The Great American Reset for employers in today’s candidate-driven market

Personnel Matters

For decades, employers have become accustomed to making the rules when it comes to whom they hire, but that was before the advent of the Great Resignation.

Roughly 33 million Americans quit their jobs in spring 2021, a trend that continued as last year progressed. In November alone, 4.5 million workers left their positions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That leaves job candidates feeling pretty good about themselves, empowered to push for remote options, increased flexibility and higher salaries. Work-life balance discussions that were previously taboo for candidates to initiate during an interview should be an anticipated topic by hiring managers.

The Great American Reset for Workers boils down to this for employers: What you want doesn’t really matter right now. What matters is what you can get. That’s not an easy message to embrace, but it’s a reality for all of us, staffing and search firms included. 

Look at it this way. You might want a 2016 Porsche 911 Turbo S with less than 20,000 miles on it for $40,000. You’re not going to get it.

The talent market works the same way, going back to the basic economics of supply and demand. You might want a top tier candidate willing to work 60 hours a week who will agree to two weeks’ vacation and a salary in the 30s.

It’s just like that Porsche. You’re not going to get it unless you’re willing to up your ante.

We used to see 20 or more qualified applicants for one opening. That’s history. Today’s completely different model requires companies market themselves to candidates instead of vice versa. Candidates know they have more good choices than ever before. They’re customers in every sense of the word and just like shoppers seeking a deal, if they don’t see what they like, they look elsewhere.

That’s even true for hourly positions. It’s no longer OK to pay minimum wage. Pay rate is everything. Hiring managers aren’t going to get folks in the door touting their family culture, especially if they’re paying $2 an hour less than competitors. That adds up to $4,000 a year — pretty impactful for someone making $14 an hour.

The lesson in all of this is that employers must force themselves to adjust because those who successfully do can still win. If you’re an employer looking to staff your business with experienced employees who have an outstanding work ethic and a clean background, take a hard look at what you’re paying and offering as a company. If you don’t do that, you not only risk not filling your vacancies, you also could see an exodus of your top employees because retaining talent in this climate is a challenge, too.

Of course, you have a budget. But remember, if you don’t have a business, you don’t have a budget.

So, forget what you want. Focus on what you can get and recognize you’ve still got the tools to get it. If you’re not attracting the type of applicants you want, something has to change. As an employer, you’re used to distinguishing your product for the external customer. Our current economic climate requires you to take a hard look internally at what needs to improve to keep your staff at full capacity so you can prosper moving forward. 

About Eric Kean 8 Articles
Eric Kean is principal at The Lee Group, executive recruitment and headhunting firm, serving in multiple roles as one of the firm’s leaders and visionaries. He manages business across all of The Lee Group locations, collaborating with the leadership team on key decision making and strategy. Kean can be reached at 873-0792 or by email at

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