What is the Great Transformation and How Did It Spawn the Great Resignation?

Alex Mortman, Ann Piccirillo, Jeff Givens
April 19, 2022

You’ve probably heard of the Great Resignation, and you may even have had a surge of resignations in your company. Did you know the Great Transformation led to the Great Resignation? Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that since April 2021 an average of 4M people each month have quit their jobs. That is the highest rate recorded since “quit statistics” were first collected in December 2000. The tight labor market shows no signs of easing up, with the February 2022 quit rates totaling 4.4 million.

But, did you know that the Great Resignation is a symptom of a larger trend? You could call that trend the Great Transformation, but it’s really a phenomenon that has been ongoing for quite a while.

What is the Great Transformation?

When did the Great Transformation start? We believe it started during the 2008 recession.  Traditionally, college students saw graduation as a jumping-off point to the world of work. However, in 2008, college students were graduating with little hope of finding a job. The assumption that everyone who wanted to work could find a job was disproved, and trust in the system was broken.

But, no one gave that phenomenon a name, and it went unnoticed by a lot of people. At the time, social media was in its infancy, so no one could use it to amplify their concerns and take action. The ongoing transformation did not spawn the Great Resignation until social media and other issues pushed employees to quit their jobs.

One of the other issues that affected the timing of the Great Resignation was the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) issues that came to the forefront in 2011 and 2012. Mirroring what is going on in society as a whole, the demand for DEI has grown in the workforce as well. Employees are asking themselves if they have what they want in their work life. They are demanding that they be heard about issues such as remote work, work/life balance, opportunities for growth, and more.

Employees who graduated in 2008 are now in positions of leadership and they are planning to leave their jobs to find a role with a purpose. For example, they do not want to work in a cubicle if they can find an opportunity with an entrepreneurial firm and make a difference by working closely with the CEO. They are making a transformative migration to something that’s meaningful for them.

The statistics show that millions of employees left their jobs to create the Great Resignation, but the question you need to answer is, why? Besides the Great Transformation, here are some of the things that may have contributed to this phenomenon.

Resignations Were Delayed During the Pandemic

Some experts believe that the pandemic played a role in causing the Great Resignation. Employees did not want to make a job change when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020. As a result, it was not until 2021 that employees looking for a change finally quit their jobs.

Resignations Were Higher in the 30 to 45 Age Group

Mid-career employees had the greatest increase in resignation rates. This is unusual because the highest turnover rates are typically among younger employees. However, during this time of the Great Resignation, quit rates in the 20 to 25 age range actually decreased.

A likely explanation for this is that since the pandemic caused businesses to work remotely, employers were less likely to hire entry-level employees. The employers knew they would not be able to provide the same type of training and guidance that was possible when people were physically located in the office. Therefore, employers were more likely to hire experienced mid-career level employees.

Mid-level employees were more likely to quit because they were in a better financial position to quit than entry level employees. With fewer financial resources to be without a job, younger employees tended to stay put.

Workers Began to Rethink the Hustle Culture

The hustle culture refers to overworking so much that it becomes a standard part of your lifestyle. Many experts believe that the pandemic has given people a chance to rethink the cost of being always-on. It has given them the time to reevaluate their career goals and work/life balance. Dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic, including losing loved ones, had a big impact on many people. They decided the hustle culture just wasn’t worth it.

Look at the Great Resignation from a Broader Perspective

If you are like many business leaders, you are challenged with understanding the Great Resignation and deciding how you should respond to it. The experts do not agree on how long it will last, but it is a cautionary tale for employers. Your timely response will be critical if:

  •         You are experiencing higher than normal resignation rates
  •         You want to be the place great employees go after they participate in the Great Resignation
  •         You want to avoid repeating the resignation cycle


It’s obvious that the ongoing transformation and the Great Resignation are going to be a part of our business culture for the foreseeable future. Reversing the issues that have caused both phenomena will take planning and work. JDA TSG has created a guide that can help you handle the ongoing transformation and the Great Resignation. 

By reviewing our guide, you’ll learn more about how you can start the process of responding positively to these two issues to stop, slow down, or prevent the Great Resignation from affecting your company. You’ll also learn about a strategy many companies are using to address the issues caused by the Great Resignation while they’re working on longer-term fixes.