In the midst of an uncertain labor market, employers and hiring managers should not lose sight of the time-tested strategies for attracting and retaining talent.
This article was first published on August 16, 2023, by HR Daily Advisor, a sibling publication to HealthLeaders.
The last few years have seen tremendous upheaval in the labor market, spurred in large part by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting workplace restrictions. Millions of Americans left their jobs or even left the workforce entirely, a phenomenon commonly referred to as the Great Resignation. As a result, the power dynamic in the labor market shifted noticeably from employer to employee, as evidenced by viral trends like “Quiet Quitting” and “Bare Minimum Mondays.”
Within this environment, employers struggled to find qualified talent and, in some cases, struggled to find any talent at all. Employees felt empowered to demand greater pay and benefits and more flexible work arrangements, particularly remote or hybrid work.
Is the Great Resignation Over?
This trend hasn’t existed in a vacuum, however, as policymakers and businesses have aggressively sought to address the underlying public health and regulatory causes of the Great Resignation. Aggressive interest rate hikes and the easing and ultimate elimination of COVID-19 restrictions at the local, state, and federal levels, combined with broader economic uncertainty, have changed the calculus for both employer and employee.
Some observers believe the Great Resignation itself may finally be over.
“As the dust begins to settle on the Covid-fueled economic tumult of the last few years, one pandemic-era trend appears to be on its way out: The Great Resignation,” says Samantha Delouya in an article for CNN.
“Now, experts say the phenomenon is finished. Ten straight interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, slowing wage growth, stubborn inflation and mass layoffs in some industries may be causing Americans to stay put,” says Delouya.
Delouya points to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to bolster her argument: “The number of people quitting their jobs fell by 49,000 in April compared to March, according to the most recent numbers available from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.”
A Complex Issue
As an initial matter, it’s important to note the extremely complex nature of the American and global labor markets and the Great Resignation in particular. The U.S. economy alone is made up of myriad jobs spread over dozens of distinct industries. While some sectors, like retail and hospitality have been hit very hard, other industries have seen less impact. In still other industries, new technologies like artificial intelligence and other forms of automation have arguably already begun to reduce the demand for certain types of labor.
“While some sources may suggest that The Great Resignation is over and employers can ease their worries about finding and retaining top talent, the reality is more complex,” says Chandni Chopra, Director of Human Resources at LambdaTest. While many organizations continue to face challenges in attracting and retaining the talent they need, the situation “on the ground,” says Chopra, varies across industries and roles.
“Certain industries or roles may indeed be more difficult to attract and retain talent due to various factors,” Chopra says. “For example, industries experiencing rapid technological advancements or high demand may struggle to find skilled professionals with specialized knowledge. Additionally, roles that require unique expertise, such as data science or cybersecurity, often face talent shortages.”
“Resignations may have slowed compared to 2022, but the war on top talent is far from over,” says Kara Ayers, Head of Global Talent Acquisition at Xplor Technologies. “At Xplor Technologies we find it difficult to attract and retain top talent for niche and highly specialized positions—including financial planning and analysis, marketing, and technology roles—due to competitiveness in the market.”
Ayers says it’s not just companies like Xplor that are continuing to face challenges. “Niche and highly specialized roles, like those in technology, marketing and financial planning and analysis have always been difficult to attract,” she says. “But many vertical industries are also struggling with labor issues including dry cleaning, lawncare, hospitality and childcare amid rising interest rates and recession risks.”
Big Companies Have an Edge
The vast majority of employers responding to our request for comment on the potential end of the Great Resignation told us that they are not seeing a meaningful change on the ground. However, others suggest that the situation may, in fact, be improving for large employers at least.
“Major corporations are not experiencing this struggle and are firmly back in the driver’s seat,” argues Jose Laurel, VP of RPO at G&A Partners. “In today’s job market they are more comfortable pushing talent away, being more selective or not needing to hire at all. For small and midsized businesses, the battle for top talent is a reality because they must compete for the same candidates,” he says.
Candidates, says Laurel, “are seeking growth, career pathing, higher salaries, and learning opportunities. SME’s (small to mid-market enterprises) must be creative when seeking talent and be willing to change.”
Evergreen Strategies for Finding and Retaining Talent
In the midst of an uncertain labor market, employers and hiring managers should not lose sight of the time-tested strategies for attracting and retaining talent. While different labor market conditions and industry-specific factors might demand more fine-tuned strategies, some general best practices are truly evergreen.
“To find the right balance in talent acquisition and retention efforts, employers need to consider several factors,” says Chopra. First, she says, they should invest in a strong employer brand and company culture that resonates with potential candidates. “Providing competitive compensation and benefits packages, along with opportunities for growth and development, can also attract and retain top talent,” she says.
In addition, Chopra notes, it’s important for organizations to understand the specific needs and expectations of different employee segments, such as millennials, Gen Z, or older workers, to help inform targeted retention strategies. Those strategies, she says, might include offering flexible work arrangements, promoting work-life balance, and fostering a supportive and inclusive environment.
It’s also important for employers to continually assess their talent acquisition and retention strategies, adapting them to the evolving needs of the workforce and the market. “Regular feedback and communication with employees can provide insights into areas of improvement and help address any retention challenges,” Chopra says. “Ultimately, investing appropriately in talent acquisition and retention requires a comprehensive approach that aligns with the organization’s goals, values, and industry dynamics. It is an ongoing effort to attract, engage, and retain top talent in a competitive and ever-changing job market.” While some journalists and observers are heralding—or at least predicting—the end of the Great Resignation, employers we spoke with largely haven’t seen a meaningful change and are still finding it difficult to attract and retain talent, relative to pre-COVID years. In a challenging labor market, sticking to some core best practices for recruitment and retention while also addressing dynamic conditions is the best bet for employers.
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