Wes Combs


June 16, 2022


As the economy struggles to regain its footing from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are navigating a constantly changing set of factors to maintain profitability. The ongoing pandemic continues to impact both the size of the workforce and how those who remain in it prefer to work. The resulting impact, especially on the global supply chain, is felt by Americans in the form of longer wait times, empty shelves, and reduced business hours.

The Problem: Fewer Workers

Whether it is called the “great resignation,” or the “great quit,” the overall U.S. workforce has shrunk from its early 2020 peak.

The battle to gain control of COVID is the reason why a majority are still uncomfortable returning to work as it looked in 2019. According to CBS, “millions of workers remain out of the workforce, including older Americans who stepped back from the world of work, as well as parents who continue to struggle with childcare.” The reduction in immigration during the pandemic is making matters worse, hitting employers like agriculture and hospitality harder than others.

The Cause: Workplace Safety and Culture

The basics of supply and demand are at play when it comes to identifying and keeping talent in the current marketplace. During the height of the Omicron variant, a survey found that the number of remote workers who would consider leaving their job if they were asked back to the office before they felt safe to do so rose to 55% as of Jan. 6, up from 45% just a week earlier.

These factors further complicate the challenges businesses already face when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. Studies continue to show that one of the best ways for employers to retain their talent is to ensure employees feel valued. A recent Inc. Magazine article cited findings from MIT Sloan Management Review that reported a toxic workplace culture is “by far the strongest predictor of industry-adjusted attrition and is 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover.”

The authors found that the leading elements contributing to toxic cultures include failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, workers feeling disrespected, and unethical behavior. Human resources executives also report receiving increased requests for diversity, equity and inclusion over the last two years.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh summed it up this way, “Everyone talks about the great resignation, and I think what we've seen there is not necessarily resigning from work but resigning from their jobs; a job that was not fulfilling enough for folks.”

LGBTQ Workers: Fewer Options and Greater Discrimination

Inc. Magazine reported research confirms that creating inclusive workplaces not only helps to decrease attrition but also helps to attract workers in a highly competitive job market. Employers who understand what makes LGBTQ people feel welcomed at work are more likely to succeed.

A survey conducted by the Williams Institute found nearly 1 in 10 LGBTQ people in the U.S. experienced workplace discrimination in the last year. In fact, 46% of LGBTQ workers reported receiving unfair treatment at some point in their careers because of their sexual orientation or gender identity — including being passed over for a job, harassed at work, denied a promotion or raise, excluded from company events, denied additional hours, or fired. Being paid less than co-workers is among the top reasons why people leave.

New data from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation looked at earnings of nearly 7,000 full-time LGBTQ+ workers and found they earn about 90 cents for every dollar that the typical worker earns. The gap was even higher for LGBTQ+ people of color, transgender women and men, and non-binary individuals.

The Solution: Creating More Inclusive Workplaces

According to Intel, “The Great Resignation has shown us that employees are not going to stay at a company that does not treat them with respect and equality and offer the flexibility needed in these unprecedented times.”

The good news is that business owners have more control over who stays and who goes than they might think. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s LGBT Inclusion Hub for Small Businesses is a resource for employers who are seeking support for creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace for LGBT employees. This portal for small companies and local LGBT chambers of commerce includes:

  • Online Resources: Focused on best practices to help the small business community understand what success looks like when they embrace LGBT inclusivity.
  • Ask an Expert: Ability for small businesses to speak to an expert on LGBT inclusion what steps they can take and provide links to other resources on LGBT inclusion.
  • Events: Access a calendar of upcoming events featuring LGBT workplace inclusion subject matter experts, as well as representatives from companies who are successfully implementing LGBT inclusion in their workplace.

The U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Incorporating Inclusion initiative goes beyond existing research to demonstrate the corporate and community value of LGBT-inclusive workplaces.

About the authors

Wes Combs