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 Real estate brokerage Redfin Corp has rescinded job offers in recent weeks.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 The most worrying part — possibly — of rescinded job offers is that they show us clearly that businesses are quickly undoing decisions made only weeks before, as if a panic button was pressed that instantly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.