Some call 2021 the year of the “Great Resignation,” with millions quitting their jobs. I call it the year of the “Great Rejuvenation.” The start of an era where we realize the value of our lives, and of our ability to innovate.
The realization that the risk of stagnation and sameness far exceeds the risk of movement and creations. An era of change that governments and big corporations should embrace or suffer the consequences.
According to a global survey by Microsoft, 41 percent of the global workforce are ready to quit their jobs. When it comes to the Gen Z workers, the desire to quit reaches a whopping 54 percent. While over 70 percent of employees want to work more remotely, studies also show a so-called digital burnout which employers are leveraging to get people back to the way things were before the pandemic. Many of them don’t want to go back to the way things were.
‘Generation COVID’ is primarily driven by ‘creation, curation, connection and community. This is not a generation who is drawn to the beast of corporate America.
People are acting on their sentiments of dissatisfaction. In April alone over 4 million people quit their jobs. They are demanding more pay, improved work/life harmony and job satisfaction. They have realized that they can get more and deserve more.
It is not only jobs people are quitting, but the sameness of their lives. Across the globe from Cuba to Iran, Myanmar and Tunisia people are reacting and pushing back against economic and social injustice. In America, movements on the left and the right are symptoms of the same realization: we deserve more and we can be more.
So, is capitalism failing or are governments and corporations failing to capitalize on the inherent entrepreneurial talent of their citizens?
Just as David Graeber pointed out in his seminal article, “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs: a Work Rant,’’ well educated and talented people go into these jobs and spend the majority of their time on tasks that do not provide any tangible benefit to themselves or society.
Instead, their time is spent constructing reports that no one will read and doing presentations that no one will remember, in the hope of a marginal pay increase. The essence of capitalism is to provide value, and our current model does not do that.
What has coincided with the labor shifts and people's realization of their ability to get more is an unprecedented number of individuals starting new businesses. In 2020, 4.35 million people applied to start new businesses, up from 3.5 million 2019. They came to the realization that they have the entrepreneurial talent and the ability to improve their situations. That the way they worked was simply not capitalism; it is better described as feudal corporatism. A sort of elitism.
The genie is out of the bottle. While employers have tried to tempt many back into the traditional workplace with higher salaries, I doubt that this will work over the long-term. This is because higher salaries will trigger an economic reaction whereby inflation, already spiked by government spending, will continue to increase.
In my opinion, the movement towards grassroots entrepreneurship has begun and governments should get behind it.
Small businesses have always been the backbone of America, making up 99.9 percent of all businesses. Innovation, combined with a deeply ingrained immigrant work ethic, are what led to the rise of Silicon Valley and the start-up ecosystem in California.
This is the moment in history to reclaim capitalism to its true purpose of generating public value by pursuing private gain. That’s why governments today must nurture, and not stifle, new business creation to retain our competitiveness. We need to stimulate business and innovation from the bottom-up.
That means offering tax relief to new and small businesses to generate both wealth and value for society at large, not just for the shareholders of a handful of (sometimes monopolistic) companies. We must eliminate unfair advantages provided to big corporations. We should not embrace “too big too fail,” but adopt the philosophy of “too small to fail.”
The Biden administration and our divided Congress should agree that we are all entrepreneurs who desire and deserve to change our situations to something better, knowing that there is risk involved.
That’s the engine of capitalism, the engine that keeps America great.
The Great Resignation, and the subsequent shift to small business creation, has come at a time when America needs it most. We must not be fooled into thinking that corporate feudalism and capitalism are the same thing; Let’s bet on America’s entrepreneurial spirit and true capitalism. Let’s give the “Great Rejuvenation” a chance.
Sid Mohasseb is adjunct professor in Dynamic Data-Driven Strategy at the University of Southern California and is former National Strategic Innovation Leader for Strategy at KPMG. He is the author of “The Caterpillar’s Edge” (2017) and “You are Not Them” (2021), and has written for TIME, Newsweek and The Independent.