The employment pendulum may be swinging again toward employers
For the past year, employers have been feeling the impact of The Great Resignation. From dealing with unwelcome employee turnover to responding to competitive compensation pressures to figuring out creative ways to attract talent, it's been a challenging period.
Somewhere midway into the pandemic, it became clear that there had been a significant shift in power; the pendulum had swung snugly into the employees' half of the continuum. In recent weeks, however, signs are beginning to emerge that the pendulum could be in motion again.
Before you begin to express doubts or formulate opposing arguments, let me begin with a quick disclaimer. I'm not an economist, financial expert or attorney.
I am, however, a seasoned association executive and HR professional who serves more than a thousand employers in a diverse array of industries. I'm naturally curious and a devoted lifelong learner. I read daily from a variety of reputable sources and ask lots of questions of smart people to keep my finger on the pulse of workplace issues.
While I've not conducted a scientific research study on the ongoing power balance, there are some strong indicators that may signal a coming shift.
The titles and content of articles in the business press are slowly evolving from themes of "Take This Job and Shove It" to "The Grass Isn't Always Greener." While those titles are fictional, you get the point.
A few actual headlines this past month, "Want a Promotion? Try to Not Be So Remote" and "How to Stay Employed if There's a Recession," point to a scenario which might prompt people to increase their visibility by voluntarily spending more time in their workplaces in case reductions in force become more prevalent again.
Another indicator of a pendulum shift is the questions I receive during speaking engagements. One of the most interesting and rewarding parts of my job is sharing my knowledge with others and engaging in Q&A at conferences, meetings, and events.
Until a few months ago, most attendees appeared to be in the same boat, rowing upstream when it came to talent issues. But lately, I'm fielding questions and commentary from employers signaling plans to slow down on hiring, reduce workplace flexibility, and take a more conservative approach with compensation decisions.
Still, when asked directly if I believe the relationship between employers and employees will ever return to the pre-pandemic mold, my answer is definitively "No." Why? It's simple: Too much has changed in the past 27 months and much of it for the better.
We've learned many things, among them that that work-life integration produces a plethora of benefits for employees, that mental health is as important as physical health, and that organizational culture is key to our ability to attract and retain talent.
In addition, leaders have become attuned to the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion and are striving to go beyond making public statements to embracing policies and practices that move the needle on this critical issue.
Even if we do encounter an economic slowdown that impacts the employment relationship, the world and our workplaces were forever changed by the pandemic.
While the pendulum swing may be returning power to employers, I believe the savvy ones will retain the positive changes that have been adopted in the past few years and continue to evolve in ways that respect our most valuable resources, the human ones.
• Mary Lynn Fayoumi is President and CEO of HR Source.