Friday, January 28, 2022

An Employee's Hiring Market

 I was chatting with a coworker this week about some shared work acquaintances that had recently taken new positions.  The concern with this, of course, is who is going to take over their position and/or how soon their positions would be backfilled.  "No idea" was the response.  "From what I hear, by the time they can make a decision people already have another offer or what is being offered is considered low."

Welcome to the market of the employee.

I have been working long enough that I can recall when markets were not employee friendly:  2009 comes to mind, when after a layoff (Hammerfall) I went through well over 100 applications in 4 months time for 4 interviews, two job offers, and one acceptance.   So does the mid 1990's where unless you were in the wild world of tech, you were scrabbling.  But the pendulum swings of course, and suddenly employees now find themselves in the driver seat.

Some companies are nimble and can adapt.  Others - like mine, apparently - seem wedded to the previous model.

The previous model - for those that have not been job hunting or working in an industry recently - is one where CVs are funneled through an HR portal and the top X number forwarded to management for review based on an HR assessment.  Usually there is an initial HR conversation, followed by a high level interview, and then if there is interest perhaps two to three rounds of interviews with various departments and levels.  After all of that - if there is still interest - an offer will be written, reviewed, approved, and tendered.  And even after that, there are the inevitable background confirmation and checks, which I am sure have become more extensive than ever.

If this sounds like a long process, that is because it is.  In an employer's market, it is borne with a grudging hope and patience.  In an employee's market, no patience is often required.

The second - one that surprises me - is that employers have not grasped the fiscal implications of an employee's market.

It should be news to no-one now that, due in large part to budgetary mismanagement only partially caused by The Plague (because governments cannot help themselves), the market is different that it was two years ago or even a year ago.  A statistic I saw last week suggested something like 4 million jobs are currently wanting for people to fill them.  Some of those positions are indeed specialized positions that may be industry specific, but some of them are the sorts of things that cross industries:  accounting, shipping/receiving, purchasing, facilities, general labor.  The sorts of jobs that keep the wheels greased and systems running so the more "profitable and smarter" work can continue.

It is jobs such as this that will see higher salaries by companies that realize this and will do whatever is in their power to fill gaps - which often looks like offering higher salaries, work from home options,  undefined "benefits", and quick job offers.

Some companies get this.  Others, like mine apparently, do not.

The pendulum will likely swing back at some point; it always does.  Either the market will flood with employees as the salaries reach what people are willing to work for or desperation from a collapsing economy will drive them to it.  And then companies will look again at their bottom line and ask the question of "Why are we paying so much for these people?"  And people will be laid off and have to have grudging patience at the process again.

That of course presumes one thing:  that companies that cannot adapt to the current employee market somehow find a way to do so and make their way to the next phase.


  1. The mandate forced a lot of people out of work. Now that it's been done away with from the president's side, it's up to companies to decide if they will come to their senses and get rid of it also.

    Then you have to find people willing to work. The "university types" today, I think are not those people for the most part.

    The "Mike Rowe" people are.

    But most of them refuse the jab, I believe. Well, my opinion anyway.

    Thanks to the last two years, it's not going to be easy or solved quickly.

    1. Linda, it is an interesting conundrum. And as you say, many individuals chose to leave their line of work because it. Now that it is not required, would they choose to go back to their employer? Or have they found other places to work or even their own arrangements?

      It is not going to be solved nearly as easily or quickly as "just turning on a switch", which is what the fools that started this policy predicted.

    2. Exactly.
      Look at the truckers in Canada that don't want the jab.
      And many here quit because of the mandate.
      And fools like the Canadian Prime Minister, and our own foolish president think they can just "talk tough" and it will be fixed.

    3. Linda, what many are now finding is that you cannot force people to work for you and there is no "moral" duty to do so. This is only going to become much more of an issue.

    4. Definitely agree. I can't think of the term I want; but definitely a big lack. On both sides.

    5. Ultimately, this ended up being one of the key points in Atlas Shrugged: There is no economic moral obligation to anyone but one's self. When people actually understand this, things change.

