“Into the Wild”: Is there a lesson about the “Great Resignation”?

Into the Wild is a 2007 biographical adventure drama film written and directed by Sean Penn.  The movie is an adaptation of the 1996 non-fiction book of the same name written by Jon Krakauer and tells the story of Christopher McCandless, a student, and athlete. He leaves behind his rich life and bright future to escape society’s rules and conformity and embark on an adventure in the Alaskan wilderness.

The youth meets a series of adventures and people along the way who have a significant impact on him. In addition to the answers he was looking for, he will also find death.

Takeout for HR people

When you correctly identify the metaphor behind the film, the lesson for the HR world at the time of the “Great Resignation” is straightforward.

Each organization has its own rules, protocols, and guidelines.

Chris experienced society’s standards as undesirable and unfree.

Something similar happened to the millions of people who left their jobs in 2021. The Great Resignation occurred because more and more employees wanted to feel connected to a bigger purpose at work. Many might see the choice as unreasonable, such as the one of Chris in the movie.

But the desire to escape from one’s daily life, from routines whose meaning is often not fully understood, can be compelling and disruptive. And that’s why people’s experiences become crucial.

As the main character says in the book:

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality, nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.”

We still don’t know how the Great Resignation will end or how it will be remembered.

But whatever happens, companies can have the opportunity to reconsider their rules and functions.

It is necessary to consider the wishes and expectations of millennials and their vision of work from a generational point of view. Primarily because they now represent 25% of the global workforce.


Even though this movie is not a typical Hollywood HR movie, it delivers a powerful message on creating a positive people experience. It is an opportunity for Human Resources to create working environments where employees want to work.

This will make all employees (not only millennials) feel more productive, comfortable, and moved.