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Where Did All the Employees Go?

Posted by Staffing Advisors on October 6, 2022

People often ask us why there are not enough great employees to go around. And while there’s no simple answer, some core factors are driving the shift in how people live and work today. Understanding these factors is important, but the better question is: How can I attract the great candidates who are out there?

A Benign (But Frustrating) Data Story

Although it varies by industry, the number of job openings is up, and the number of people looking for jobs is down; good news for job seekers, but a dismal picture for organizations looking to hire good talent.

You can find countless opinion pieces shouting that Americans just don’t want to work anymore; the lazy masses have moved into their parents’ basements and out of the job market. But with the labor participation rate close to where it was before the pandemic—62.4 in August 2022 compared to 63.1 in August 2019—the data tell a more benign (but equally frustrating) story.

This list is not exhaustive but points to universal factors far outside any organization’s control. If you are having hiring or retention issues, you’re not alone. To find your way past the statistics and address your hiring concerns, consider factors within your control.

What Workers Are Willing to Accept Is Changing

According to an analysis published by MIT Sloan Management Review, toxic corporate culture and failure to recognize performance are among the most significant predictors of turnover. Compounded by the anxiety, trauma, and loss many have experienced over the past several years, employees’ needs are not being met—they feel overworked and undervalued.

While research on the effects of overwork isn’t new, what people are willing to accept is changing in profound ways. And to their detriment, many employers are reluctant to adapt.

Adapting to the Market Is Key

While this may not be true in all industries, for associations and nonprofits, we see a lot of great candidates out there looking for jobs. But they are also looking for more flexibility, remote or hybrid options, competitive pay, and other benefits.

According to an analysis published in the Harvard Business Review, the trend of people leaving jobs for similar reasons has been rising for over a decade. And from Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workforce Report, “. . . flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities play a major role in an employee’s decision to take or leave a job. Employees are pushing companies to break down the long-established structures and policies. . .”

This trend didn’t start with the pandemic and isn’t going anywhere when it ends. If you aren’t adapting to market evolution, you may risk losing employees or find that your labor pool has shrunk.

Hybrid Work Is Here to Stay

We are seeing candidates leave searches in record numbers because they are finding better options. What we hear most from candidates is they aren’t willing to come into the office full-time for jobs that don’t require in-person work. If you aren’t offering hybrid options, there are plenty of organizations that are. According to a Gallup survey of 8,090 remote-capable U.S. employees in June 2022, “only two in 10 currently work fully on-site.”

Hybrid work can mean a lot of different things. It’s about finding what works for you, setting clear expectations, and communicating that in a way that is attractive to selective job seekers.

Employees Are Your Best Resource

If you are struggling with hiring or retaining talent, spend time and resources engaging your employees to figure out what’s happening. From an article published by the National Council for Nonprofits, “To retain skilled staff and attract new people, nonprofit employers will need to honor their employees’ preferences – which means listening to employees.”

Look for small changes you can implement right away to get some quick wins and create a plan to address deeper issues.

Can You Be the Better Option?

Our clients who are having the most success are taking steps to be the better option. They are adapting to the market with competitive and transparent pay, flexible and hybrid work options, employee engagement programs, work cultures that prioritize well-being, and other benefits. What could that mean for you?


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Topics: Job Market