• The United States is in the grip of the “Big Quit”, in other words the “Great Resignation”.

    A phenomenon that is illustrated by the propensity of employees to leave their jobs.

  • In France, some figures show that in recent months, more employees have resigned or signed a contractual termination.

  • More buoyant job market, quest for meaning, new demands vis-à-vis their employer partly explain these desires for change.

It is well known: what happens in the United States always ends up happening in France.

Hence the particular attention of our economists, labor sociologists and business leaders to the phenomenon of the “Big quit” or the “Great resignation”.

Expressions that qualify the wave of massive resignations in recent months in the country of Uncle Sam. In November 2021 alone, more than 4.5 million Americans left their jobs to navigate to other professional lands.

However, in France, in recent months, the desire to make a name for yourself has been more and more popular among employees, as observed by Vincent Meyer, professor of human resources management and organizational theory at EM Normandie: 

“France is recording record growth in resignation rates (+10% and +20% in June and July 2021 compared to 2019) and levels never before recorded by Dares: + 620,000 resignations and contractual terminations in the 3rd quarter of 2021” .

This phenomenon particularly affects SMEs.

Because according to another Dares study published in February 2022, between July and October 2021, voluntary departures increased by 17% for establishments with more than 50 employees, and by 21% for those with 10 and 49 employees.

"This trend is also more marked in certain sectors (construction, hotels and restaurants, etc.), notes Vincent Meyer.

“Employees have an increasingly consumerist relationship to work”

These desires for change have several explanations.

First, the economic recovery.

Because unemployment fell to 7.4% at the end of 2021. And the employment rate - the proportion of people occupying a

employment relative to the entire working-age population – reached 67.8% at the end of 2021, a historically high level.

“The labor market is currently very buoyant, hiring on permanent contracts is on the rise, so the French know that it is easier to find work and even to retrain”, analyzes Christophe Nguyen, co-founder of the firm Empreinte Humaine, specialized in the prevention of psychosocial risks.

The health crisis was also a trigger for these desires elsewhere, observes Vincent Meyer: “It allowed many employees to reflect on the meaning of their work and the style of management in force in companies.

They want more autonomy and be able to telecommute without chaining 10 videoconferences in the day”.

According to Christophe Nguyen, the relationship to work has also changed over the past two years.

“Some employees believe that they were not treated well by their employer during the health crisis;

their mental health was not taken into account.

They experience a kind of disillusionment.

For many, work is no longer seen as a preferred way to achieve fulfillment”.

The requirements vis-à-vis their position have therefore changed: “Employees have an increasingly consumerist relationship to work,

especially the youngest,” notes Vincent Meyer.

“They no longer want to work under the same conditions as before.

And the salary has become essential, ”adds Christophe Nguyen.

"The lack of manpower can put the activity of an SME in difficulty"

If one would have thought that executives would be the quickest to take to their heels because they benefit from a more buoyant job market, the profiles of candidates for departure are in fact very varied: "This trend affects both people occupying highly qualified jobs, who no longer find meaning in their work, and those occupying less qualified positions and who witness a Taylorization of their profession (repetitive and timed tasks, pressure to perform, etc.)” , notes Vincent Meyer.

And if in the United States, this unprecedented wave of resignations poses a problem for companies, some French employers are beginning to perceive the harmful consequences of a high turnover: "The lack of manpower in certain services can put the activity of an SME in difficulty.

There is also a risk of salary inflation, because it is generally the best employees who resign and it is necessary to revise salaries upwards to attract the best candidates.

This can pose problems of profitability in the medium term”, notes Vincent Meyer.

“Recruiting new employees involves training them.

It can take time,” adds Christophe Nguyen.

The only positive aspect of the situation: it can lead companies to open up to other profiles, “especially to more senior employees.

The need for businesses to evolve

However, there are solutions to prevent too many resignations: "We must work on managerial methods by leaving more autonomy to employees, but also more time so that they have the impression of doing their job well" ., recommends Vincent Meyer.

"We must place the quality of life at work at the center of concerns, offer more coaching to employees in difficulty, more actions on stress at work...", lists Christophe Nguyen.

And companies in the grip of large waves of departures will not be able to exempt themselves from an effort on wages.

Negotiations have already taken place in certain branches, such as catering.

And the next Mandatory Annual Negotiations (NAO) are likely to be quite lively.

It remains to be seen whether the war in Ukraine will slow down the desire for change among some French people.

“If the market turns, there may be a temporary pause in quits.

But they will pick up again afterwards, because we are on a basic trend, ”says Vincent Meyer.

“Job security is only more important to 29% of workers in 2022, according to the latest Human Footprint Barometer.

War can dampen some people's desire to quit.

But overall, when an employee wants to leave his employer, he takes action,” adds Christophe Nguyen.


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