If you think the Great Resignation is over, think again.

The latest snapshot of the job market by recruiting giant Robert Half shows that more Generation Z workers are likely to change jobs in 2023 than last year.

About 60% of 18- to 25-year-olds said they would like to change jobs in early 2023, up from 53% last year. More than 50% of employees with two to four years at a company and working parents also said they were looking. The trend worries hiring managers and is leading companies to bolster retention efforts even more in a stubbornly tight job market.

As the U.S. economy emerged from pandemic disruption in 2021, nearly 50 million people quit their jobs, setting a record. Even more workers — 50.5 million , according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — resigned last year. The youngest workers came out of  the pandemic wanting bigger paychecks — and then “an extremely flexible work schedule.” The work-life balance was most important for 45% of Gen Z and 40% of millennials, said Jennifer Carlson , vice president and region director of Robert Half for the Twin Cities.

In contrast, only 30% of surveyed baby boomers insisted on flexible schedules during their job hunt.

“We do know there are clear preferences for younger people to work in as agile and flexible a work situation as they can find,” Carlson said. “That is clear as a bell.”

It also should not be a surprise, said Lola Brown, 22, a Macalester College employee, student and soon-to-be job hunter. This spring, she plans to quit her job, move to Washington, D.C., and hopefully find a job as a policy analyst.

If the pandemic taught Gen Z-ers anything, “it’s that everything can change on a dime,” she said. They have “to be nimble and to pivot,” she said.

The pandemic also changed how young employees view employers, she and other young workers said.

“There’s a new recognition of what is fair and expected, whether that be how much I am in the office or how much sick time [I get]. It is not the same as pre-pandemic,” Brown said.

Paul Olson, 23, craved that flexibility. He had a good job with a medical equipment distributor. But one day as he was waiting to talk to a Mayo Clinic physician about surgery tools, he was watching construction workers.

Olson had always wanted to work with his hands, and that day sent him soul-searching. He is now a carpenter apprentice with Hopkins-based Braxton Hancock & Sons, building building trusses, walls and stairwells for apartment buildings in the Twin Cities.

His job as a salesman paid well, but it required him to “just work, work, work, even on Sundays. It was not worth it,” Olson said. “I was so excited to be out of that job.”

With his construction job, he said, he now can spend time with his wife.

Sara Beth Ryther, 32, who joined Trader Joe’s Minneapolis store 19 month ago, sees coworkers and acquaintances who work for other retailers leave all the time.

“People are job hopping because of one or two benefits they see at another retailer,” Brown said. “I see people get sick of the low pay or how they were treated and look at another retailer and think the grass is greener.”

The 350,000-member Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found other triggers can make young workers leave.

Nearly 70% of workers who work remotely now said in a SHRM survey they would look for another job before returning to the office full time.

“If you are young, that number jumps to 79%,” said SHRM Chief Human Resource Officer Jim Link. “Is that not incredible?”

Younger workers, he said, are neither fazed by huge tech company layoffs or rumors about a potential recession.

“While the layoffs are grabbing headlines in the market place and prompting worry, it’s not what is happening in greater America,” he said.

What workers know is Minnesota’s unemployment rate is just 2.9%, and companies are scrambling to fill open positions.

“Labor availability is still tight,” making labor shortages the second biggest concern for the 530 firms surveyed recently by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, said the bank’s outreach director, Ron Wirtz .

Nationwide, 3.9 million Americans quit jobs in January, causing companies to boost wages, add retention bonuses and offer free training, remote work options and free food. “Employers start with increased wages and flexibility and then bring on a smorgasbord of other efforts,” Wirtz said.

With inflation, higher interest rates and soaring grocery prices, “we have economic headwinds in front of us, but the labor market is still very vigorous and very strong … and younger workers appear to be bound and determined to find as much agility as they can in their workplace,” Link said.

In looking for other jobs, young workers want psychological safety. “They want a purpose fit, fulfillment and the right culture,” one where they can speak their minds without fear of being fired or ostracized, said Jessica Kriegel , chief scientist of workplace culture at the firm Culture Partners.

The persistence of that finding should be a wake-up call for employers already battling high turnover and labor shortages.

That juggling act helps retain some workers but strains others.

Human resource pros are burning out and joining Gen Z-ers in the hunt for other jobs, Robert Half’s Carlson said.
For three years, HR workers have been “on the front lines” of labor shortages, and some have simply had enough.

With the pandemic “HR [departments] needed more help but were the last to get it because their companies focused instead on supply chain issues, not the communication and the heavy lifting needed to change the policies of going remote” while keeping and attracting talent,” Carlson said, adding that it’s the next trend to watch.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725