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'The Great Resignation' | Millennials and Gen Z employees want more from their companies, expert say

Kentucky led the nation in employees quitting jobs from July to August. Recruiters say its time for companies to reassess their cultures and benefits.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Employers are calling it "The Great Resignation," as workers leave jobs at staggering rates. FEI Louisville hosted a forum Tuesday, where recruiters and businesses addressed the growing problem.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August. The national quit rate was 3.0% for September, the highest since data was first collected in December 2020.  

Kentucky had the highest increase in quit rate in the entire nation between July and August 2021, up from 3.1% in July to 4.5% in August.

“I believe the pandemic was the catalyst for employers to understand that generations are different and they need to make adjustments," Michael Bodner, with Louisville-based Ingenium Talent, said. 

Recruiters at FEI Louisville's panel said the pandemic accelerated a generational shift. 

Millennials and Gen Z employees want more from their companies, asking for benefits like generous time off, tuition reimbursement, hybrid schedules and a focus on company culture. 

Bodner said the childcare industry's own resignation pattern is also driving up Kentucky's overall quit rate. 

"There's not enough childcare workers to go around, they're some of the lowest-paid individuals in the job market right now," he said. "What that's doing is swinging back to people that are maybe trying to get back to work that don't have childcare." 

Others like Bill Ferko, a U of L professor, said they are worried about "brain drain," where talented young people leave Louisville for more alluring cities. 

"With my students, my concern is they're all going to leave, I want them to be here to help us grow our economy," he said. 

Andrea Higgins with Robert Half said companies can still turn the tide. She said they need to be ready to make a decision when they have candidates in for interviews.

"Hire quickly, if you have open spots like a lot of companies do," she said. "I had an example of company that took four or five weeks to hire, and when they came back to make an offer the employee has moved on and accepted another offer."

Recruiters also said mentoring and engagement are important to the younger generation of workers. 

They recommend companies that are struggling with hiring or retention reassess their culture, compensation and flexibility about work hours and locations.

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