In Australia, the great retire and great rehire were somewhat contained by government income support during Covid. What we are experiencing, like the U.S., is the quiet resignation of people who’ve become disengaged in their work. Is it part of a “Big Shift” in employees expectations? Employees are becoming in increasingly selective in the types of jobs and employers that they are seeking.
Employing people was once very transactional and relatively easy to understand. Businesses supplied a product or service to fulfil a customer’s need. When more people had similar needs, the business grew by employing people. Later, as technology replaced people, laws and regulations were enacted by governments to protect employees and consumers. Taxes were then increasingly imposed to pay for the regulatory and supervisory machinations of government.
In those once termed ‘good old days,’ that weren’t so good when measured by today’s industrial standards, consumer benefits were measured individually. The ability of firms to grow was made possible by delivering products and services deemed to have greater value than their customers than if they were to produce themselves. For example, it is cheaper for consumers to buy an apple pie than to make it for themselves.
Large business organisations, which technology advances made possible, grew by virtue of the value they provided to aggregates of consumers known as markets. Then, during the second half of the last century, service jobs, became more numerous than those in manufacturing. By the last quarter of the 20th century, however, computerisation began eroding the number of service workers within businesses. What had happened with factory automation repeated itself in the office.
Large corporations are different to smaller firms in that the latter are rarely able to take advantages of what economists term as economies of scale and scope. In fact, many do the opposite by adding value into their offerings rather than trimming them to remain competitive. It was Henry Ford wrote about taking responsibility for every broken-down Ford he saw on a road. You’d be hard-pressed to see that from a CEO of a large corporation today.
The modern corporation has separated itself from the needs of its customers. All too often, large firms will slim down their products and services and outsource workers to preserve profits and management bonuses. Whilst this might sound a little unfair, Richard Branson, in several books, has written about putting the employee first. But what does that mean? In a global job market now short of candidates, it is worthy of looking at why employees leave their jobs.
The most often cited reason as to why people intend to quit is pay related. However, a McKinsey survey finds that reason second to lack of career development amongst those that did quit. In that survey, ‘uncaring and uninspiring leaders’, and ‘lack of meaningful work’ came in as the third and fourth reasons respectively. But what if large sections of the workforce just want to unshackle themselves from careers? This is what is happening.
A recent Fortune magazine article, January 27, summed up the situation in its title, “Men making good money in the prime of their lives are leaning away from demanding jobs and it could be because they’re re-evaluating their priorities.” At the same time, the title of another Fortune article, January 25, sums up the situation of younger workers as “Gen Z and millennials are checked out at work and it could wreck their careers.”
The problem that many larger companies face is that the modern corporation was not designed to meet many of the demands of workers. To be fair, however, many large companies have made advances in employee wellness to attract and retain employees. For cost reasons, many of these benefits are not available within smaller businesses, meaning that employees need to look outside the firm for balance. A U.S. survey suggests this is exactly what they are doing. There is little reason to suggest why trends in America won’t repeat themselves in Australia.
A survey cited in an ZDNET found 75% of C-suite executives think that their employees would take major pay and benefits cuts to join a company more connected to company culture and other employees.
In these challenging times for attracting and retaining staff, the consultancy firm PwC advises that companies “must tailor their workforce strategy to the unique needs of their workers” if they are to succeed. That’s a very big call, that most CEOs acknowledge is hard to deliver for large corporations. It is an opportunity for smaller businesses to attract talented staff outside the traditional recruitment template.
The reasons cited in the articles mentioned underpin the purpose of a recently launched candidate driven website www.workerstohire.com.au. According to the founder of Workers to Hire, Michael Hargreaves, “there is a large swathe of candidates who are not responding to traditional job advertisements and recruiter searches on LinkedIn. It would be very easy to say this is because they do not want to leave their current roles.” Depending on the survey, some 20 to 40 percent of Australian employees are considering quitting in the next 12 months.
A more likely reason why employers are finding it difficult to attract candidates is that they haven’t adjusted to a new candidate-driven market. Their search parameters are too narrow. This is good news for small-to-medium sized businesses that can offer more flexibility.” It is also good news for small enterprises that can translate their existence into a social benefit matching employee expectations. Employees are wanting more than to unshackle themselves from the nine-to-five and have greater say in the type of work that they seek.
A 2018 Deloitte report, summarised by Forbes magazine, identified the emergence of Social Enterprises that demonstrate an understanding of a wider ecosystem in which it operates. This has always been the domain of smaller businesses. Social Enterprise runs contrary to 20th. Century management thinking of the corporation of being its own ecosystem. What’s more, large company CEOs know their size is a limitation.
A Social Enterprise is one that defines itself in terms of a meaningful purpose for employees, customers, and suppliers. Businesses that can shift to this new paradigm are likely to attract and retain employees with a common sense of purpose. On the Workers to Hire website, would-be-workers can describe the type of organisation, roles, and availability that they are seeking. It is up the employer to respond.
Needless to say, Workers to Hire defines itself as a Social Enterprise to assist workers who are outside or have unshackled themselves from the career ladder. These candidates include first job seekers, returning parents, mature workers, and retirees all looking for meaningful engagement.