An Economist Says You Should Start Thinking Like One

What would an economist do? It’s a question that more and more organizations, including those involved in hiring, are asking themselves.

Economists are good at making sense of markets, trends and behaviors and are experts in collecting data and analyzing it. They also produce forecasts for a wide range of economic variables such as output and employment.

Tech companies are increasingly hiring economists and economic teams to advise on strategy, build or improve on products, evaluate economic impacts and build brand awareness.

So why should HR directors start thinking like economists? Here are three reasons.

1. To use data to help employers and job seekers find each other

We’ve quickly gone from a world where there was little data or information on what’s going on in HR to a deluge of data today. What we need now is to develop insights from all this information.

Putting workforce trends into a broader context helps employers understand whether there is something specific about their recruitment strategy or if others are facing similar challenges. By keeping abreast of data and research trends (and even collecting their own data like economists do), HR managers can become aware of trends such as whether more individuals are looking for flexible working conditions or if candidates are looking for positions in certain locations, and can tailor their job offerings accordingly.

2. To build credibility and become a thought leader

Economists often use a company’s data as the basis for developing fresh insights about the sector or market the organization operates in. With increased competition in the marketplace, companies need to utilize research both for their human capital and also to be prepared for broader changes within the corporate environment. HR directors can communicate these findings via white papers, research reports, blog posts, articles or even by sharing snippets on social media.

3. To sort the myths from the truth

There are many myths that get perpetuated around the water cooler. Having a savvy HR director who thinks like an economist and draws on hard data will inform an organization’s knowledge about how the workforce is actually evolving. For example, we often hear that everyone is moving to either a start-up or a gig job. Nope! Actually today people are more likely to work for a large company than they were in the 1970s.

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There are also many overblown myths around millennial workers, particularly that they’re big job-hoppers (Again, nope! ), and around the idea that technology is changing our economy faster than ever before.  In fact, although it’s true that we’ve got all sorts of new technology and more than ever before, the speed of technological advance looks to have slowed, and that has lots of economists concerned.

So next time you face a challenge or question in the HR space, take a moment to stop and think: “Should I ask an economist?”

Tara M. Sinclair is an associate professor of economics and international affairs at George Washington University and Senior Fellow at Indeed's Hiring Lab. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in macroeconomics and econometrics. Her research interests focus on modeling, explaining, and forecasting macroeconomic and particularly labor market fluctuations and trends for different countries. She is the co-director of the George Washington University Research Program on forecasting. As Indeed’s economist, she is developing original research using Indeed data on jobs and labor.

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