Job Websites: The Difference Between Job Boards and Job Search Engines

The word Jobs in cut out magazine letters pinned to a cork notice board.

There are many job websites employers can use to post their jobs. What many don’t realize is that job listing websites fall into one of three categories: job boards, job search engines, and professional social networking recruiting platforms. For this post, we focus primarily on the two most common types, which are job boards and job search engines.

Job Websites: Job Boards vs. Job Search Engines

Job boards and job search engines have the same primary goal, which is to provide the opportunity for employers to advertise their jobs online to help businesses and job candidates find each other—employers want to find the perfect candidates to fill their open positions and candidates want to land their dream job. However, though job boards and job search engines are both types of job websites with the same primary goal, they each operate differently.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the key differences between job boards and job search engines.

Job Boards

Job boards provide opportunities for employers to specifically list their jobs on the job board. Applications are typically accepted directly through the job board, either as an email that goes into the employer’s inbox or by the employer going directly to the job board to check for new applications.

With job boards, employers and recruiters generally pay a fee to have their jobs listed. Employers then have access to resumes provided by the job board and candidates can apply directly to the jobs they see. Candidates looking for jobs might also have to pay a fee to join a job board in order to search and apply for jobs.

Job websites that function as job boards are frequently broken down by industry, job type, or geographical location. However, there are job boards, like Monster.com, that function as generalist job boards and showcase jobs across all sectors, industries, locations, and employment types. Colleges and professional organizations are examples of entities that often have niche, or specialist, job boards where employers can post their jobs.

Job Search Engines

Job search engines crawl the web to aggregate a listing of jobs based on search terms a candidate enters into a job website’s search field. They offer a wider variety of job posting types since they contain postings from multiple sources. Job search engines pull jobs into the search results from various company career webpages and job boards that align with the search terms used.

With job search engines, candidates will likely have to provide some information, like their names and email addresses, to search for jobs. However, they do not have to pay a fee to search. Conversely, employers often have to pay a fee for their jobs to be included in searches on a job search engine site if they want to view the resumes of those who have applied to their jobs. The fee is typically performance-based. In other words, to be listed, employers often have to enter into a vendor contract with the job search engine and have the flexibility to stop spending resources at any point in the future.

Another difference between a job board and a job search engine is how bots are used on job search engines. Bots search web pages for all jobs posted on career sites and job boards and pull a fair amount of information from the different job websites to provide the most accurate results. So, if recruiters are using a job search engine to identify if a job aligns with their job seeker’s career goals, they’ll see the posting date, job title, location, educational requirements, job description, and more. On the flip side, when searching for a job on a job board site, recruiters tend to have to count solely on job location and title to populate search query results since the postings on a job board are often intended for specific candidates.

Note: Some job websites function as a job board and a job search engine.

Social Networking Job Websites

Social networking job websites, like LinkedIn, functions as both a job search engine and a job board. These sites also offer additional niche functions for employers and recruiters, as well as job candidates.

What Are the Best Job Websites for Employers and Recruiters?

When it comes to determining the best job website to use for your business, your budget, industry, employment type, location, and in-house resources all play a factor. In many instances, developing a multifaceted recruiting strategy works best. This approach allows you to incorporate a combination of job website types to find the ideal candidates for your open positions.

Job boards can work well for very specialized, niche positions. Job search engines and social networking job websites are great for all levels and types of positions, including entry-level. For hard-to-fill positions where you’re seeking passive candidates, as well as active job seekers, a social networking job website might be the way to go.

The Ladders Job Website

There are many options available to help you source top candidates as a recruiter or an employer. Sometimes, it takes some trial and error with different job websites to determine where you get the most traction and bang for your buck. In some instances, you might find that a particular job website works wonders for a certain type and level of position, whereas another job site works better for another type of position.

If you’re looking to fill positions in the $100k+ range in the U.S. or Canada, Ladders Recruiter is the ideal choice.  Ladders’ member website, combined with Ladders Recruiter, is the only job website dedicated to connecting employers with experienced professionals in the $100k+ range across industries. On Ladders, 89% of candidates have a Bachelor’s degree, and 36% carry a Master’s degree or higher, with an average professional experience of 15 years.

Ladders allows you to post jobs or source jobs using a simple search option, or in-depth search with Boolean operators. You can also read full resumes as you search without losing your place in search, download resumes, contact candidates based on full contact info and much more, with packages tailored to your needs.

Merit Increases as an Option for Your Employees

Young woman at desk clenches her fists and smiles with joy.

A merit increase is something that many companies give to their employees to recognize the outstanding work they are doing. When businesses implement these rewards properly, they can serve as a strong incentive for employees to perform at their best. However, whether you distribute merit increases through HR or directly, you want to have a strategic plan for doing so, using performance as a guide. This post will guide you through the information necessary to implement merit increases successfully.

Merit Increase Meaning

Understanding the merit increase meaning is at the top of the list before you can successfully put policies in place for it. What is a merit increase? In simplest terms, a merit increase is a financial reward given to employees after they reach agreed-upon business goals. Merit increases are also given to employees who go above and beyond with excellent performance. Most performance-based jobs work well with merit increases because they have an easy way to measure achievements.

A merit increase is different from a bonus. Although a bonus is also often given to employees for their hard work, it differs from a merit increase because it is just a one-time award. A merit increase is usually a salary increase. Some other types of merit increases are discussed below, but for the most part, the reward is long-lasting.

Types of Merit Increases

The most common type of merit increase is a pay increase. This salary bump motivates employees, inspiring them to strive for greater success in the workplace.

However, this isn’t the only type of merit increase employers may offer. Some businesses may give a high-performing employee a promotion. This is another type of merit increase and would come with a pay increase, too. Using merit increases keeps employees motivated and moving forward on the ladder of success. The more they succeed, the more the company succeeds.

Tips for Handing Out Merit Increases

For any good program to be effective, it’s helpful to plan the process carefully. To utilize a merit increase, you need guidelines in place. The following tips will help businesses when implementing a merit increase.

Be Consistent

Start with a clear and concise plan for merit increases. These should be directly connected to the employees’ performances. It’s best to put the merit increase policy in writing so that everyone can see it and understand what is expected of them. It also helps avoid any misunderstandings.

Once you have the policy prepared, stick to it consistently. Don’t use it for some employees and not others. You need to think everything through before developing the policy, so you are sure it’s something you can do. In other words, you must consider how it will impact the business if several employees meet their objectives and are due for a merit increase. You must follow through once you have implemented the policy. However, you can put a section that states that you will review the policy and make necessary changes annually.

Be Practical

You want to reward the employees, but at the same time, you need to be practical. As mentioned above, your goal is to provide an incentive for employees to achieve excellence. A merit increase can help employees achieve higher levels of excellent work. But you don’t want to overextend the company too much by offering impractical increases.

Solicit Advice from Department Heads

If your company has several departments, it is helpful to get advice from the various heads of the departments about the best way to structure the merit increase. They may have vital input about how the merit increase should work based on the mechanics of the department’s inner workings. Whatever the case may be, get advice from the parties who will be involved before developing a policy and before moving to the next step of training.

