Off for the Holidays… Forever

Data shows that 44% of employees have thought about quitting during holiday break. Will they this year?

It’s the holidays! You bid farewell to your favorite employees as they head off for their vacations. The only problem? This might be the last time you ever see some of them.

The holidays are prime time for employee quitting: A new report from Visier, the workforce-analytics company, shows that 44% of employees think about quitting while on vacation, and of those, 1 in 5 does so within a month. Even more return to work but quietly begin job hunting, with half of those gone within three months. “Vacation is the one time that people get headspace to reflect,” says David Ellis, vice president for global talent acquisition transformation at Korn Ferry. “They think, ‘Hey, am I enjoying this as much as I thought?’”

To be sure, the data is from a 2022 survey and the job market has grown tighter since, suggesting that post-holiday resignations will be less of a problem this season. In October, job creation decelerated, and unemployment rose slightly, to 3.9%. “Employees may well be less inclined to jump ship, especially if they don't have something lined up,” says retail expert John Long, senior client partner at Korn Ferry.

Still, the study reveals some longstanding problems firms are not addressing, experts say. In many cases, for example, people are not taking enough time off during the year, leading to burnout and resignations during vacations. Interestingly, the study found that Gen Zers actually had the hardest time disconnecting: Only a third said they “totally” disconnected from work during time off, versus 50% of baby boomers.

There are other factors behind the permanent winter-holiday break. Many employees wait to receive their bonuses; for example, in finance fields, bonuses typically arrive between December and February. And many employees want to use up allotted vacation time. Others want to finish off the holiday retail season. And, of course, there’s the job itself. “It’s not that something magical happens next to the pool cabana,” says Alma Derricks, senior client partner at Korn Ferry. “It’s frustrations that have been bubbling for a long time.”

Experts advise that leaders make sure teams always know their connection to what the organization is doing, and how they’re contributing to it. This includes a strong sense of individual purpose. “Always be selling to employees,” says Long. “If you’re not, you’re missing the opportunity to remind them of all the great things your company has to offer them and their careers.”

Experts say that it’s not just any employee who tends to leave after vacations: It’s likely an employee who have been carrying ongoing frustrations—typically, about their lack of autonomy or inability to get things done, or their decision-making authority or workload; or even that there’s no path forward for their careers to grow and develop. Those employees can be identified.

“If you know people who fit that portrait—overwhelmed, stressed, taxed beyond what’s reasonable—those are the people to watch out for,” says engagement expert Mark Royal, senior client partner.  He suggests making sure specific contributions are being recognized—and connecting those contributions to future possibilities. “Tightening that up around vacations is especially wise,” he says.


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