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 Attempts to instate “back-to-office” policies failed and were adapted or rescinded across some major companies.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.

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?

Recruiters, The Great Resignation, and the Hiring (R)evolution

Open notebook on desk next to coffee, with the words "I Quit" written in lipstick and followed by a kiss mark.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – Charles Dickens wasn’t thinking about 21st century recruitment when he wrote that famous line, but it’s a sentiment that fits like the perfect candidate.

And its retention rate is looking great.

Recruiter salaries, adjusted for inflation, had jumped 14% by the end of 2021 from the year before, according to Revelio Labs. High demand for jobs, driven by the pre-pandemic “job hopping” trend, soon joined by the “great resignation”, has greatly increased the need for talented recruiters and, at the same time, put them under tremendous strain.

How recruiters have coped with the seismic disruptions to our working lives over the last two years is anybody’s guess: Resilience? Ability to adapt? The famously focused mindset of the “fast on your feet” professional? Zero choice? (Other than to join the great resignation themselves?)

Either way, they weathered the storm courageously and have possibly created new opportunities in their own careers as a result. Well deserved, if it happens.

A collage of diverse people, all shown as smiling headshots, representing the challenge recruiters face when filling jobs.
So I’ll go with… erm. Hiring was never easy and recruiters are (hopefully) evolving.

Turmoil and Talent

The labor market, to be blunt, is in turmoil, and recruiters would be increasingly useful as professional advisors, or project managers, within hiring teams, from the earliest stages of hiring considerations.

Today’s recruiter certainly needs to advise companies on how to attract and keep talent. Established, growing and ongoing hiring and retention issues have created a gap in the market, with recruiters being the best qualified to fill it.

Questions arising around talent optimization internally, and the talent market externally, are the long-term stomping ground of recruiters. Why look elsewhere for answers? Instead of handing down requirement orders to be fulfilled, fulfilling recruiter potential by making them part of the initial discussions on requirements for roles, profiles, etc., could lead to great results.

Recruiters are your perfect fit talent advisor candidate. Own it.

Getting On Top of “Under Pressure”

The sheer pressure of skyrocketing competitiveness for talent, soaring hiring demand, and the need to adapt to – and adopt new ways to meet – new attitudes to employment expectations from candidates has been shocking in its power. To gain the upper hand, talent acquisition leaders have found themselves in a leading business position, central to selling the company brand, attracting the best talent, and increasing fast decreasing retention rates among companies.

The Ongoing State of Retention Rates

SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management), published a report in 2021 stating that over 40% of American workers are either actively seeking a new job, or have plans to do so. There’s no need to point out how staggering this number is, and probably no surprise to state that the number doubled from 2019.

BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), states that 4 million people quit their jobs in July 2021. Resignations had peaked at 2.7% in both June and July 2021 — with a new record set for available jobs in the US at the close of July – 10.9 million.

In February 2022, 4.4 million people quit their jobs, but new hires moved up to 6.7 million, according to BLS, all of which only continues the new reality of “The Great Reshuffle”. There were an estimated 1.8 jobs for every unemployed person in February.

Choices, choices.

Reasons, Recruitment and Results

According to SHRM’s report, the top reasons given for leaving jobs by employees were:

  • Better compensation
  • Work-life balance
  • Improved benefits
  • Career advancement
  • Career change

The list indicates, at least in the top four, that employees were becoming unhappy in their jobs and seeing better opportunities elsewhere. The final item appears to imply a general feeling of restlessness; a need for change in a quickly changing world. After all, if the world is disrupted to the point where daily routines are battered or shattered, why cling to the same spot?

Why be tossed aimlessly around when you can leap in any direction by dint of will? 

It’s also possible that the first four in the list were heavily influenced by exactly the same feelings that gave rise to the final entry, which could sensibly raise the question: What seismic shift is coming down the pike next?

Outside of the finance industry, corporations have enjoyed their best profits for decades, so there is the opportunity to increase salaries and benefits to attract talent and gain long-term growth from the investment; but, like any investment, the question is: Will it pay off?

It appears so far that higher wages and better benefits aren’t attracting enough unemployed workers back into the workplace. Ironically, as this happens, the result is the offering of even greater pay, more offers of increased benefits, and so on.

And while the increased offers don’t appear to be getting those on the sidelines back into work, the result, for short-term survival, is more work loaded onto the shoulders of those still bothering to show up – until they can’t take it any more, leave, then find themselves being offered more money, more benefits, for jobs they’ve learned to hate.

Little wonder that manager burnout was bad and getting worse late into 2021.

A female contortionist types on a laptop on the floor, while doing a backbend that places her feet on the laptop in front of her.
Flexibility is everything… training not provided.

