The landscape of employment in the United States is changing rapidly. According to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey recently completed by the US Department of Labor, there are more job openings than unemployed individuals seeking work. In fact, there are nearly a million more job openings available than there are people to fill them. The October Jobs Report showed unemployment at a 50-year low of 3.7 percent. Furthermore, this year the average hourly earnings of employs grew by more than 3 percent, a rate that has not been seen in nearly a decade. All of this data means that companies must now compete for the best candidates in a shrinking pool of talent, and only business leaders who recognize and adapt to this new reality will continue to succeed.
A New Landscape for Business Leaders and Their Employees
The recent data points to a larger trend in which power is flowing away from employers and toward employees, creating an employee-first market. While this has happened previously in the country’s history, the current situation is fundamentally different given the increasing transparency and connectivity of the employment market. Social networks have made it easier than ever to access information about companies and employee satisfaction. Transparency has become unavoidable, and great business leaders have refocused their efforts on building companies that provide excellent work environments.
Technology is also putting unprecedented power into the hands of employees with tools like Indeed, Monster, ZipRecruiter, and other job search engines. Individuals can quickly find job openings at other companies if they are not happy with their current situation, a development that speeds the process much more than traditional networking or even scouring classified adds. Furthermore, with the growth of the gig economy, employees are more willing to hold out until they find a job that they really want since they have other options to support themselves in the meantime. When these developments are considered alongside increasing wages and falling unemployment, it is clear that business leaders need to focus on making employees happy, fulfilled, and empowered in an unprecedented manner.
How to Move Forward in This New Employee-First Business Environment
Today’s leaders need to navigate the shifting power dynamic of the business environment by changing the way they think about talent. In the past, a customer-first mindset helped companies to climb the ranks and emerge as dominant organizations. Moving forward, companies will need to distinguish themselves by taking an employee-first approach to business. The shift does not mean transferring more responsibility to human resources departments or talent acquisition specialists. Rather, entire organizations need to adopt an employee-first mentality, meaning that the well-being of the employee is integral to the mission and vision of the company. Leadership needs to buy in to the idea that creating a nurturing environment for employees is critical to long-term success.
Through an employee-first approach focused on creating sustained relationships, companies can create a talent community that offers more than just a job. Organizations should think about offering candidates and employees information that is important to them, such as how to interview, create new opportunities for job growth, and unique career paths. Personalized content will attract potential employees to an organization and accrue goodwill that can later be transformed into loyalty when they join the team. While this may seem like a novel or even a revolutionary idea now, it is one that will likely gain momentum in the months to come as companies become more competitive with one another in order to attract top talent.
Other Steps to Create An Employee-First Business Environment
While the type of talent community outlined here will take time to develop, implement, and build, business leaders can take steps today to create employee-first environments at their companies. This may mean putting people before profits and recognizing the humanity of employees, as well as their contributions to and sacrifices for the company. Another option is to make wellness a central part of the workday. Companies should emphasize the need for physical, mental, and emotional wellness and provide employees with resources that they can use to achieve their goals. In addition to providing general resources, organizing retreats can help to build teams while providing a break from work. Companies also need to invest in employees’ growth and help them to identify and achieve their goals.
A lot of what supports an employee-first environment stems from corporate culture. For example, does the culture support employees who want to take risks? Is there a clear value structure for the company to which employees are held accountable? Do employees have an opportunity to bond on a personal level? Supportive cultures encourage openness, unity, and sharing. People should buy in to the vision of the company because they believe in what the organization is doing, not just because they need a job. Making people feel welcome and appreciated is a great first step in creating an employee-first environment.