The number of open job postings in the US grew throughout 2021, and that momentum is rolling into 2022. According to the Indeed Hiring Lab, on January 21, 2022, US job postings on Indeed were 60.5% above their level on February 1, 2020, the pre-pandemic baseline, after adjusting for seasonal variation.
As we get back to work and hiring activity begins to pick up after the holidays, there is one talent trend that is clear to all of us: we are in a job seeker’s market. In all the years I’ve worked in the hiring industry, I’ve never seen such a tight US labor market or one where employees hold all the cards.
Attracting job seekers and retaining employees in the tightest labor market in decades are top priorities among the enterprises I talk with every day. That puts more power than ever in the hands of the talent we need to build our businesses and grow employees’ careers.
To their credit, job seekers are using that power to demand more fulfilling jobs and work — and “fulfilling” means different things to different people. From higher pay to remote work, flexible shifts, child care and more, employees are sending a clear signal: “Give me what I need to thrive, or I’ll go somewhere else that does.”
There are many names for this phenomenon: the Big Quit, the Great Resignation and the Great Re-Evaluation come to mind. Whatever you call it, it is real. And beyond this immediate trend of employees’ finding their next great career move during the pandemic, the 2022 US labor market is impacted by more secular trends coinciding with the pandemic: a workforce increasingly made up of millennials and Gen-Zers are redefining the role of work in their lives, as well as baby boomers who are retiring in larger numbers, earlier than expected.
The hits just keep on coming
In 2022, the HR leaders I meet with are wrestling with how these unprecedented trends are affecting their ability to attract and retain talent. And new, unexpected barriers continue to stand in the way. The most recent job-posting tracker from Indeed (a real-time measure of labor activity as of January 2021) indicates that it’s still too soon to know how variables like the Omicron surge will impact hiring trends and job-seeker behavior.
The global consultancy McKinsey’s recent report, “‘Great Attrition' or 'Great Attraction’? The Choice Is Yours,” reveals that 40% of employees across most industries in the US are “likely to quit” by the end of CY Q1 2022. This is unprecedented. And it means that employers need to focus on amplifying their culture and investing in workforce benefits that will both attract the best candidates and retain top talent.
The employers I work with every day know that the people they seek to hire and retain are in the driver’s seat. The big answers we seek to uncover with them involve what motivates their talent to join and remain at their companies now and, more importantly, what steps they can take to be successful.
How to attract and retain today’s talent
Burnout. Fatigue. Exhaustion. The Great Re-Evaluation or Great Resignation — or whatever you want to call it — makes it imperative to assess how your company — in its industry, with the roles you have to fill and in a way that’s true to your culture — can support your current employees and attract new talent.
For many years, employers have offered remote work as an option for employees.
While remote work works for some, it is not desirable for all. Some people just like going to the office, or — for many and varied reasons — some individuals and roles need an office environment for optimal productivity.
It’s also important to remember that remote work isn’t an option for many organizations and roles, like many in the service and hospitality industries, which means solutions for flexibility are not universal. Providing a desirable and practical workplace experience for a packaging specialist will be very different than providing one for a dental hygienist or a server.
The good news is that there are many options outside of remote work to attract skilled workers, such as on-site child care, floating free days, flexible and variable shifts that follow the “gig work” model, job sharing, paid parking and upskilling, to name just a few. McKinsey analysts call this approach "radical flexibility."
Beyond remote: Spend more time focused on your talent, less time on tasks
It is one thing to acknowledge a US labor market challenge; it is quite another thing to build and execute a plan to overcome that challenge. The biggest obstacle employers share with me is that, while they want to plan and implement positive changes that will make their companies desirable places to work and spend more time on the human elements of hiring, they simply can’t find the time.
From intake meetings to sourcing and screening candidates, scheduling interviews, collecting feedback and more, the fundamental operations of recruiting and hiring still consume the majority of most recruiting teams’ time. Automating these tasks will free up organizations to spend more time on high-impact talent strategies like ensuring fairness and skill-based hiring, looking to their current talent pool for transferable skills, boomerang campaigns to bring back former employees and early retirees and investing in their employer brand to attract talent.
Employees today have more choice and control than ever before over what, how and where they work. Employers who don’t appreciate this power shift and fail to adapt to these new hiring and workplace realities could miss out on the best talent and lose the opportunity to engage their workforce and sustainably grow the business for the long term.
If you’d like to learn more about the US labor market and our unique perspective backed by data from the world’s biggest jobs site, reach out to your Indeed representative.
- “The pace of Boomer retirements has accelerated in the past year” Pew Research Center https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/11/09/the-pace-of-boomer-retirements-has-accelerated-in-the-past-year/
- “Burnout, Leadership, and Hope: A Year-and-a-Half into the Pandemic, Looking at Women in the Workplace.” McKinsey & Company, https://www.mckinsey.com/about-us/new-at-mckinsey-blog/one-year-into-the-pandemic-what-does-our-women-in-the-workplace-report-say
- Demographic Drought. Emsi, 6 May 2021, Foreword by Josh Bersin, https://www.economicmodeling.com/demographic-drought/
- Dolby, Nuha. “How 4 Women Would Redesign Their Work Weeks.” POLITICO, POLITICO, 15 Nov. 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/11/15/women-rule-ideal-work-week-520608
- “Facilitating Positive Spillover Effects: New Insights From a Mixed-Methods Approach Exploring Factors Enabling People to Live More Sustainable Lifestyles.” Elf, Patrick; Gatersleben, Birgitta, Christie, Ian. Front. Psychol., 31 January 2019. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02699
- Foote, Elizabeth, et al. “The Key Role of Dynamic Talent Allocation in Shaping the Future of Work.” McKinsey & Company, McKinsey & Company, 30 Sept. 2021, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/the-key-role-of-dynamic-talent-allocation-in-shaping-the-future-of-work?cid=other-eml-nsl-mip-mck&hlkid=226d63ee6963404691e8b549f8197fd0&hctky=1926&hdpid=4b5a240f-9041-4932-95b5-4bbed511fa0a
- “Global Workforce Trends 2021.” ADP, 14 June 2021, https://www.adp.com/resources/articles-and-insights/articles/g/global-workforce-trends-2021.aspx
- Glassdoor's Best Places to Work 2021 Announced: Bain ... https://www.glassdoor.com/employers/blog/best-places-to-work-2021
- Konkel, Ann Elizabeth. “Indeed US Job Postings Tracker: Data through January 21.” Indeed Hiring Lab, 12 Jan. 2022, https://www.hiringlab.org/2022/01/13/job-postings-tracker-through-january-21/
- Osterland, Andrew. “'Great Resignation' Has Put Many Workers 'in the Driver's Seat for First Time in 30 Years,' Experts Say.” CNBC, CNBC, 19 Nov. 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/19/great-resignation-has-put-many-workers-in-the-drivers-seat.html
- “Riding the Resignation Wave.” McKinsey & Company, https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/coronavirus-leading-through-the-crisis/charting-the-path-to-the-next-normal/riding-the-resignation-wave?cid=other-eml-chr-mip-mck&hlkid=3359f87e2d314a91a8d188458cf99b8f&hctky=13336031&hdpid=f7d8e148-5de5-45c8-b0c8-fbd3b97db46a