Implement Training

Once the merit increase policy is developed and written, you need to train the management and leadership on what the policy is. Since they will be the ones primarily distributing the merit raises or promotions, they need to be well-versed in how the process is supposed to go. You may need to have periodic meetings with the management to ensure that they are implementing the policy properly.

Follow-up and Restructure as Needed

Every year, you can assess the entire merit increase policy to see how it’s working. You can also determine how the business is performing. Reviewing these will help you determine whether the merit increase you’ve put in place is working well or needs any changes. If it’s based on a percentage point system, you might change the amount, or you could keep things the same.

Benefits of Merit Increases

Merit increases benefit not only the employees but also your business in the following ways:

Boosts Employee Morale

Employees will be motivated and inspired to work harder when they know there is a merit increase at the end of their work. Merit increases can give employees an incentive to achieve their goals, thus boosting office morale.

Identifies Business Priorities

When the company sets the policy for administering the merit increase, it also identifies the business’s priorities. By highlighting the types of performance the company will reward with a merit increase, employees and others know what is relevant to the business.

Enhances Employee Retention

Employees will be more likely to stay at a company that offers opportunities for growth and development. A company that rewards excellent performance by providing employees with merit increases will see greater employee retention. Employees will have a goal to work towards as they strive to get to the next level and achieve the merit increase.

Exit Interview Questions

Street lighting pole with conceptual message Exit Strategy on directional arrow over blue cloudy background.

Many employers give departing employees an exit interview because of the information they can get about the company and its operation. Although employees may be a bit timid about speaking out as they are leaving, you can help facilitate a productive exit interview with the right strategy.

What Is an Exit Interview?

Exit interview questions are a series of questions that the employer asks an employee who is resigning. The point of an exit interview is to find out why the individual left so you can work on improving the workplace. Employees have a completely different perspective than their employers. So, they may be able to provide you with information about things that you hadn’t considered.

The Importance of Exit Interviews

Whether you are seeing high employee turnover or not, it’s helpful to know what is causing employees to leave. Of course, if you are seeing a lot of employees walk out the door, it’s even more critical to determine why.

You can obtain valuable information about what is driving employees away. As a result, you can resolve the issue. Remember that every time an employee leaves, it costs money to fill that void. Getting the best hire and then keeping them satisfied is a step in the right direction. You’ll save money and have a better work environment.

Examples of Exit Interview Questions

This exit interview template of sample questions can assist you as you conduct the sessions:

1. What motivated you to start looking for another job opportunity?

Start the exit interview questions by getting straight to the point. What led the employee to begin the job-hunting process? That’s assuming they were job hunting and a recruiter didn’t contact them, which would be a whole different conversation. Most people who leave have been looking for a job and going on interviews before landing a job they want.

There is a chance that the person is simply moving to another state or town. In that case, leaving may not have anything to do with how the company was run. The way they answer the question can help you know how to follow up, and their answer can help you determine if there are certain perks that employees are leaving for. If many employees say they are leaving due to poor compensation, lack of benefits, or career advancement, then you may have to reconsider the employees’ pay scale and training opportunities.

2. Was your manager helpful in making you succeed at work?

Managers are responsible for ensuring that their team succeeds on the job. So, when an employee exits the company, it’s helpful to find out whether the manager did their job in that regard. The manager can either provide the person with the resources they need to excel, or they may neglect them, and the employee feels they can’t be successful.

3. What were your favorite and least favorite things about the job?

This exit interview question can give insight into what made the job exciting and rewarding for the employee. You can use this information to entice the new candidates you will be interviewing. You can also make good use of the answer about the least favorite thing about the job by ensuring the next person you hire doesn’t dislike whatever it is.

4. How do you think the company could improve?

You may get a whole range of suggestions and ideas from departing employees. Some may not be practical but don’t discount all of them. Even if you can’t implement them as stated, you can at least find out what types of things people are looking for in a work environment.

5. Was there anything that could have changed your mind about leaving?

This may be a pointed question, but it’s necessary to get to what the dealbreaker was for the person. It can help employers view the work environment and situation from their perspective. It can help employers know what types of things they may need to offer in the future. For example, if a person says they would have changed their mind about leaving if they had a quieter workspace, more flexible work hours, or better benefits. You don’t know what they will say, and that’s the point. What is said gives insight for future decisions.

6. Do you feel your job changed during your employment time?

Sometimes job requirements change over time. What started as a set of job responsibilities could evolve and look very different by the end of a person’s employment. It’s critical to know if this happened to the employee. Furthermore, if it did occur, it’s vital to know if the changing role impacted their decision to leave. If the job evolved and became more involved, more difficult, or required more training, this is something you need to address with the next new hire.

7. Did you share any of the concerns we discussed today with the company before deciding to leave?

The answer to this question can bring much information. If the person did not share their concerns, then it may be because they didn’t feel like they “could.” In other words, the company culture didn’t promote it. This is something that you would want to change so employees feel comfortable enough to go to their supervisor with complaints.

If the answer is yes and it was ignored or worse yet, they were retaliated against, then you may need to do more workplace training with the managers. Management needs to have an open-door policy, so employees feel safe coming forward with whatever issues they have.

Tips for Conducting Exit Interviews

These tips can ensure the exit interview goes well:

  • Let the person know in advance about the exit interview. Don’t spring it on them suddenly. That would make the person feel uncomfortable.
  • Ensure that you have a comfortable setting for the exit interview.
  • Let the employee know that everything they say is confidential, and the information is only used to help the company grow.
  • Reassure them that their answers won’t affect their reference in any way (this is provided they would be getting a good reference).

What Is FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) – And How Do You Calculate It?

FTE image showing elements relating to Full-Time Equivalent

What is FTE? FTE stands for full-time equivalent. It is a measure used for the total of full-time employees—or part-time employees that add up to full-time employees—your organization employs.

An FTE calculation helps a company and its various departments determine hiring needs for the future. In addition, they help you forecast and track employee salaries and hours worked. FTE metrics are also used to ensure compliance with legal employment requirements, like those of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as meeting the requirements for certain company tax credits.

What Is an FTE?

What does FTE mean? FTE indicates the number of hours a full-time employee works in a standard week for your business. The purpose of using FTE is to get to the number of total hours worked vs. the number of employees you have.

Utilizing the total hours worked vs. the number of employees allows you to forecast, budget, and calculate required staff and wages to pay them more easily. For example, if your company’s standard work week is 30 hours, then two employees that work 15 hours per week each or three employees that work 10 hours per week each would count as one FTE.

FTE standardized calculations like this are helpful for a number of reasons. For one, they allow for the evaluation of labor costs and workload requirements. For example, once a project manager estimates the number of full-time workers required to accomplish a project, they can calculate salary needs.

Or a business analyst can determine requirements to meet day-to-day business tasks for a new department, which allows them to determine the number of full-time employees to forecast and budget for that department. Managers and HR departments also apply FTE calculations to allocate department headcounts based on each department’s workload.

Budget analysts can use the FTE meaning job metrics for headcount analysis. They can quickly compare profits to headcounts or output numbers with FTE metrics. Employers also use FTE calculations for benchmarking profits or revenues per employee.

HR departments utilize FTE to standardize salaries and working hours for part-time employees. A quarter-time employee would be a 0.25 FTE since they work 25% of the hours of a full-time employee. As such, they would be paid 25% of a full-time employee’s salary.

