A Talent Free-For-All

They said it was coming. And now it’s here. It’s the biggest talent free-for-all in my lifetime.

It’s like an employment game of musical chairs where everyone is reconsidering their career path, their current employer, and their life in general. Welcome to the COVID aftermath (and we’re not even done with COVID yet)

Across virtually every industry people are reassessing their careers and their lives. The “rules” have changed. Like the fight scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid, the rules are there are no rules. People are leaving jobs, starting new ones, dropping out of the workforce like never before. We are in the eye of the storm right now, and while I believe it will subside by 2022, the new work rules will be different than the old ones.

What’s changed? Obviously COVID was an accelerant of change that was already happening. The in-office 40-hour work week of Henry Ford served us well last century and still has some relevance today, but far less so. In a lower unemployment economy along business needed to raise its minimum wage either through law or market forces, business is forced to greater flexibility. Moreover, technology is a game changer where people are able to legitimately work-from-home. So obviously we’ll see more WFH, 4 day weeks, even after the COVID issues subside.

However, think about the impact of COVID on business if it happened in the 80s. Few computers, cell phones, no internet, no VPNs. Business and life would have come to a crashing halt.

But in the 20s, we have witnessed that it is possible in many industries to work remotely and to be productive, and continue to operate. But possible is not necessarily optimal. I believe we are also seeing the cost of the WFH business operation in a reduced emotional tie to one’s employer, lessened comradery, collaboration and cooperation. Employees have joined new companies during the 18+ month COVID and left never having met their co-workers in person. The “cost” we are now seeing is a malaise in the remote workplace and more employees seeking greener pastures, which may or not be so green. What I suspect we’ll see in the greater turnover in 2021 is that in 2022 an awakening that for some the “grass aint greener, the wine aint sweeter other side of the hill”.

The changes effect businesses in different ways. In healthcare for example, there are (appropriate) mandates for vaccination which will lead to some job departures combined with burnout of a higher stress profession to begin with. But WFH is not an option for most in a healthcare industry, at least not for those with direct patient care. In other industries, restaurants, hotels are struggling to fill jobs and workers understandably felt burnt by their immediate dismissal as COVID hit. Why return to those jobs, workers understandably say?

Unemployment payments, desperately needed by many, did keep some out of the workplace in the short term, but that will no longer be the case.

But the biggest issue is that many are questioning their career, their life assumptions, and their work-life balance to a greater degree than ever.

However, for those with a WFH option here’s my advice as COVID fades. Go back to the office, at least sometimes. Go more often than required. This may sound old school but there’s a benefit of “being there”, of management seeing you and thinking about you, forming impressions and mentoring you. We are going through chaos now in many industries, and the sands have shifted for all. The rules of employment have changed forever though

I suspect that by next spring when COVID (hopefully) becomes a less burning issue, a little more stability will take hold, albeit in a new way. Yes, everyone feels empowered to manage one’s own career, of being their own one man/woman brand. That’s healthy. Yet, as a “new normal” happens (I dislike the term but it has its use) in 2022, some of the basic principles of managing one’s career will take hold again. For those who are using the short term chaos as an opportunity to move on, be sure that the grass really is greener and the wine really is sweeter on the other side of the hill.

Welcome to the new world of employment.

More Strumings

Leave a Reply