News Article

June 1, 2023

Beyond the Next “Big”

Have you ever experienced that strange, uncertain feeling when you step through the doorway of a new, previously unvisited space and you suddenly freeze: a feeling of vague familiarity creeps up from some obscure, long-forgotten memory. Is it the fluorescent lighting blaring from above, or perhaps the generic artwork hanging on the far wall? No, it has to be the top 100 music blaring from the speaker in the corner, right? Whatever it is, it smacks of a space and time long gone but suddenly back in the present.

With headlines from various news outlets blaring, “The Great Resignation is giving way to the ‘Big Stay’ as job-hopping slows down” or “The ‘great resignation’ has become the ‘big stay,’ says economist: How Gen Z, millennials can benefit”, the reader can be forgiven for experiencing a jolting, albeit brief, déjà vu to the financial crisis of 2008, a time rife with slowing economic activity and heightened job uncertainty. However, as it seemed to be with the Great Resignation trend of 2022, each job market trend tends to differ in subtle ways from its predecessors.

For the reader new to the “Big Stay” conversation, a quick recap may be in order. As Jack Kelly writes in an article for Forbes, “The “Big Stay” is a term used to describe the trend of workers hunkering down and remaining in their current jobs for more extended periods of time. This trend contrasts the Great Resignation, which saw a record number of workers—4 million each month—quitting their jobs in 2021 for better pay and benefits, work flexibility, an enhanced work-life balance and career advancement.”

All caught up? Excellent.

Now, what does that mean for the countless number of companies grappling with decelerated hiring and a previously revolving talent door that has now ground to a near halt? There are many possible paths forward. Regardless of the direction, it may be time for companies to consider several existing aspects of their organization in the context of the new environment: the employee; the culture; and the future.

The employee. Lost in the countless percentages and endless job reports of the Great Resignation is one of the key tenets of that trend: employees were seeking an improved professional experience that they felt was not being provided by their current employer. Today, with less workers leaving for the proverbial greener pasture, many employees are instead choosing to settle into their current roles. Settling into what specifically can be largely up to the company. For example, for those companies with an established entry-level training program, can this moment be an opportunity to focus on the associate-level employee who is aiming to establish a long-term career? For those companies absent such a program, is it time to consider one? Conversely, the seasoned industry-veteran may also be due some attention, particularly if they’ve job-hopped in recent years. This particular segment of the talent roster may be keen on learning about vertical movement opportunities that will present a path forward or perhaps different roles within the organization that will keep them with the company rather than forcing them to look elsewhere once the market picks back up.

The culture. As the old adage goes: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on the company for not adapting its culture to the ever-evolving talent market. Fine, that’s not the old adage but it still rings true here. Having been on the receiving end of countless quit-notices in recent years, hiring managers should have a plethora of reasons why their company culture wasn’t up to snuff for their departed talent. Was it the policy (or lack-thereof) for flexible working that was the line in the sand? Were employee benefits out of alignment with a talent pool concerned about current economic stability and inflation? From another perspective, a potential benefit of a stabilized talent pool may be the opportunity to focus on innovation – product, strategic, or otherwise – long-runway projects which may have been more difficult to do with the high turnover experienced during the Great Resignation years. Seemingly given another chance to sell the company as the ideal place to work, how will your company adapt its culture to a more engaged and dynamic workforce? 

In what areas can your organization capitalize in a market with lower movement and higher retention? 

What can you do now to differentiate yourself as a leading employer where candidates want to join and employees want to stay as the market rebounds from the Big Stay?

The future. Within the context of talent retention and development, how is your organization planning for the future? Yes, it’s an overused, albeit valid, question for companies who at times can be guilty of over-planning for the future. That point aside, how many times have we witnessed an organization being caught flat-footed when confronted with a predictable issue everyone in the proverbial audience saw coming? It’s one thing to react to the latest market trends, it is another to respond to it. Regardless of whether there is a recession or an economic boom, will your company always strive to keep true to its core identity and long-held values? Alternatively, does a constantly changing approach that adapts to a fluid environment and emerging trends – at the cost of a consistent identity – more align with your company’s values? Regardless of the pundit hot-takes, no one can predict the future; but that shouldn’t stop a company from at least having the conversation about these issues.

It seems with every news cycle comes a new job market phenomenon prefaced with the word “Big” or “Great”, so often that it seems once you agree on a strategy to cope with one, it inevitably does an about face and morphs into something completely different. Companies will attempt varying approaches fitted to their respective needs and goals. Perhaps the attention should shift from outwards to inwards at such times, seizing on an opportunity to recalibrate and retool the organization to weather not just one storm, but several. Whatever the chosen path, focusing on key factors such as the employee, the culture, and the future will initiate a broader conversation that will have ramifications beyond whatever the next “Big” will bring.

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