When annual forecasts are necessary, the term work-year equivalent (WYE) is sometimes used in lieu of full-time equivalent, or FTE.

How Do You Calculate FTE?

You can technically break the FTA meaning down into two categories:

  1. The total number of part-time employees your company employs or requires that equate to a full-time employee
  2. The total number of full-time employees your company employees or needs to hire.

When you add up items 1 and 2, you get the total number of FTEs currently with or needed for your organization.

So, again, FTE calculations align with hours worked rather than the number of employees. You could have four employees and only have one FTE. One FTE would equal four 0.25 employees.

To calculate FTE for your company, follow these steps:

Step 1:

List all your employees and their weekly hours worked. Exclude independent contractors, as they are not considered employees.

Example: An employer has a headcount of five. Three employees work 40 hours per week. One employee works 20 hours per week. One employee works 30 hours per week.

Step 2:

Identify the number of work hours defined as a full-time position. Most employers define a full-time employee as one that works 40 hours per week, on average. Some organizations might use 30 or 35 hours to define full-time employees. Any employee that works an average number of weekly hours below the full-time employment definition would be considered part-time. The number of hours per week that defines full-time employment is the number that is used to determine one FTE.

Example: The company defines 40 hours per week as full-time.

Step 3:

Determine the total hours worked per year. Multiply the number of hours per week by 52, for 52 weeks in a year.

Example:

40 weekly hours per full-time employee: 40 X 52 = 2,080 hours = 1.0 FTE

20 weekly hours employee: 52 X 20 = 1,040

30 weekly hours employee: 52 X 30 = 1,560 hours

Step 4:

Add together all part-time hours worked by employees defined as part-time.

Example: 1,040 + 1,560 = 2,600 hours

Step 5:

Calculate your part-time FTE by dividing the total hours worked by part-time employees calculated in Step 5 by the total annual worked by full-time employees calculated in Step 3.

Example: 2,600/2,080 = 1.25 FTE

Step 6:

Determine your total FTE by adding your full-time FTE to your part-time FTE from Step 6.

Example:

Three full-time employees = 3.0 FTE

The part-time FTE = 1.25

3.0 + 1.25 = 4.25 FTE

In the example calculation, the headcount is five, and the FTE is 4.25

How Do You Calculate a Single Part-Time Employee FTE?

To determine an employee’s FTE, simply divide the employee’s scheduled weekly hours by the number of hours the employer defines as a workweek. For example, if you define full-time employees as working 30 hours per week, a part-time employee who works 18 hours per week would be 0.6 FTE.

What Is the ACA FTE Definition?

The ACA requires employers that have 50 or more FTEs to provide ACA-compliant healthcare benefits. The Affordable Care Act defines full-time employees as anyone working 30 hours per week or more on average. Even if your organization defines full-time employment as more, you must abide by the ACA definition to be in compliance with ACA requirements.

FTE calculations are necessary for employers to fully appreciate their workforce and budgetary needs. They are also useful in determining how well an organization is doing in regard to output per employee and the bottom line. You now have the basic calculation to determine the FTEs you currently have or to forecast future needs, among other reasons you might find the metric and FTE meaning useful.

Unemployment rises as The Great Resignation becomes “Quiet Quitting”

The unemployment rate checked in with a bang for August, moving to 3.7% from 3.5%, while 315,000 jobs became available. Is the the first big jolt in the wrong direction so many – particularly those in the “Yes, we are in a recession!” camp –  have been predicting? Job gains showed most forcefully in health care, retail trade, and professional and business services.

While the number of unemployed rose by 344,000 to 6 million.

Those considered active jobs seekers – they’ve looked for work during the last 12 months, but not in the four weeks prior to data collection – stayed steady at 1.4 million. They are described as “wanting and being available for work.”

Permanent layoffs increased by 188,000 to 1.4 million. New figures on what we all now know as The Great Resignation aren’t out yet, but the July number was 4.2 million, bringing the quit rate to 2.7%.

So why is everybody talking about Quiet Quitting?

Peacefully Sitting, Quietly Quitting

Quiet Quitting seems to be a perfect term for the complete lack of passion it describes. The Great Resignation was, and – as far as we know at the moment – still is, fuelled by enough passion to make people walk out of their jobs in the hope of something better. Something more flexible. Something more… remote.

These folk don’t have the same fire in their bellies. And that may be the underlying issue.

“Quiet quitting’ is a term that has taken social media by storm and is become something of a phenomenon in countries like China and Australia. Unlike other terms such as ‘job hopping’ or the ‘Great Resignation’, which can be defined easily, this acts as a teaser term, leading to lots of online questions around what it actually means.

Most sources say it began in China, with the term ‘tang ping’ or ‘lying flat’ taking hold across the country, among young people demanding a better work-life balance.

Ultimately, it means employee disengagement. Since job hopping and the Great Resignation were terms coined to describe new phenomena in the work place, this term could be seen as disingenuous. In reality, it appears to have been coined by people wanting to discuss an old issue by attracting people to the idea – which is actually very clever.

It would be a shame to think that people intelligent enough to come up with new terms for an old problem, then take social media by storm in various countries, are actually disengaged in their own jobs.

This really does conjure up an image of wasted talent.

Of course, the fact that it’s becoming so popular in the US – on the heels of the Great Resignation, is more than a coincidence. There is a feeling that burnout, or a desperate response to the onset of burnout, is permeating these trends.

So What Does It Mean to Quiet Quit?

Employees will often become disengaged if they feel overworked and underappreciated. The core of quiet quitting appears to be a refusal to do anything more than the basic duties a person was hired to perform. That doesn’t sound so bad on the face of it, but what it implies is toxic: employees who think of their jobs as nothing more than a paycheck. 

Let’s be clear. If the problem is that a business can’t cope with people fulfilling their employment agreements and doing what they were hired to do, it means the problem is with that business. They are expecting complete devotion and gratitude and unreasonable “flexibility”. 

If the problem is a lazy person clinging to the limits of their job at the expense of team spirit, or refusing to help others by going the extra mile now and again, the problem is with that person.

Clearly, there is no simple answer to solve this question.

However, quiet quitters do guarantee that teamwork will break down, because so much relies on people helping each other – rather than individuals performing pre-set tasks that exist within a relentlessly smooth, uninterrupted process.

That’s simply not realistic.

And once teamwork starts to break down, the company follows.

When people stop helping each other with simple tasks because ‘that’s not my job’ or ‘that’s not in my sprint,’ resentments start to build and cracks start to appear. It’s possible to think: ‘Well, it’s for the best if those types quit.’ That’s fine, but not if you’re responsible for creating those people by bringing them into your badly run company.

Quiet Quitting Vs. The Great Resignation

With fears of recession in the US, some believe the end of the Great Resignation is in sight, as employees start to fear losing their jobs. It now seems possible that one phenomenon will be replaced by another, equally toxic, phenomenon. If you cannot engage your employees, you will end up with teams of quiet quitters, slowly and indifferently destroying your business.

If a recession gives you the leverage to force reluctant workers back into the office, for example, what sort of engagement will you inspire? How much long-term value can you squeeze out of people’s fear of losing their jobs?

Try to imagine how that could go wrong.

