and improved work-life balance after experiencing burnout. This phenomenon should actually be called The Great Switch, as it represents a significant cultural shift in the way people view work. It's a turnover tsunami reshaping the job landscape.
So, why are so many employees choosing to quit if they aren't being fired at alarming rates? The reasons are diverse. While low salaries played a significant role, particularly for in-person and traditionally low-wage workers in industries like leisure and hospitality, the movement goes beyond just monetary considerations. Workers are reclaiming their agency and leaving their low-paying jobs in pursuit of something better. Interestingly, the turnover tsunami created one out of every three net new jobs in 2021. What are these jobs? They are roles that offer the freedom to work from anywhere, at flexible hours.
But it's not solely about pay. Pandemic working conditions have played a pivotal role in driving employees out of jobs they would have otherwise stayed in. The past five years have brought to light the injustices faced by women and minorities in the workplace, along with a growing awareness of mental health issues. Today, being micromanaged and disrespected is not considered "enduring." Many employees have witnessed their employers failing to promote diversity and inclusion or recognize exceptional performance. It's not just about compensation; it's about feeling seen, valued, and utilizing one's true potential. This environment is driving many individuals to consider becoming their own boss, seeking autonomy and the ability to leverage their unique value.
As we prioritize mental health and well-being, burnout has become a pressing concern. The traditional 9-to-5 workweek has lost its allure, with employees often finding themselves working until 8 p.m. or even on weekends. This is precisely why they desire and deserve flexibility. In fact, the desire for flexibility and remote work has surged in recent years. According to Statista, a whopping 67.6 million Americans were freelancing in 2020, up from 57.3 million in 2017. This shift is enabled by the growing gig economy and the advent of the Industrial Revolution 4.0. Workers are embracing freelancing to attain better pay and a healthier work-life balance. Digitalization has expanded the talent pool, making it less geographically limited and highly competitive. Now, a Malaysian SME can collaborate with a copywriter from Amsterdam, scaling their business without the need for long-term employment. For freelancers, this means the freedom to choose where, when, and how long they work.
You might be wondering if this trend can be replicated in Malaysia. Well, according to a study by a human resources and people management platform, 61% of Malaysian workers plan to find a new job this year. Among them, younger employees aged 35 and under are particularly eager to move on from their current workplaces. While disliking their current job isn't the top reason for the desire to shift careers, work flexibility remains a crucial factor. In fact, the EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey revealed that 9 out of 10 Malaysians seek flexibility in terms of where and when they work.
Alarming data from the Higher Education Ministry shows that fresh Malaysian graduates have been earning monthly incomes as low as RM1,001 to RM1,500 since at least 2010. The average monthly salary for Malaysians in 2020 was RM2,933, with the median at RM2,060. To put it into perspective, absolute poverty in Malaysia was defined as a household monthly income of RM2,208 in 2019. Such low wages could potentially trigger a Great Resignation in Malaysia.
Despite economic uncertainty and high unemployment due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the gig economy is expected to continue growing in 2021. Many individuals who lost their jobs have turned to digital platforms to make a living. Recognizing its potential, the Malaysian government has identified the gig economy as a new source of economic growth and integrated it into the 12th Malaysia Plan 2021-2025. The changing market dynamics and consumer demands further fuel the growth of the gig economy, attracting more individuals to join this entrepreneurial movement. As market demands and consumer preferences continue to change, the gig economy will serve as a catalyst, attracting more individuals to embrace digital entrepreneurship.
This trend not only offers the potential for higher pay and better work-life balance but also empowers individuals to leverage their skills, creativity, and value in a globalized, digitally connected world. The future of work is evolving, and those with an entrepreneurial mindset will thrive in this new landscape. Here are some key principles to keep in mind:
- Embrace Change: Be open to exploring new opportunities and adapting to shifting market demands. The digital landscape evolves rapidly, and your ability to pivot and embrace change will be crucial to your success.
- Develop a Growth Mindset: Adopt a mindset that values continuous learning and personal development. Seek out opportunities to acquire new skills, whether through formal education, online courses, or self-directed learning.
- Nurture Resilience: Entrepreneurship can be challenging, but resilience is key to overcoming obstacles. Learn from failures, persevere, and view setbacks as learning opportunities rather than roadblocks.
- Leverage Technology: Embrace the digital tools and platforms available to you. Leverage technology to enhance your productivity, streamline operations, and connect with a global network of clients and collaborators.
- Network and Collaborate: Build a strong professional network by connecting with like-minded individuals, mentors, and potential clients. Collaborate with others to leverage their expertise and expand your reach.
- Embrace Creativity and Innovation: Encourage a mindset that embraces creativity and innovation. Look for unique ways to solve problems, differentiate yourself from competitors, and create value for your customers.
- Take Calculated Risks: Entrepreneurship inherently involves taking risks. However, it's important to approach risks strategically and make informed decisions. Conduct market research, analyze trends, and assess the potential return on investment before venturing into new opportunities.
Explore our Future of Work program to stay professionally relevant. We have free training available for unemployed and underemployed youths below 35 from families in the B40 income tier. Apply for free training today!