The (short-term) future of work and job searching

By Wojciech Gryc on May 12, 2021

Summary: The short-term future of work promises to be confusing and chaotic. It also provides opportunities for employers to innovate... The challenge will be motivating people to apply for jobs and stay engaged.

Future of Work

Job seekers are stressed, while those who've held on to work during COVID are demotivated. Recent news of a labor shortage and increasing consumer prices put stress on both employers and employees. Here's what's going on and what companies can do.

What's going on with labor and jobs?

Hiring in April 2021 has been slower than expected -- while 1 million jobs were expected to be filled in the US, the number ended up at only 266,000. Is this a blip? Or a major change in how people are looking for work?

Heather Long at the Washington Post calls it a "great reassessment": employees and job seekers want to have a different relationship with work post-pandemic, and given the benefits provided during COVID, expect to be paid better (or more equitably). Some argue that it's the COVID social safety net preventing people from looking for work, and that this will all go away in September, when benefits begin running out.

Unfortunately, the debate on what's causing the labor shortage will likely continue for some time. We'll be blaming birth rates, inflation, and more. Here's what we do know:

  • People aren't seeking jobs as aggressively as was expected, and at least in the short run, there will likely be a labor shortage.
  • Unemployed workers are stressed out. 70% of unemployed adults are "more stressed than usual" according to the Pew Research Center.
  • Employees and job seekers are rethinking their careers. According to the study above, 66% of unemployed adults have considered changing careers.
  • The trends above apply to those employed as well: 59% of middle-income employees say they're thinking of changing jobs.
  • Recent news of inflation and rising consumer prices will likely make people more stressed before things get better.

How can employers innovate and help?

There are lots of things employers can do to help employees cope, or encourage job seekers to seek them out.

  • Compensation and benefits strategies will evolve quickly. As a case in point, on Monday, Chipotle announced it was raising wages and introducing referral bonuses in its bid to hire 20,000 employees.
  • Social networks are launching new ways to search for jobs. TikTok just announced a jobs board for Gen Z job seekers, allowing them to apply via video resume.
  • Working from home and workplace flexibility will be critical in the coming months. There is no "one size fits all" answer to balancing remote work and office time, however. The key is flexibility, and as an employer, it's important to understand that your employee base, work location, and office culture will have an impact on the ideal approach.
  • As a result, the workflow of HR and employee experience is changing. More organizations need to collect data, survey employees, and include wellness and experience feedback in performance reviews.

The coming months promise to usher a great deal of change in employee experience. Employers who are proactive and respond quickly to job seeker and employee needs will ride the wave to new opportunities, while those slow to adapt must accept a great deal of risk.

© 2021