Engaging your employees does not mean burning them out. If you can manage that, you should think about showing credit where credit is due. Office politics and cliques create quiet quitters wherever they fester. Breaking down office politics, giving praise, handing out cash bonuses for ‘above and beyond’ performance – these types of positive engagement can have great ROI.

A well-designed workflow and transparency in communications will also make a difference.

Hiring good managers is also a great way to prevent the production of quiet quitters in your company. Getting it wrong means trouble. Another method is using Ladders to find highly skilled, highly qualified professionals, pay them what they’re worth, and treat them in the way they deserve.”

And getting that right should also keep The Great Resignation at bay, too. (Maybe.)

So Where Are We Going With This?

With the drop in employment to 3.5% last month, some were quick to see this as the start of a move in the right direction, and evidence that the recession naysayers could be wrong. Fair enough, but Ladders CEO, Dave Fish, gave his advice clearly, and it was reported as follows:

If the current unemployment rate of 3.5 percent cannot be sustained and starts to move into reverse in the near future, Dave believes the consequences could be shocking for professionals across industries:

  • For employers: Employers will likely find themselves ripping up hiring strategies and going into financial survival mode. Current top-of-mind issues like retention rates will go out the window as the balance of power shifts and employees become worried about losing their jobs. Ironically, too much of a perceived shift will almost certainly backfire. Flexibility is here to stay, so employers who make too much of having the upper hand could pay a heavy price.
  • For professionals: Professionals who have been enjoying The Great Resignation will start to experience a colder world with less opportunities. However, as stated, they will also see that many remote-work and other flexible options will remain. Some may need to switch industries or brush up in new areas of expertise to gain those career options, but there is little chance that millions of people will simply accept that the game has changed and knuckle down.

“We have helped our members weather many storms over the past 19 years,” Dave told us, “throughout The Great Recession, the pandemic, and current uncertainty about the future. At the moment, we’re delighted about the new low unemployment figures, but still offering our Premium careers package to businesses at a discount, so they can gift a Ladders membership to any professionals who find themselves having job offers rescinded, or being laid off. 

“As we continue to navigate these economic challenges and bizarre contradictions, our team is committed to helping professionals compete effectively, and to provide the tools necessary to ensure their success, regardless of how the balance ultimately tilts.”

Recession Vs. The Great Resignation: White Gloves, Not Boxing Gloves, Recommended

Two male hands in boxing gloves clashing against each other as flames explode from them.

Inflation versus The Great Resignation looked like a boxing match with no sure winner. After all, unemployment was — and still officially is at time of writing — at 3.6 percent, a point short of the half-century low we saw in 2020. The turmoil the pandemic caused to people’s lives turned the phenomenon of “job hopping” into “The Great Resignation”/”Great Reshuffle” in a way nobody had expected, with a powerful effect on hiring teams the world over.

The result was a demand for flexibility from employees only too willing to move on to — what they perceived as — greener pastures if more flexibility wasn’t forthcoming, leading to exacerbated retention issues across industries. Reality switched from a world in which employers demanded flexibility of their employees and potential employees to one in which employees demanded it of their employers and potential employers.

Round 1 – Bullying and Backlash

Wishing it away didn’t work, although many tried. Why is anybody’s guess. Productivity and profits surged during lockdown; and, although there is more than one reason for this, remote work proved itself, kept costs low, kept quality up, and helped those profits surge. Attempts to instate “back-to-office” policies failed and were adapted or rescinded across some major companies. The reaction for Apple was seismic. Over 1,000 employees, current and former, signed an open letter, part of which said:

“Stop treating us like school kids who need to be told when to be where and what homework to do.”

The company also lost a highly valued director in its machine learning division, Ian Goodfellow, to Google, specifically due to its back-to-office mandate. (KO in favor of Google on that one.) Having a black eye and egg on one’s face at the same time isn’t a good look, which may have been on Elon Musk’s mind when his return-to-office demand contained the caveat:

“If there are particularly exceptional contributors for whom [remote work] is impossible, I will review and approve those exceptions directly.”

Welcome back, non-exceptional people! Don’t forget we’re a family with a thriving company culture! Yay! High-five, anyone?

While Musk continues to straddle the two worlds of tech industry genius and luddite, Apple backed off, citing (awkwardly clears throat) COVID. Many big players in the financial industry also tried the hard-line, boxing gloves on approach, and came away with a black eye. However, COVID itself may be more than an excuse for those demanding remote work rights. If variants keep coming and everything keeps changing, stability of some sort is required — not just for quality of life or health, but also for business as usual — at least in terms of productivity and results.

All of which makes employees appear far more business-savvy than many “leaders” running businesses – and seemingly in circles – today.

Points to the employees, then.

Round 2 – Clashing With Chaos


Inflation v. The Great Resignation didn’t get past the weigh in, image wise. Asking employees to start forking out hard cash just to sit in the office all day, when their money is worth much less than it was pre-COVID, appeared to be the perfect ingredient in a perfect storm, making The Great Resignation potentially worse for bosses attempting to punch below a tightened belt.

Counters with uppercut. Ouch.

And it didn’t help that the the tech industry lost $1 trillion over 3 days of trading. News of layoffs, lots of layoffs, soon followed. Then the rescinding of job offers, demonstrating objectively that the industry was turning on a dime in response to the downturn. Suddenly, the tech industry and other industries existed like night and day, only side-by-side, one stomping on hiring strategies and burning offers, the other bending over backwards to get new people in.

Has anybody not placed a bet yet?

As inflation became slowly worse, the new phenomenon of rescinded job offers started spreading to other industries, such as retail marketing, insurance and consulting. Storm clouds were closing in and the word “recession” was on everybody’s lips, with some predicting a close call by the end of 2022, others a “mild” recession early in 2023, and some, like Jeremy Grantham, warning that the BIG POP is coming and $45 trillion of assets in the US alone will be wiped out.

Still, Ali did beat Foreman in ‘74, so why worry?

However, geniuses who are never wrong — like Jeremy ‘Debbie Downer’ Grantham — aside, there are those who believe the lessons of history can help us understand what level of recession we’re heading into – if we’re not there already, of course. (Shhh.)

Bubble bursts like the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the dot-com disaster of 2000-2001 were both credit-driven — debt-related excesses in their relative infrastructures built up until bursting point, giving us around a decade of economic woes. Recession based on inflation has historically inflicted less damage to corporate earnings, which should make a big difference to investors.

Many industries remain strong and should be able to go the distance.

In a mild recession, there is no sure bet that employers will suddenly gain the upper hand, at least not to the point of putting on boxing gloves and snarling orders at employees to return to the office or else. The best strategy is a white gloves approach. Flexibility should be considered here to stay, at least among those who wish to remain competitive and heal any hiring and retention issues.

Once people have been given something, it’s hard to take it back.

That’s human nature and it shouldn’t be underestimated. And that’s without even broaching the subject of company culture or morale among teams. Loyalty gives great ROI if you know how to inspire it. March was the 10th consecutive month that resignations passed the 4 million mark, so there are lots of companies out there who have absolutely no idea how to do that.

And they’ll pull on the boxing gloves once the recession becomes official.

