The Great People Pivot: How the workforce has gone from being laid off to quitting in 18 months  -  Photo by fauxels from PexelsMillions of people are quitting their jobs right now – a record 4.3 million Americans in August alone. And, in the UK, job vacancies surpassed one million for the first time in July. But just 12 months ago, swathes of employees had been laid off due to the pandemic. The tables have truly turned in the space of a year.

Companies now find themselves in the midst of The Great Resignation on a scale never seen before. Employees are in demand and ready to make moves in a candidate-driven market.

As we emerge from the pandemic, the downtime created through lockdowns and the world slowing down has given employees the chance to take stock and reassess what matters to them and what they want to change. What they do 9-5, five days a week is often the first thing that comes under scrutiny.

It’s not just COVID

Yes, the last 18-months have been dominated by the multi-faceted knock-on effects of a global health pandemic. Entire industries have been shut down, and national debt has increased. The pandemic has also created personal stresses and strains of being confined inside our house.

But that’s not all. Although COVID is the first thing to spring to mind when considering business recovery, it’s important to remember that we’re still feeling longer-term aftershocks from the 2008-2010 financial crashes due to wage stagnation on a global scale. The world has been putting off pay-rises for blue-collar workers for ten years or more.

Employers are now scrambling to keep up with demand. But knock-on inflation costs mean higher paid low-skilled workers. It is leading to a middle-class squeeze in which professionals who haven’t previously had to be too concerned about their financial stability are also starting to feel the stretch. It has been compounded by the effects now being felt following Brexit, which have been the background to the pandemic response throughout.

The power of the employee

There are multiple long-term factors at play. Employers in every industry are desperately trying to hold on to their talent. It means that if employees, both higher and lower-skilled alike, don’t get paid what they need or aren’t able to negotiate the employment terms, they’re simply going to leave for an employer that will.

For the first time in a generation, the candidates hold power over the employer. The changes to the world of work are coming thick and fast and are difficult to predict. But, the world isn’t going to get any more predictable than it is currently any time soon.

Driven by a lack of talent

When you drill down to it, the challenge, especially for talent acquisition, is talent supply rather than lack of investment. Look specifically to the UK and the recent announcements made by the Chancellor in the budget. Much of the financial aid such as minimum wage increases only form a thin distraction of the real issue facing employers.

Sectors that have been the most stretched in recent months, such as hospitality and haulage, are already paying more than minimum wage to attract candidates or simply stop employees from leaving. If the talent simply isn’t there, a minimum wage increase won’t change that.

The same can be said for the new Scale Up Visa. It is designed to “make it quicker and easier for the fast-growing businesses to bring in highly skilled individuals”. Initiatives such as this will provide support in the medium and longer-term. It will also enable the growth of a better pipeline of talent that industries are crying out for.

But what about today? Schemes like these will take at least five years to have a tangible effect, and businesses don’t have the luxury to look that far ahead at the moment.

What now?

Regardless of the industry, this high demand for skills will hang around for at least 18-months. As a business leader, if you’re watching your workforce leave in droves but your employer brand stays the same, or you’re still taking your time deciding whether to or how to outsource and hire the right calibre of talent – what are you waiting for? You can’t afford to be slow-moving and reactionary in the face of a people pivot in your business. It only will tighten the suffocating grip which the lack of talent already has on you.

What now?

Regardless of the industry, this high demand for skills will hang around for at least 18-months. As a business leader, if you’re watching your workforce leave in droves but your employer brand stays the same, or you’re still taking your time deciding whether to or how to outsource and hire the right calibre of talent – what are you waiting for? You can’t afford to be slow-moving and reactionary in the face of a people pivot in your business. It only will tighten the suffocating grip which the lack of talent already has on you.

Instead, look to address the problem and make the changes where you have the power to do so. Take attrition, for example: if the talent isn’t out there, you need to hold onto what you’ve got. As otherwise passive candidates reevaluate their priorities and are presented with job offers that they can’t refuse, don’t shy away from addressing what it is that’s not working.

Ask yourself, why are people leaving? Why are offers to new candidates being declined? As an employer, is feedback from candidates and employees and providing it taking too long? Is the package you’re offering not competitive enough in the market? How can you sweeten the deal?

Uncertainty brings about change and opportunity

Times of uncertainty bring about change, and change creates an opportunity for innovation. Reevaluate your business’ priorities. Break them down to form the building blocks of a standout Employee Value Proposition. One that doesn’t just tick the recruitment boxes on a performative level but actually has its roots in the board-level values of the business.

Now is the time to think about what you’re going to do differently next year and establish the stable starting blocks for talent acquisition in 2022. In this tough market, it is a case of if not now, then when?


Talent WorksTalent Works enables tech organisations to scale through powerful talent attraction solutions. By embedding themselves into a company’s infrastructure, their unique approach to RPO is a completely scalable resource suited to both growing organisations and more established names. Using a wealth of tech sector-specific expertise, insight and innovation, Talent Works offers a unique mix of employer branding, digital talent attraction and agile recruitment solutions. They help companies to surround themselves with the talent needed to scale in an increasingly competitive market.

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