… the “new” normal…the shape shifting of hiring authorities

There is really no such thing as a new normal. There really never has been. Even when the economy was really strong and things were rocking along famously from an economic point of view there really wasn’t a normal. But when the economy is good and companies are making money and jobs are easier to find we like to think it’s “normal.” And, it’s certainly a lot easier to deal with when everybody’s making money.

I get asked at least three or four times a day what the market is like. This week, I will attempt to describe what’s going on with employers and next week I will discuss what we see going on with job seekers. Here’s what’s happening with companies trying to hire and the hiring authorities:

  • Everyone is operating with doubt, uncertainty and fear. Companies are not doing as well as they did. The lockdown, which was a terrible mistake… Just terrible, put everyone in a fearful and psychologically lonely mood. Companies and the people in them were not around each other and had no positive, psychological reinforcement.
  • Some companies are still totally working from home. More about that in a moment, but the isolation fuels the “I’m not sure what were doing or how were doing it and even if we need to hire somebody I don’t know how to go about doing it. I can’t seem to get any direction.”
  • If companies have taken new initiatives that look like they are going to take a long time to develop to be profitable, they are very often pulling the plug and laying the people off that they hired to initiate them.
  • Many employers are laying off and furloughing people (in my 47 years of doing this I’ve never heard the term “furloughed” applied to employees). If they can get away with it, they are spreading the work load those people had around to other people. For instance, many of our clients have laid off or furloughed $60,000, $70,000 and $80,000 executive assistants.They will try to spread that workload around to the other people doing a like job but who are only making $45,000 or $50,000 a year.
  • The above situation will apply to sales departments, accounting departments, engineering departments… Just about any department where a company thinks they can save some money. They will often postpone increasing the staff until other people in the department become so disgruntled with having to do the extra work, they threatened to leave or, if they have a phenomenal amount of courage, they do leave
  • .Hiring authorities have a tendency in this kind of market to only hire when they absolutely have to. Forget “expansion” positions. They are going the hire only when their desperate and they’re going to do it as economically as they can. For instance, if they had a salesperson at $125,000 base salary, who left or got let go, they’ll try to hire the replacement at a $90,000 base salary and they will only  do that when the territory gets so neglected no one has time to cover it.
  • When companies and the people in them do interview, their mantra is “We don’t want to make a mistake, we don’t want to make a mistake, we don’t want to make a mistake, we don’t want to make a mistake, we don’t want to make a mistake etc.” They drag the interviewing process out for ridiculous amount of time, having an innumerable number of people involved in the interviewing process who shouldn’t be and postpone making a decision until a just absolutely have to.
  • When they do hire, candidates should expect an elongation process and often, just plain odd endeavors. One of our clients asked six candidates for eight business references each after an initial interview. One candidate was absolutely furious because he lined up the eight references, prepared them for the employer to call them and the employer never did.
  • Companies will start interviewing then stop interviewing then start interviewing then stop interviewing and maybe never hire anybody at all. When the economy is like this, it’s not uncommon for companies and the people in them to suffer from “paralysis by analysis.”
  • Companies will often let “A players” go out of knee-jerk reaction to the rest of the economy.
  • Leaders in these companies will forget that they ought to be interviewing “A players” all of the time… whether they have an opening or not. Again, it’s a knee-jerk reaction of “were not hiring!”
  • The doubt about this pandemic causes paralysis.
  • Companies are beginning to realize that remote work is a bit of an oxymoron. Many companies are beginning to realize that working remotely is really not sustainable.
  • When a company and people in it operate out of “fear of loss” rather than “vision of gain” fear driven productivity is not good. This is especially true when people are working alone.
  • Zoom meetings just aren’t the same as being with a group of people. Collaboration in one space is simply deficient. Remote collaboration of a group can take days. Problems that might be easy to solve with a group physically together, can become a logistical challenge remotely.
  • Body language and casual personal interaction can’t happen remotely.
  • We’ve had a number of candidates get hired remotely and now they’re being trained remotely and they really aren’t feeling an emotional bond to the company and the job. As one candidate said, it’s very antiseptic..
  • When leaders are asked in the remote interviewing process about career development and the path to upward mobility, they simply don’t really have any idea how it’s going to work.
  • The socialization process that goes along with getting to know people by working with them in proximity and as a group is negligible.
  • Most leaders in most companies don’t know how to address promotion criteria.

As I’ve mentioned before, every recession has created its own challenges. I’m certain there will be many other unforeseen ones as our economy evolves.

Next week will discuss some of the issues facing candidates.

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