Round 3 – Keeping Your Balance


The Great Reshuffle was named when it became apparent that people quitting their jobs were not moving out of the labor force, but into other occupations. It’s a good phrase to describe a sense of balance — although not much relief for companies who were left and found it difficult to attract new talent.

But who’s to blame for that? The Great Reshuffle was really all about talent leaving to go to companies who offered more flexibility, a better work-life balance, greater respect, a chance for an enhanced sense of team morale and personal work satisfaction.

To companies losing out it was more like the Ali shuffle. Still, thinking hard about using agility and coordination to beat your competition isn’t a bad thing. Especially for those who’ve made mistakes in the past. Investing in long-term retention, rather than hoping people will feel trapped into staying, will pay back on the investment many times over for any business — just as those who crack the whip will eventually pay for it.

Besides, whips don’t fit in a boxing metaphor.

Any recession will bring a rebalancing of power, of course.

Those who think this gives them the upper hand — revenge against selfish employees who wanted a life of their own — and turn it into a fist, will be at a serious disadvantage to those who don’t. Demanding that people return to the office at their own increasingly high expense, while saying “Not you, buddy” to those being laid off, will bring only more negative surprises the “experts” didn’t see coming. Still, your own business fitness, your own expertise, and your finely-tuned strategies are yours to apply as you wish.

In the end, it all depends on who you have in your corner.

What’s in a Name? Inflation Spreads to Job Titles

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”
from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

After reading that quote you could be forgiven for thinking Shakespeare had never even heard of Google algorithms, digital job boards and job search, long-term career development in a technology-driven world, corporate hierarchies or wacky job titles.

Actually, you’d be correct. If Shakespeare were alive today and in the hiring business, there’s little doubt he would take a different view and possibly write instead:

“What’s in a name? A Head of Creative

Named a Dream Alchemist smells like horse s**t.”

from Recruiter and Jobseeker by William Shakespeare

Wow, he’s good. And right. The sad fact is that “Dream Alchemist” has been used as a job title for what should properly be the title “Head of Creative”. It’s hard to say how many sad endings (or non-starters) this has seen, but who’d bet on Leonardo DiCaprio starring in the movie?

Here’s the problem(s).

Self-Indulgence vs. Success

The crazy job title named above is, as stated, real. And in real terms it’s purely self-indulgent; an indicator of the brand type and company culture (perhaps). It’s so self-indulgent that, as pointed out in a previous article, it gives zero thought to the fact no jobseeker on earth would type it into a search bar when looking for the job it represents.

So there’s that.

How well your favorite search engine picks up on the broader context of the job description and renders it in results for the actual title search is another question. Many experienced professionals could well be embarrassed by the thought of having such a title applied to them – or having it take pride of place on their resume.

Let’s consider the following:

  1. Job titles should be helpful to those seeing and hearing them.
  2. There’s a time and a place for everything.
  3. Enforced jollity starts to grate on people after a while.

Aside from potentially stopping job posts being visible to many job seekers, the down-to-earth approach to job titles achieves two additional objectives:

  1. Instantly describe the area of expertise required.
  2. Instantly describe the hierarchical level within the department/company.

All good points, all lifted from a previous article linked above. So why not do a quick update and republish the older article? Because – as if you can’t guess – things have since become worse in a way that’s complicated enough to merit a new one.

Still, before we get into that…

Take Our Test

All the following job titles are real. They’ve all been proudly put out there by people who ought to have known better, but didn’t. We’ve already given you the answer to the first of them above, to help tune you in. Can you guess the regular titles for the others?

  1. Dream Alchemist
  2. Chief Chatter
  3. Wizard of Light Bulb Moments
  4. Part-Time Czar
  5. Grand Master of Underlings

Easy, right? (Answers at the bottom.)

The (Job Title) Inflation Situation

So here’s where it gets worse. Self-indulgence causes its own problems, pointed out in basic terms in the article so far. But it is what it is: transparently mindless and in direct conflict with logic — so the problems that wacky job titles cause in various areas of hiring are easy to pinpoint.

Job title inflation, however, is something else.

Economic inflation is on everybody’s minds right now: Will it turn into recession? If so, will we dodge the bullet in 2022 and see mild/wild recession in 2023? Are we on the verge of a massive collapse that could throw everything into chaos? Powerful questions with the usual “time will tell” answer plastered across them.

But the job title inflation question is very much one for today — we are, after all, still at an unemployment rate of 3.6%, near the half-century low achieved in 2020 — and The Great Resignation still looms large, with employee retention top of mind across most industries.

Job title inflation is a retention tool.

It all started before today’s problems kicked in, with startups solving their compensation limitations by handing out titles that gave a sense of achievement and importance. Some of the titles, as shown above, were sillier than others, but they were created primarily as a retention strategy – the low compensation public promotion and flash title.

However, any inflated job title that doesn’t sound like a joke is a unique problem.

Congratulations! Job hop to another company and it’ll look like a demotion. Or you’ll find yourself in a position you don’t have the qualifications or experience to actually do.

It also turns hiring into a time-consuming mine field for recruiters.

Hiring teams are placed in a spot where they are forced to look beyond job titles and into the actual experience of the individual. Anything about leading teams? Growing teams? Actually directing anything?

Still, who said hiring teams don’t love a challenge? (Answers on a postcard, please.) 

For the companies indulging in job title inflation, there are many potential problems. Who gets these inflated titles and why? What do all the other employees make of this? How long have any of these people been with the company?

How do the team hierarchies function? Is somebody with a “director” title actually now the head of a specific team? Or across teams for specific projects? Or is that person actually still an individual contributor?

If so, is everybody that person reaches out to aware of this? Is the person with the new title aware of this? If not, how quickly can we assume a move from complimentary name-calling to total chaos?

The less silly inflated job titles are, the more serious these questions become.

Companies who find themselves living with chaos as a result of inflated job titles place themselves in a position where they have to backtrack, potentially losing outraged or humiliated employees into the bargain.

Did somebody mention retention?

Stopping Superficial Solutions


It’s difficult to believe that inflated job titles started out as anything other than a joke; a kind of brand extension across teams. It’s also hard to avoid the reality of what the practice has become for many companies and how badly it can backfire for both employers and employees.

So it needs to stop.

Any job titles should be questioned in terms of how the title functions within the hierarchy, and what experience and/or qualifications it requires. If it appears that employees are being handed out managerial or other high-level titles without objective justification, the potential toxicity of the move should be pointed out.

For example, if an employee is hired into an managerial position, or moved up into one, all employees should be notified about that change and what it means for them in terms of professional relationships and teamwork.

If that isn’t deemed necessary, there’s a problem.

If, by making it less desirable for one person to leave, a company makes it entirely desirable for others to leave, that is a massive fail. And the potential downsides of inflated job titles are so destructive for individuals, teams, and companies, you can guarantee the desired upside has much better ways of being achieved.

Possibly any other way.

Answers: 1. Head of Creative; 2.Call Center Manager; 3. Marketing Director; 4. Assistant Manager; 5. Deputy Manager. See complete list.

Pat Brien is the Senior Co-Director of Shakespearean Strategy for Starbound Success (and you’re not).

Inflation Nation: Preparing for the Big Pop?

Man in suit holding needle over yellow balloon, a moment before bubble burst. Isolated on white.

