Who’s in Charge of this Mess?

April 2, 2024

For January’s newsletter, I was asked for words of wisdom on employment market trends heading into 2024. Referencing a variety of reliable sources, all saying different things, I was able to project that 2024 is going to be another unpredictable year where no one knows what is going to happen until it happens. So, no point worrying about it. Expect the unexpected, pack a lunch, and get busy living.

Today being April Fools Day, it seems wholly appropriate that I am again being asked to ponder and provide insight as to where the employment world is headed as we embark into Q2 2024… and that insight came in the form of a simple, but great question from a candidate asking me about the mixed signals the employment market was sending him. 

The question was, “Who is in charge (of the market) right now? Is it the companies who are hiring or the candidates who are looking for jobs?” Great question!!!  

If you think about it, like almost all relationships, the job market tends to have a series of power swings. Over time, the job market, just like marriage dynamics, interest rate direction, and whether Russell Wilson has any redeeming value, can and will vary considerably depending  on everything from timing to who you are asking to market conditions.

So again, who is in charge right now?

Well, in 2008 and 2009 during the Great Recession, you can bet your arse that as the financial world imploded and unemployment took off, Hiring Managers had their pick of who they wanted to select for their open roles.

Although it took a moment for those same Hiring Managers to understand, the Great Covid Jobs Recovery of 2021 and 2022 was a massive pendulum power swing the other way and job seekers suddenly were firmly in charge.  

Instead of Hiring Managers calling the shots, Candidates suddenly had the audacity to start asking for more money, career growth, better culture, flexible hours, and the ability to work from home. All great for workers, but now companies had to pony up to a job market and demographic reality where workers expected not just financial security but also a fulfilling and rewarding work experience.  

Recently though, it seems the pendulum is moving again…. So, who is in charge right now?

How about “It depends.” Or, maybe even better “Nobody?” Until recently, some sectors like Technology were flying high and candidates could name their price…. but now those candidates find themselves in a very competitive job market. Likewise, some sectors like Energy, through a combination of industry consolidation and worker demographics, now find themselves in desperate pursuit of very specific, high impact skill sets.  

Overall though, the general market seems to be stuck in a tug-o-war between companies and candidates. Each side is testing its strength versus the other. Premium candidates in premium roles still command premiums to make moves. But, if your skills haven’t kept up with what the market wants, you could easily find yourself going backward. Many companies are finding the remote workforce much more difficult to manage and want to bring people back into the office, while a lot of workers rather enjoy their newfound flexibility. 

My advice?

Whether you’re looking for people or looking for a job, if your market pendulum seems to be stuck in the middle at the moment, it’s probably not a good time to take an extreme approach either way. If you’re a job seeker, focus on skills that are in demand and be good at your job. Companies will still come looking for you. If you are a company looking to build a good workforce… good culture and a good product are always a timeless classic.  

Be careful out there folks. Seems like right now each side is attempting to find that perfect balance of the right job for the right talent at the right cost, and whether you get it right or wrong can have lasting consequences. Just ask Rusty and the Broncos.

Let’s ride.

Monte Merz

Founder / Managing Partner

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