  2. Every company I have worked for has complained at one point that they can't hire enough quality people who will hang around and be committed to the company and then at another point has laid off a bunch of quality committed people because they no longer can afford them. It gets to be a viscous cycle and I for one am glad not to be in it anymore.

    1. Ed, I long ago learned never to give my heart to a company as the company will let go of me the second I do not meet their needs. It is much easier to treat the relationship as "Fees for services rendered". I do not participate in the company events where is not specifically required and generally refuse to display any of the paraphernalia they provide, not even the "use this in your signature" unless legally required. I fulfill a need, they pay to fulfill that need. That is as far as it goes. I have a great deal of meaning in my life, just none of it through work.

  3. Talked to son last night who has 45/50 employees. They were working for 19 months at home. When sent a questionnaire regarding coming back only 30% expressed any interest. In Oct it became mandatory to work in the office. They are now averaging 7 resignation per month in his sector. They are getting sign on bonus, higher wage and 100% stay at home work.

    1. True in my line of work as well. They moved to a "need to be onsite only" mode two years ago this March. I have been in less than 10 times in the period. Honestly, I (and my line of work) are actually far more productive at home than at work. The point has been made that being "in person" has some benefit that working remotely does not, and to some extent I believe it - but on the other hand, I easily save close to an hour a day in commute time and have reduced my mileage by a third.

      If I were asked to come back, I probably would - just long enough to find another position. I do think for some companies, they want you onsite because somehow them seeing you means you are more effective. Effectivity should be measured by results, not by how many people are at an office.

  4. The guy who was supposed to do my roof before winter had to put it on hold because he couldn't find anyone to do the work with him. He said a lot of workers are opting to stay home and collect social assistance rather than risk catching covid. But there are those as well who are taking advantage of the covid benefits here in Canada, they almost make more money sitting at home than they would working.

    The companies who value their employees are the ones who are the strongest in my opinion. But also, the employee must prove his/her value at the same time. When I was working eons ago, one of my hats was HR and I did the hiring/firing etc...the company where I worked had great benefits (because I was in charge of setting them up!!). I hired based on a feeling and 99% of the time, my feeling of the person was spot on. Good people who want to work for their salaries; and a good company that values its employees. It's funny because the people that my employer hired all turned out to be divas...actually I have a story.

    One of the reps that my employer hired ended up being caught stealing a computer from the office. I had to fire him and he tried to sue me and the company for sexual harassment lol...he claimed that he only got fired because he refused to hop in the sack with me! Of course that went nowhere after our lawyers exposed that he'd tried that several times in the past from various places he worked.

    1. Rain - Ugh. I know you were looking to have that done; how disappointing.

      This was always the concern here in Baja Canada as well, at least for anyone who thought about it for any amount of time: if you pay people as much to not work as to work, at some point some people are going to take advantage of that, especially if there are no repercussions and no strings attached. A more recent phenomena I have noticed is that people who "may" be exposed are taking advantage of time set aside for quarantine.

      Companies that value employees are indeed the strongest, and good employees want to actually provide value for those companies.

      What a horrible story. I am sorry, although I am glad you can laugh about it now. Before I moved to my current role, I was responsible for upwards of 40+ people. The amount of HR related incidents and paperwork were enough to convince me I never wanted to supervise anyone ever again.

  5. During the mid 90's, I was a broadcast engineer. The only way to get a raise was hop to a different company after negotiating the wage. It was a tough market. I still say it was fun, but not lucrative, with all the tee shirts you can eat. They ordered tee shirts by the ton for their promotions. I used them like paper towels.

    The chief engineer at the TV station I was at moved to Florida. It was a worker's market there. He ran everyone off, and they found jobs quickly. He didn't know the area, and paid the price. He was quickly fired and they had to restaff the ENTIRE engineering department. Not a happy time for them.

    Now, it's just weird. My company has gone from 100 perspectives, 50 offers, 10 drug tests, 2 show up, 1 lasts longer than two weeks, to casual workers. IF YOU SHOW UP, you have the part time job. No benies, unless you make it to the next level. Then, if you keep coming in, you can make it to full time. These are the basic level material handlers, that work into driving positions.