The good news is that the labor market remains strong, with companies across most industries focused on solving the hiring/retention issue and finding real talent to fill seats and bring their expertise to the table. However, the tech downturn that came after Big Tech lost over $1 trillion in value over three trading sessions and stuck out like a sore thumb, now appears to be spreading to other industries as inflation hits and The Great Resignation refuses to quit.

Big Tech as Influencer?

To say that what is happening right now is unusual is a major understatement. From tech companies being driven, pushed, and cheered on toward rapid growth, to stopping in its tracks and becoming focused on staying resilient during an economic upheaval, the industry has moved from hyper-evolution to high-alert survival status.

Those storm clouds are now moving across other industries, including retail marketing, insurance and consulting. Recruiting services are also, obviously, withdrawing offers. Real estate brokerage Redfin Corp has rescinded job offers in recent weeks. Despite this, the labor market remains strong. Unemployment stills stands near the half-century low it reached in 2020 at 3.6 percent.

Do these companies know something we don’t?

Well, we all know about inflation. We know we’re living in an incredibly unstable time, which means the bottom line is business forecasting. The experts relied on to make informed predictions about future economic scenarios, upon which decisions can be made, cannot pretend to have any great confidence in things going one way or the other.

Or to what degree.

Trying to predict the next 12 months from an economic standpoint isn’t possible; at least, not with any degree of confidence. The most worrying part — possibly — of rescinded job offers is that they show us clearly that businesses are quickly undoing decisions made only weeks before, as if a panic button was pressed that instantly changed everything.

This shocking turnaround is, unfortunately, an objectively conservative action: batten down the hatches to maximize durability against a potentially devastating storm. An old story of survival.  The irony is that, although this wave appears to be growing larger and building beyond the tech industry, most employers across most industries still can’t find enough workers.

The competition for talent is actually growing, according to Gartner. Voluntary turnover is set to rise almost 20 percent by the end of 2022 to a massive 37.4 million. While tech and other companies batten down the hatches as a survival strategy, The Great Resignation itself is holding its position at a steady pace.

In fact, Gartner is still helping businesses by recommending optimized strategies, such as:

  • Signing bonuses – address key talent gaps
  • High-level benefits – including retention bonuses
  • Decouple pay/location – optimize hybrid/remote by decoupling pay and location

It does feel strange, of course, to so easily step between two different worlds that exist in the same period of time, as if moving easily into an alternative universe, then stepping back. But here and there is where we are. Whether job seekers are able to position themselves in the right one is a question for them to answer — so far, from a big picture perspective — the odds are massively in their favor. 

The question of whether one will come to dominate the other remains to be seen. It’s all a matter of time.

Speaking of which…

Recession and the Four-Day Week

“Time and money” is a phrase we all know. And time always comes first. Internationally, 4-day week experiments are taking place right now, with a view to changing the way we live and work forever. The US trial started on April 1 and is set to last six months. Whether that date indicates it will turn into one big joke also remains to be seen.

How inflation will impact and spread the “batton down the hatches” mentality across industries is something to watch for. The question of how it will effect the idea of the 4-day week (on full pay), is also interesting. Perhaps most interesting is how inflation will impact The Great Resignation as more companies demand that workers return to the office.

It does seem like the key ingredient in a perfect storm.

Now may be the perfect time to offer time to employees, from a competitive viewpoint. The more flexibility the better. Once people have been given something and get used to it, taking it away can cause problems. 

Amazon announced its intent to “return to an office-centric culture as our baseline” to its corporate employees on March 31st. By June 10th, it had backtracked the decision, with corporate workers no longer required to return to the office even three days a week.

Things are changing quickly in confusing ways.

Elon Musk – certainly not recognized publicly as a Luddite – is demanding workers return to the office 40-hours per week. Only “high-power employees” should be allowed the luxury of working remote, apparently. This comes as inflation soars and may be seen as a major slap in the face to employees. It also raises the question:

“Are you sure technology can drive our cars for us when it can’t even facilitate optimized human communication?” Ironically, some are predicting that Elon’s “back-to-office” order will be a train wreck.

Head of remote for Cimpress and Vista, Paul McKinlay, told Fortune that Musk was “on the wrong side of history” and predicted a mass resignation of employees at Tesla. Given inflation and all the uncertainty in today’s world, it’s understandable that some see the move as unnecessarily harsh and willfully tone deaf.

It’s All Coming to a Head – But Whose Head?

In general, it’s likely that belts will continue to tighten and freezes on hiring will continue to happen. If caught by surprise, to whatever degree, as with the tech industry recently, rescinded job offers may continue to spread. That must include any potentially vulnerable industry:

Retail, Restaurants and Bars, Leisure and Hospitality, Automotive, Oil and Gas, Sports, Real Estate, etc., could all be planning a defensive position against an upcoming recession.

In such a scenario, increased hiring may come to the Healthcare industry, Utility Workers, Accountants, Credit and Debt Management Counselors, Public Safety Workers, Federal Government Employees, Teachers and College Professors, Delivery and Courier Services, Pharmacists and Technicians, Public Transportation, Lawyers and Legal Professionals.

The usual suspects in the recession-proof stakes also include: 

Consumer Staples – people need certain items in their homes and will always prioritize them. Toothpaste, soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, dish soap, toilet paper, paper towels. Specific things are always in demand. And so to:

Grocery & Consumer Goods – Grocery and consumer goods/ discount retails always tend to do well in recessions, although they are not necessarily bullet-proof, especially if shortages happen and alternatives spring up; online, for example.

Alcoholic Beverage Manufacturing – the higher end of the market may suffer in a recession, but the cheaper end tends to do well when people are worried.

4. Cosmetics – these always do well and tend not to be affected by recessions: Keeping up appearances.

5. Death and Funeral Services – doesn’t change; may get busier.

Still, because competition for talent dwindles during a downturn or recession, there is less threat to the key talent companies need to keep. That talent sees what’s going on out there and is content to stick around – although the phenomenon of The Great Resignation no longer makes even that a sure bet.

Top investor Jeremy Grantham – who correctly predicted the 2000 dot-com bubble, the 2007 housing bubble, and even the 1989-1992 Japanese asset bubble – is now warning of a “super bubble” in US markets.

Grantham believes the BIG POP will wipe out over $45 trillion of assets in the US alone. He has been talking this way for over a year now, publishing serious warnings along the way, and believes we are now standing on the precipice.

Graham believes this, as an upcoming event, has moved from a possibility to a probability – leaning toward certainty.

Still, the law of averages say he’s got to be wrong sometime, right?

Either way, Ladders doesn’t provide financial advice, so put whatever you read into whatever context you can through your own efforts, get advice from professionals in the field, and step carefully.

Strange days indeed as a famous New Yorker once said.

The Closing Gap Between Passive and Active Candidates

Male hr manager holding magnifying glass head hunting choosing finding new unique talent indian female candidate recruit among multiethnic professional people faces collage.

The pre-pandemic annual average voluntary turnover rate was made up of 31.9 million employees quitting their jobs. This year, it’s likely to jump almost 20% to 37.4 million. According to the Gartner November 2021 survey, 52% of employees said that flexible work policies will effect their decision about whether to remain or move on; 16% stated they would be willing to quit if asked to work on-site full-time, while 8% said they would quit if asked to work partially on-site.

