The Great ReThink: What the Last 12 Months Mean for the Future of Talent

Great resignation, great reshuffle, the “big quit,” whatever your chosen vernacular, represent an outcome. What actually prompted corporate America’s mass exodus is something else: a great ReThink. It’s what is sitting underneath the outcome.

Usually, a ReThink happens on an individual level. If you go through a traumatic event, like a health scare, the death of a parent, a job loss, etc., you look inward. You pause, asking yourself, who am I? What am I doing with my life? What’s important to me? How am I spending my time? You often come out of that period with new priorities.

In the last 24 months, that experience happened on a global level. Our collective humanity (all at the same time) has been through immense challenge and change resulting in deeper levels of self-reflection.

This global reflection has fundamentally changed the way we live and the way we work.  At the start of the pandemic, many were thankful to have a paycheck. Over the last 12 months, the dynamic has shifted, and the power is in the hand of the employee to reshape what this new world of work will look like.

Here are three ways I predict the Great ReThink will impact our work norms:

Part-time (or contract) work will be increasingly common

Flexibility is the LinkedIn word of the year. Employers are recognizing that their teams want flexibility in where and when they work. Much of that conversation is in reference to full-time employees, but in anecdotal conversations, I’m seeing a huge rise in the number of people who are leaning into part-time, or even contract work.

(And in the US, that begs the question, what about healthcare? Which going to be a post for another day…)

Career breaks will be more accepted (thank heavens)

Recently, LinkedIn announced a new feature called career breaks, saying: We’re rolling out the ability for our members to add a Career Break to their Profile, whether it was taken for full-time parenting, bereavement, caregiving, a gap year, layoff, or other life needs or experiences.

We’ve heard from our members, including 68% of women, who’ve said they wanted more ways to positively represent their career breaks by highlighting skills learned and experiences they had during a work pause.

Hallelujah! This announcement from LinkedIn is emblematic of the larger shift taking place in the talent landscape. Life very rarely follows the linear climbing of a traditional org chart. As someone who scaled back for an entire decade to take care of my children, I was delighted to see that employers are recognizing the value these whole-life experiences bring and the need to validate career breaks.

Purpose is timeless AND more important than ever

McKinsey recently released a publication titled “ ‘Great Attrition’ or ‘Great Attraction’? The choice is yours.

The crux of the piece notes, “If the past 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that employees crave investment in the human aspects of work. Employees are tired, and many are grieving. They want a renewed and revised sense of purpose in their work.”

We all want to know we are making a difference; humans have a fundamental, timeless need for belonging and significance. Leaders who are building a culture of purpose and bringing human impact to the fore will always have people raising their hands to work with them.

Work will never be the same as it was two years ago, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better. With more flexibility, humanity, and purpose we can all build a brighter tomorrow.