It’s not so much a job market as it is a job-seeker’s market.
A competitive hiring environment abetted by the “Great Resignation” has given prospective employees an upper hand. Today’s job-seekers have the luxury of sifting through several potential offers and the clout to insist on certain perks before signing up.
“Right now the leverage seems to be still more in the employee’s hands rather than the employer’s hands,” said Michael Brown, founder of the career development firm Insight Leadership Group.
With the July unemployment rate at 3.5%, Forbes notes that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, declining population growth, the aging of the Baby Boomer generation and immigration limitations are all contributing to a tight labor supply. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that a large number of open jobs will remain that way through 2030.
That all means companies are having to work that much harder to attract employees.
What are today’s job-seekers actually seeking in a job? What can an employer offer to attract talent?
As much as anything, today’s workforce seems to want flexibility. Younger workers especially aren’t just interested in a paycheck — they value flexible schedules that foster better work/life balance — and even older workers have learned there are advantages to remote work and flexible hours.
“We’ve always just kind of been flexible about people who are like ‘Hey I need to wait for the bug man at my house’ or whatever. ‘I want to work from there,’ ” said Natalie Ghidotti, founder and principal of the marketing and public relations agency Ghidotti Communications.
For close to three years, in a policy that predates the pandemic and rise of remote work, Ghidotti Communications has made Friday a “work from anywhere” day. Employees check in remotely in the morning for “Fireside Friday” calls, which are mandated to be about anything but work, then they are cut loose to work from their couches, kitchen tables or favorite coffee shops.
Pre-COVID, the company ended the work day at 2 p.m. on summer Fridays, which evolved into the current policy.
“The companies that can [offer flexible schedules], that’s super important,” Ghidotti said. “The younger generation, it’s not just about paying for them. It’s definitely about a quality of life. So that flexibility and being able to say ‘Hey I’m going to be able to work from home or work from the coffee shop.’ That's important.”
Some companies, like the Little Rock-based market agency Rock City Digital, have gone as far as to embrace the four-day work week, which has become popular elsewhere in the world. That can be a challenge, Brown said, because companies who do business with each other aren’t necessarily going to be on the same schedule, but the allure is there and the concept is gaining traction in the U.S.
“When you think about having three days off instead of two, from a mental health standpoint, just general well-being, time with your family, time to mountain bike, go fish, go camp — three days make that a heck of a lot easier than two,” he said.
The Bigger Picture
Brown agreed that flexibility is a priority among job-seekers, but added that they want to see flexibility in areas other than scheduling — for example, competitive bonus structures for hiring and retention. After all, even the youngest members of the workforce want to get paid well, whether or not that’s priority No. 1.
Goal-based work versus hours-based work and a clear path to promotion and advancement are also on the table in the current hiring market.
“Employees now want flexibility outside of work,” Brown said. “They want a life outside of work but they also want an opportunity to grow at work.”
An emphasis on mental health and well-being in a benefits package is also attractive to younger job seekers, while the stress of the pandemic and a growing general awareness about mental health has also raised the interest level of older job seekers in the subject.
“It’s not all about just getting the job done,” Brown said. “It’s about who we are serving as an organization and how do we continue to do that at a high level?”
In its latest Global Talent Trends Report, LinkedIn found an 83% increase in job posts mentioning flexibility since 2019. Clearly companies and hiring managers are getting the message.
Whether it’s a flexible spending account, flexible hours or a flexible bonus structure, flex is clearly the word in current workplace culture.
“It is definitely all about building a culture,” Ghidotti said. “I think that’s so important. And building a culture that people find fun, that work is not just a day-to-day job.”
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