“New employee expectations, and the availability of hybrid arrangement, will continue to fuel the rise in attrition. An individual organization with a turnover rate of 20% before the pandemic could face a turnover rate as high as 24% in 2022 and the years to come. For example, a workforce of 25,000 employees would need to prepare for an additional 1,000 voluntary departures.”

Piers Hudson, Senior Director, Gartner for HR Leaders

Tough crowd.

With the hiring and retention issue hitting hiring teams so hard, it’s tempting to wonder what the expansion rate on “hard-to-fill” positions is right now, particularly when bringing retention into the equation. With that in mind, hiring teams need to continue playing smart, looking into opportunities that may not have existed pre-pandemic, and developing new approaches.

Let’s take a look.

What Turns Passives Into Active Candidates?

Look at the numbers above again. They represent a lot of professionals in real-world jobs across industries sitting out there right now. Would you describe them as “passive”? If so, be careful when approaching any of them with a good offer, as they’ll likely bite your hand off.

Those passives have been primed for action.

To blow Ladders’ trumpet, our 7 million highly experienced, highly qualified members are identified in our database as active or passive; even though, as stated, that may not matter as much as it once did. Either way, those candidates can be reached out to very quickly through Ladders Recruiter.

Ladders Recruiter Resumes are immediately visible — and legible — on the search page, with full member contact information at your fingertips. Switching between a larger view and back to the same spot you left on the search page is a two-click thing, if needed at all.

You can sell yourself on the idea of how much pain that removes from the process.

Obviously, while this is a boon if you’re hiring for a “tough to fill” position right now, it remains a boon if you’re building a pipeline for the long-term. Passive candidates have a green light for hiring projects and should be worked into your upcoming hiring strategies.

So thinking of passive candidates as pending candidates — who just need to be reached out to in conversation —  could be an effective way of turning the tables on The Great Resignation. Even with that, there’s a lot more you can do to make the “new normal” roll up its sleeves and start working for you.

And it’s quite simple.

Mandates for Candidates? Not So Much

Mandating on-paper qualifications as a prerequisite to employment, rather than seeking-out real talent yourself, is not the right way to adapt to the new realities faced by hiring teams. The less we impose on potential candidates, the more potential you have to fill positions over the short-term and the long-term. How does that work? Easy. Just lighten up a little.

Like this.

How many “must-haves” appear in your latest job posts? If candidates don’t check all the boxes, including formal qualifications and years of experience, are they automatically filtered out from the candidate pool? Why not make the formal qualifications a “nice to have” and think harder about what those years of experience actually mean, for example?

If that thought-power doesn’t instantly hypnotize the rest of your hiring team, tests can be easily applied to the application process. These provide real-world data for yourself and your team to work from. A little “show, don’t tell” added into the hiring process doesn’t have credibility because a third party says it does, it has credibility because you watch it happen and know it does.

Making a big difference in any assessment.

You also should be willing to balance the hard and soft skills a candidate has against the core needs of the position, questioning which areas could easily be dealt with through training. This can often be the case in areas like software for team collaboration, in which successful adoption is probably not a major obstacle. 

A small investment could provide fantastic ROI for retention.


Stability Through Flexibility

If remote work is possible at your company, you’re in a good place. (Pun intended.) The numbers at the top of the article stand out in terms of how strongly employees feel about flexible work, particularly remote or hybrid options. Not to mention the fact that remote-work-mad 2021 marked the most profitable year for American corporations since post-World War II.

So there’s that.

The Great Resignation remains in power and employers playing hardball with “back to the office” mandates face a potentially serious backlash. Internationally, six-month four-day week trials are underway, with thousands of participating companies and a huge amount of anticipation about restructuring the way we all work forever. Inflexible leaders, determined to show everybody who the boss really is, could be set to become dinosaurs.

Adapt and survive, if you like. The bottom line is simple: If you’re conducting a reach out campaign to passive candidates, for a company offering flexible work options, your chances of a fast and positive response shoot up; particularly, of course, if the recipient doesn’t have flexible work options, or doesn’t have anything as tempting as what you can offer.

Investments and ROI. Again.


Over and Underlooked People

From 2020 to 2021, the number of people with disabilities in employment went up from 17.9% to 19.1%, after a drop from 19.3% in 2019, as compared to a 2020-2021 rise from 61.8% to 63.7% rise for people without a disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26% of adults in the United States have some kind of disability.

Once again, an investment in a reliable, qualified and experienced person with a disability could be another ROI boon for retention. Of course, everybody wants to make the right noises when it comes to championing people with disabilities — being patronizing always gets you applause in today’s world — but looking at what a person can offer as talent, as an expert, from a purely business perspective, could win your business a lot more.

And a remote work option is likely to give you a big boost in hiring and retaining this talent base. As an example, according to CNN, one Gabe Moses enjoys working his full-time call center shift while lying on his stomach on a mattress set on the floor of his apartment. His previous commute and long hours in an office often left him in pain and without the ability to speak.

Not good for somebody working in a call center.

There are many stories like that and others that make clear remote work isn’t a straightforward solution for every person with a disability. In less severe cases, for example, investments in special software needed to be made and many companies have risen to that challenge. Smart investments for great ROI is a recurring theme here, as it is in all business questions, and it’s highly likely to be the right answer to the hiring and retention question.

So who are the underlooked people?

They’re the people working in the companies you’re hiring for. Here’s the problem: People settle into a role, the boss is happy, everybody is happy. The person becomes that role. When it comes time to look for somebody higher up the ladder, the hiring team automatically looks outward, for that perfect fit, that shiny new expert.

And the person who knows the job inside out is invisible. Even though they’re supremely aware of all the inner quirks and idiosyncrasies of bosses, teams, systems, the flow, the go-to people, the stay-away-from people, the whole damn thing — making it much smarter to move such a person up and hire from outside for the position just vacated.

Or scratch your head when that person quits.

Never Mind the Gap

Given that we’ve all had a gap of some sort forced into our lives over the last two years, employment gaps are pretty much meaningless right now.

Gaps in resumes are abundant today. This is partly because many older, experienced professionals went into forced retirement during the pandemic. Many will return, if the incentives are right. And if hiring teams need reliable, experienced experts, not being a sap about a gap makes sense. Forced retirement aside, people were let go or furloughed left, right and center over the last two years, so let it slide.

Goodbye, gaps.

Wait — that’s the second gap closed in this article so far.

Something must be working.

Welcome to the 4-Day Week

Man proposes four-day week sign. Notepad in hand.

There are currently 5.5 million more jobs than unemployed people in the U.S. At the end of April, the number of people quitting their jobs remained steady at 4.4 million, while layoffs and discharges hit a low of 1.2 million. Hiring and retention, therefore, are major concerns across industries, with all the smart talk – and action – revolving around increased flexibility for employees.

It isn’t difficult to see that this stems from the compulsory work-from-home experiment so many industries have been forced to take part in over the last two years, with the final analysis showing that 2021 proved the most profitable for U.S. corporations since 1950’s post World War II America.

Work-from-home, hybrid arrangements, flexible hours — employers are bending over backwards to gain a competitive advantage and boost hiring and retention rates as The Great Resignation holds sway, continuing the sea change in attitudes toward working life and ushering in a potentially permanent restructured approach.