Flexibility Is Stability

The “throw money at it” problem-solution technique aside, many smart recruiters are becoming increasingly attuned to what candidates want – a shift in attitudes from candidates becoming a sharp shift in focus from the recruiter. Some are studying where people are leaving in high numbers, with a view to building relationships in those spaces.

Whatever is top of mind for that hard to get candidate tops the list for hiring and retention. What is top of mind for forward-thinking recruiters is candidate/employee experience, not checklists of demands skillfully completed.

And it’s entirely possible that flexibility rather than finance will be the winning card. In that sense, employers and employees may have common ground. The sharp rise in remote work in the first quarter of 2022 may indicate that employers, absent a crystal ball, want the most stable environment possible for long-term growth; and employees seem to want the same.

Flexibility is the new stability. Or the closest thing we have.

The Evolution of Hiring

Not surprisingly, many are now predicting that 2022 will get harder, not easier, with remote work choices and remote interviews making job change more accessible than it’s ever been, at least for those who still wish to work – meaning competition for jobs will continue to increase.

And organizing, hiring, training, encouraging and retaining talent in a remote world raises a lot of questions, and presents a lot of issues, in and of itself.

Just because the initial sense of urgency starts to die down as recruiters scramble successfully to adapt, doesn’t mean the recruiter’s job will become easier as a result.

It won’t – but what it should do is evolve.

ATS Applicant Tracking and Employee Turnover

Keyboard showing a Tracking System button for Job Application Tracking.

ATS Applicant Tracking Systems matter because time and money are the bottom line.

In the recruiter space, employee turnover and hiring applicants are the two big dollar drains.

Sourcing, processing, interviewing and hiring — when done right — is the answer to both.

Enter Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

Still, that first step to automated assistance isn’t easy. In a world of continuously evolving technical possibilities, the acronym ATS means different things to different people.

Even today, most would likely describe an ATS as something to aggregate and manage resumes, with basic applicant tracking stemming from that benefit. 

Depending on how much you’re willing to spend (more later) — the best ATS’s can help organize and automate:

  • Management of job requisition
  • Posts on job search sites
  • Application forms
  • Candidate search
  • Templates for candidate emails
  • Interview alerts
  • Recruiting metrics reports
  • Background checks
  • Candidate information verification
  • Creation and delegation of tasks
  • Collaboration
  • Duplicate candidate alerts/prevention
  • Personalized outreach
  • Advertising
  • Social media posting

And more.

Connecting your existing ATS to Ladders would ensure timely and highly accurate job delivery, track candidates and posts all the way to hire, and sync candidate data with your system for flawless management. 

Investing in Success

While most ATS’s are cloud based, there are vendors who provide on-prem hosting.

On-prem will require an upfront payment (perpetual licensing), while cloud-based hosting comes with a monthly or yearly subscription. 

A company looking into this kind of investment can usually expect three pricing models:

Pay per User — based on the number of users granted administrative access.

Pay per Position — based on number of open job requisitions each month.

Pay per Module – based on unified HR solutions rather than best-of-breed.

The Keyword Is Candidate

Of course, there’s nothing like the ability to write a job description that works.

And key words do play a big part in that. The right key words — informed by a clear description of who is wanted to do what — get your job description found by people hunting for those jobs.

And that in turn is informed by some useful XML job post management.

On the ATS side, keywords are used to reject resumes that don’t contain them, and approve those that do.

How effective that is in separating enthusiastic amateurs from qualified experts is up for debate, particularly in a downturn, where ambition and enthusiasm can meet desperation.

And all in a world where technology has made applying for a job very easy to do.

So to the bottom line: The better you target your candidates in the first place, the more time and money you’re likely to save.

Targeting Talent – Tech & the Human Touch

Let’s say, for example, that you have a $100K-$500K+ job opening. You decide to create an XML job feed with Ladders.

Now your high-end job is being targeted directly at $100K-$500K+ professionals, with keyword targeting directing it to the experts required within that field and range.

When you close the job on your end, it automatically closes on Ladders, too.

Leaving your ATS with far less of the heavy-lifting to do in the initial stages, and you with far less of the heavy-lifting to do during the following stages.

Sometimes your easiest investments can get you the best results. It really boils down to knowing who and what you want, then taking the smartest route to it.

And the human touch remains a key differentiator, especially when technology works with it.

An example of this comes with the challenge of moving forward with a shortlist of candidates, with a view to successful interviews and long term retention.

Ladders ThirdPage™, for example, combines technology with member interaction to collect key interview questions.

20 million questions answered so far.

This enables recruiters to gain key knowledge about an individual before sending an email or picking up a phone.

Knowledge is power. And answering the bottom line will always be less about technology than it is about intelligent choices.