    The job market is quite different. I feel like an anachronism... Being out of circulation for 7 months, I'd be a new hire as so much has changed.

    1. I know what you mean, STxAR. Our middle son works for Party City here. Prior military he has a good work ethic. Started as a holiday temp for Halloween 4 years ago. Went in whenever they called if he didn't have a prior commitment.

      Now he is an assistant manager, though they don't call them managers any more for some stupid woke reason.

      Couple days ago someone went to lunch and never came back. So yes, If you show up.

    2. STxAR - It did used to be different. I remember months and months of hunting for a position before I got one that I could move on - and often times it was because I knew someone at the next company. And I have seen many companies run off entire departments because of poor management, which as you say they then have to completely rebuild for. The funny thing is that if you asked the employees, they would tell you the manager was the issue. But no-one ever asks.

      I do not wonder if the model you describe will become more common in some industries - if you want anything beyond a base pay, you as the employee need to commit. The way a company would work that, I think, would have benefits that make employees want to work for them.

    3. Linda, I would say that is crazy but I suspect that given the current state of affairs, that is all too common.

      I suppose on the "good news" side, that means anyone that has a lick of ambition could move up somewhere pretty quickly.

  6. I've also never seen anything like this. I am near the end of my working career and frankly, I think for once I timed it right. I think I can ride this thing out and if something happens (like an acquisition) that would displace me before I wanted to be done, I think I would get a decent severance and could probably even get another job even at my age. I think about all this now mostly in terms of my adult children. My oldest and his wife are killing it in the corporate world, and they handle money wisely, so I think when that pendulum swings back, they'll be prepared and can handle it. My daughter and her husband are teachers. They'll never make a lot of $$, but they have job security and will have decent retirement (and should eventually inherit some $$). My youngest and his fiance are both in the communications/PR field and I'm encouraging them to be preparing for the pendulum swing, and to have some type of Plan B. I say I am encouraging them -- I mostly just pray and give advice when I'm asked. That's walking a fine line, I assure you.

    One more thing and that's about HR departments. Don't get me started. I'm terribly biased, but I find them extremely tiresome, with the hurdles they require us to jump through overly burdensome. They are all trying to adapt now, but they're woefully behind. And as you point out, by the time a manger gets around to being allowed to make an offer, the prospect is long gone.

    Thought-provoking post, as usual.

    1. Bob - I am sincerely happy for you and hope you are in fact correct. I have known a few people that for different reasons, managed the same timing you did. Some retired, some went on to do something different or something they actually wanted to do.

      Sounds like your children are thinking ahead (in different ways, but that is okay too). The biggest thing to communicate - which it sounds like you have - is that the pendulum will swing back. In a lot of ways it is like trying to explain a Bear Market in 1998 to someone who had only invested since the early 1990's: having never been through one, many people could not actually imagine how bad things could get.

      My biggest HR complaint has always been the fact that the system seems to be made as obscure as possible to prevent one from actually knowing what is going on. And, as you say, the amount of time it takes to get things done. Having not had to do more than just worry about my own self for the past two years, I do not think I have had to talk to HR more than twice, and that about benefits. On the whole, I think my life has been better for it.

      As always, thanks for the kind words.

  7. The current job market is what I always dealt with in construction management. Local petrochemical facilities would decide to build something new, construction jobs would go to the highest bidder, and I was left with trying to turn culls into something close to productive.

    Turnover? It was huge, since people were being hired to watch holes in tanks for twice as much as I could pay a laborer. In the end, the layoffs would start, people would eventually realize they had to work, and those with experience in such a volatile market would want to find steady work at a lower wage. The high wages never last for any length of time, since the market can't bear them for too long.

    1. Jess - How interesting (in an unfortunate way) that this has become more mainstream.

      Turnovers are a big issue in my industry (biopharmaceutical), as you lose years of technical practice and knowledge. One person can contain 80% of all knowledge about a certain aspect of a project and it can take (literally) years to recover.

      We are going to start hitting the wage issue in the general population here soon. One way in the past companies have compensated for this is offering better benefits or other extras; as more companies are doing that it is becoming less of a competitive advantage.


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