Welcome to the 4-day week.

UK’s 3-Day Week Experiment – 1974

When Elvis Costello opened his debut album My Aim Is True with Welcome to the Working Week in 1977, he was singing about the 5-day week and citing productivity issues such as: “I feel like a juggler running out of hands” and “You wouldn’t believe how I felt when they buried me alive.” Ouch.

Of course, while critics and music fans loved him, the great and the good paid no attention to the angry young chap – possibly because they couldn’t understand a word he was spitting; or maybe because the UK’s 3-day week was only a few years in the rear mirror, part of oppressive measures to conserve electricity, which few remembered fondly.

However, the 3-day work week had not wreaked havoc on the UK economy. The forced experiment lasted from the start of January until March 07, 1974. In that time, many eyes were watching closely to see what happened – and expectations were dire, with experts on all sides predicting economic calamity.

The actual result was the wholesale agreement that “the British worker demonstrated surprising resilience.” A result reflected today, of course, by the response shown internationally to the pandemic restrictions and the outcomes of the forced work-from-home experiments mentioned at the top.

Stunningly, there was a fall of only 1.5 in consumer spending during the first quarter of that period – helped along by an increase in spending on alcohol, possibly to stave off the disappointment of broadcasting closing down at 10.00pm, street lights turned off, and long days with nothing to do but sit around moaning or dance around drinking.

Tough call.

The fact is, as mentioned, disaster was expected by highly educated and informed people. Pretty much all economists predicted bad outcomes, particularly in the form of massive production losses, which didn’t ultimately happen. British workers surprised everybody by adapting to the challenge as if the war effort had returned.

Production levels were far ahead of what was expected from a 3-day week, with a predicted 40 percent decline landing somewhere between 20-10 percent. The workers simply worked harder and produced more – with no loss in quality – in less time.

Many theories arose as to why that was and the more cynical opined, with amazing arrogance, that the results demonstrated British workers, under normal circumstances, didn’t work as hard or as diligently as they were capable of doing.

A “thank you” would have been nice!

Interestingly, loss of earnings fell way below expectations, too, with a drop of only 4.5 percent – providing a solid answer to the low drop in spending, of course. Reasons for this included extra hours with overtime pay, wage guarantees and unemployment benefits – although unemployment didn’t rise above 1 million.

The prediction, from the National Economic Development Council, had cited a number of 4 million unemployed, should the 3-day week continue through February, which it did.

Despite some industries being hit harder than others, the bottom line is that the predicted disaster of the 3-day week simply didn’t materialize. The finding, according to The New York Times in 1974, was that “productivity can be increased under duress.”

A misinterpretation, of course, of the spirit that rose to the occasion and created the results that stunned the so-called experts. However, duress, like the spirit that rose to the occasion, isn’t a long-term solution.

And that’s a problem.

International 4-Day Week Trials – 2022

Not only is talk of a 4-day work week getting louder internationally, trials are already underfoot. Some people see the (potential) move as natural progress. The 6-day work week became the 5-day work week; the 5-day work week becomes the 4-day work week. Of course, that type of progress leaves some future generation with the 0-day work week, which does lead to thoughts of balance, moderation, and common sense.

Making trials a great idea.

With the cry: “We are taking the 4-day week global!” not-for-profit organization 4 Day Week Global has shown real guts and verve in organizing international trials, from which extremely valuable data will be collected and analyzed. Created, implemented and run by Charlotte Lockhart and Andrew Barnes, pilot programs are already running in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the biggest of them across the UK, whose trial kicked off on 6 June.

Good start, then.

Described as: “A coordinated, 6-month trial of a four-day working week, with no loss in pay for employees” the UK version is partnered with 4-Day Week UK Campaign, think tank, Autonomy, and researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University, and Boston College.

It works like this.

  • The UKs experiment, for example, includes 3,000 workers across 70 companies.
  • Workers will receive 100 percent pay for 80 percent of time.
  • Worker commitment is to 100 percent productivity.

According to Joe O’ Connor, pilot manager for 4 Day Week Global: “The 4-day week challenges the current model of work and helps companies move away from simply measuring how long people are ‘at work’, to a sharper focus on the output being produced. 2022 will be the year that heralds in this bold new future of work.”

Obviously, some doubt can be raised here. Those running the programs appear to be strong advocates of the 4-day week, rather than dispassionate intellectuals running an experiment with open minds. Not that this will matter as long as the data collated is done so objectively and published transparently. 

Because there are clear potential downsides.

Professor of Sociology at Boston College, Juliet Schor, who is lead researcher for the pilot, said: “We’ll be analyzing how employees respond to having an extra day off, in terms of stress and burnout, job and life satisfaction, health, sleep, energy use, travel and many other aspects of life.”

A cross-industry pilot, education, banking, financial services, consultancy, food and beverage, digital marketing, online retail, skincare, automotive supply, animation, IT software training, recruiting, and many more are signed up and currently engaged in the 4-day week trial. 

Popularity and Productivity

The idea of a 32-hour work week is a popular one. In a Ladders survey, 79 percent of workers said they have already left or would leave a 5-day week job for a 4-day week job – provided no drop in salary is required. This is backed up by many similar results across many companies, which implies that people either love the idea itself, or they have fully thought out the implications of committing to 100 percent productivity, with no drop in quality, over a shorter period, and are confident it’s a good fit for them.

Probably the former, then.

The results from the UK forced experiment in 1974 provide insight into what people can achieve short-term when challenged. Long-term is potentially something else. Certainly, the trials taking place now are hugely important, with the UK’s being the biggest among them. Still, it would be good to have in depth information about how individual companies are structuring the working week, dealing with that heady balance between the needs of employees and the needs of the business.

For example, will everybody work Monday-Thursday and enjoy Friday off? What if that clashes with the needs of the business having to deal with clients and customers who expect them to be available?

Will each employee choose their own day off, with everybody else – both internally and externally – having to adapt?

“I feel like a juggler running out of hands.”

Or will there be a set number of days chosen by the company, which can be cherry-picked from by individuals, with everything then organized around that? (Not that this solves all potential issues.)

The response to everyday life under a 4-day week for millions of individuals remains to be seen. How many life-chores are accomplished after work during the week? Will they now build into a large pile until that precious day off, when they will need to be attended to in one go?

“You wouldn’t believe how I felt when they buried me alive.”

The questions of stress and burnout, brought up by Juliet Schor above, are good questions. The question of productivity vs. quality is also a good one, particularly over the long-term. The British surprised everybody back in 1974 with their short-term burst of intense productivity, apparently relieved by heavy drinking sessions during all those spare hours.

But how long would it have continued?

Six month international trials involving huge numbers of workers across industries do seem encouraging, so long as there isn’t, for example, a nine month burnout point built into the human condition that none of us are aware of at this point.

What would we do then? Mandate 12-hour days and encourage more short breaks during them? Revert to the 5-day week and deal with hiring and retention some other way? The question of how teams will function smoothly still looms large, as does the question of how flexible the whole thing is if the employer dictates the day off to employees.

Still, six months from now the data will start to roll in and the world will be keenly watching, unless the answer has already become clear by then.

Is it Friday yet?