Ken Brotherston
Ken Brotherston

As we come out of the pandemic, the economy has bounced back faster and stronger than anyone imagined and the number of jobs available are at record levels.

In general, it is always wise to treat dramatic headlines or simple phrases with a large pinch of salt. My rule of thumb is this: does the person promoting the headline have an interest in it being true? If so, approach with caution.

Likewise, any survey that takes ‘intent’ and translates it into ‘certainty’ should also be handled with care. For example, a statement that ‘60% ofcandidates intend to change jobs in the next six months’ does not mean that is what’s going to happen. For the last 10 years I have fully intended to lose 10kg and do a triathlon and yet both are but still unachieved!

Which brings me to the ‘great resignation’. Despite the ubiquity of the phrase, it’s been surprisingly hard to find compelling evidence to support that it’s actually happening.

Let’s look at the evidence in favour. As we come out of the pandemic, the economy has bounced back faster and stronger than anyone imagined and the number of jobs available are at record levels. It is also a fair assumption that there is an element of catch up from candidates who have wanted to change jobs since last year but were nervous about doing so. Another factor is that September is historically an active month for jobs changes.

It is also increasingly understood that employers who refuse to consider more flexible working patterns or who appeared indifferent to the challenges of their employees during the pandemic may suffer some sort of backlash. But the ‘great resignation?’ I’m not so sure.

Let’s consider the other side of the argument. Many industries are still very challenged with employees terrified, not just about changing jobs in their sector, but about losing the one they have. There are still around one million workers about to come off furlough which will have some impact on re-dressing the imbalance in the labour market.

And if we are to talk about the ‘great resignation’, we must also look to its equal and opposite force ‘the great retention.’ The vast majority of HR and TA people can not only read, but they can count and think and figure out that something needs to be done. Whether that’s increasing salaries (around20% should do it) creating more flexible working patterns even for employees who are still required to be on site for 100% of their jobs, looking at innovative learning and development initiatives and so on and so on, they know they need to respond, and they are.

So yes, we do have a truly unique labour market right now, and no, the mismatch between supply and demand won’t last forever. In the meantime there will be a higher degree of market movement than usual but ‘the great resignation?’ I don’t think so.

Whilst the pandemic has changed many things, it hasn’t changed the fact that the best employers attract and retain the best talent but that doesn’t make much of a headline.

Share this article on social media
A new hip and happening ‘thing’ that employers are encouraged to allow their staff time to pursue, the side hustle, should be neither cool nor celebrated as it’s indicative of employers not willing to pay enough for much-needed talent.
As we, sooner or later, look at an economy beyond the pandemic (with hopefully the Omicron variant being just a hiccup) there is one aspect of how a lot of people work that has crept up on us over the years and has generally been accepted as not a bad thing –  the side hustle. But for some time now I’ve been concerned that this cool-sounding, funky term actually disguises something much more invidious and that is a reliance of too many people to need more than one job; and an unwillingness of employers to pay a proper wage.

 

From what I can see, side hustles fall into different categories: doing something you enjoy in your spare time that may or may not make a little money (often traditionally known as a ‘hobby’) is one. Alternatively, it may be a more serious undertaking: one of my senior colleagues here at TALiNT Partners is a trained counsellor and does important work with her clients outside of her work with us from which she gets a great deal of fulfilment. Calling this a side hustle, whilst technically accurate, feels disrespectful and a bit demeaning.

There are jobs done by students whilst studying or during the summer holiday. Back in my day these were mainly referred to as, er, student jobs! I do have a friend whose daughter continues to offer tutoring to students while she studies to qualify as a lawyer. To be fair, that’s a great example of a ‘side-hustle’ although I’m pretty sure once she qualifies as a lawyer and has her 2,000 billable hours to hit, it will almost certainly fall by the wayside.

Renting your spare room used to be called ‘having a lodger’ now it’s having a side hustle through Airbnb. I’m not sure I see much of a difference.

But by far most of the people who seem to have a side hustle – Uber drivers, Deliveroo riders, cleaners – are people who are generating income to pay rent, buy food and generally do the things they need to and there’s nothing ‘side’ about it; it is income that is central to their ability to get by.

A 2019 survey from CV Library suggested that 60% of people who had a ‘side hustle’ were doing it to supplement their basic income and it’s likely that COVID-19 will have made this worse rather than better.

The government announcement of the rise of the national living wage will undoubtedly make a difference, but I can’t help but think that de-glamourising this notion of a side-hustle and calling it what it is for most people and that it’s an essential element of their income – will also help.

So, for most people, a side hustle isn’t optional, and it certainly isn’t cool. And as we look across the economy at sectors desperate for staff – the care sector, hospitality, driving and warehouse staff to name a few, I can’t help but think that those employers who pay enough to have 100% of the work effort from their people, especially those who have shown the commitment, drive and often ingenuity to hold down more than one job will reap enormous benefits. That would be a nice result all round.

Share this article on social media