We live in a world that feeds on the frenetic energy of competition. Our societies consume competition the same way we use gas, oil and water: with a reckless fervor and no consideration of tomorrow. As individuals, we engage with competition in every facet of our lives, including hiring. The competition is never ending. But what if we’re looking at the competition the wrong way? What if the competition is over us?
The Job Market As A Free-Agent Frenzy
If there’s a scenario that mimics the current hiring landscape, it’s free agency in any of the four major American sports: football, hockey, basketball, and baseball. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the term, free agency is a period of the off-season in which players without a contract become simultaneously available to every team in the league.
Let’s set the stage using baseball as an example, since opening day is still fresh in our memories. The goal of every baseball team is to win the World Series. In order to win the World Series, you need talented players on your team. Substitute maximum profit for World Series and we’re talking about every business in existence, right?
Now that we’ve got the functioning analogy, let’s flesh it out. At the end of every baseball season, contracts expire. Sometimes, the contracts of the best players in the league aren’t renewed, so they become free agents. This past season, one of the best pitchers in baseball, Max Scherzer, became a free agent. The moment Scherzer became available, all 30 teams called about his services.
It makes a whole lot of sense that multiple employers want the same employee. Talent and skill should be coveted. Scherzer would have visited the teams he deemed the most attractive potential employers and been wooed by the advantages of playing for their team. In this case, the employer pitches (no pun intended) the employee.
The amount of money that baseball teams have spent during free agency has steadily climbed over the last decade to almost $2 billion in 2013 to 2014. So what’s the reason for this spending spree? It’s all about leverage. Fans want championships, and in a league where winning is so difficult, spending money on the right free agent can push teams that much closer to their ultimate goal. Players know this, and as long as they remain patient, the first offer they receive won’t always be the best. As teams become more desperate to sign the best available players, salaries climb.
If 2015 really is the year of the employee, it bodes well for anybody looking for a job in the coming years. Say the market for hiring employees will go the way of free agency—the most skilled and talented workers among us are in for a nice boost in both salary and choice of employer.
This hypothetical situation has a couple of caveats, the most obvious being that several leagues have salary caps and we’re not suggesting five-figure salaries will turn into multi-million dollar contracts. The earning power of all-star athletes (and the debate surrounding their astronomical salaries) is a conversation for another day. However, potential employees with highly coveted skill sets should find themselves in similarly powerful bargaining positions with the top companies in their industries and niches.
The State of The Business Economy
In the U.S., more than 540,000 businesses are started every month. New businesses generally mean more jobs. That means positions open up across the board—at small businesses, big brands, and Fortune 500 companies.
For the last five to 10 years, people seeking jobs have had the mentality that they need to cherish any job opportunity—no matter the conditions or salary—because they won’t be able to find anything else. As a potential employee, this isn’t the best feeling to have.
In 2015, things have begun to change. “More jobs” is the operative phrase for companies and business, not job seekers. Any company that believes they can still get top talent at rock-bottom prices is in for a rude awakening. The cream of the potential employee crop may gravitate toward a company where they feel welcome and wanted, not necessarily where they’re treated like they’re lucky to have a job.
About 60 percent of employers expect to increase hiring in 2016, yet more than four in 10 companies say they struggle to find qualified job candidates. It’s no longer a competition for jobs; it’s a competition for talent. In fact, companies that aren’t willing to spend time and energy to recruit talented employees will lose out. They risk not finding the people with the potential to make the most impact on their bottom lines because they won’t even know they exist.
The Importance of Corporate Culture
It’s just as vital for companies to understand the impending hiring shift as it is for job hunters. While professional sports teams understand the need to open their wallets, businesses of all sizes need to realize there are viable ways to attract high-value employees in addition to a competitive salary. That’s where other factors, like corporate culture, come in.
Corporate culture has been named one of the biggest trends for companies that want to improve their customers’ experiences. When employees understand their organization down to the very core, they’re arguably better at delivering on and supporting the company’s strategies and representing those innate tenets.
Companies with strong internal cultures and good customer experience deliveries can be more desirable places to work because existing employees are all-in on the brand. These kinds of employers are also heavily reliant on their team members and they reward them for it (as opposed to piling on the work and using an employee’s job insecurity against them). Make it your goal to put corporate culture at the forefront. Identify your key values as a company and make them clear to everyone on your team. Present these values on your company site or in a newsletter so customers know what you’re all about too. While it’s important to stick to remember your values, consider them fluid. Is something not working? Does a current employee have a better idea or suggestion for more suitable values? Seek input from your team and streamline your values as your company grows and changes.
Make no mistake, there are companies out there trying to win over the top “free agents” in the employee pool. If you aren’t putting any work into your company’s culture or hiring process, you’re not even in the same league as your top competitors.
Embrace Competition or Get Left Behind
Whether you believe it or not, the hiring shift is coming. If companies ignore the free agent market, in two years they may wonder why they’re so dissatisfied with their recent hires. If employees don’t put a little bit of faith that the job market is really changing, they could miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime.
It’s not that companies need to spend money they don’t have to hire worthwhile people. Using baseball as an example, small market teams that don’t have unlimited funds have made strides in recent years by changing the culture of their organizations and spending their limited budget more efficiently on things like inbound talent marketing and talent acquisition software.
It’s the motive behind the money that counts. If companies think and act like they hire talented people, they’ll do it. The talent will accept a job for less money than they could earn elsewhere just to be a part of a company that embraces them (which is rather common among professional athletes, even leaving millions on the table).
In a competition-ridden world, the most important battles are the ones we don’t realize are happening. As an employer or job hunter, keep this hiring shift in mind.