Weekly Wrap: Despite Employee Optimism, It’s Still a Buyer’s Market For Talent

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Sometimes people tell me I’m just too negative for constantly referring to the post recession economic recovery as “mediocre.”

I know; June’s monthly employment report from the Labor Department talks about better-than-expected job growth last month, but the fact of the matter is that the U.S. economy needs about 200,000 new jobs each month just to keep the unemployment rate steady. That means that June’s 195,000 new jobs, whether that figure is better-than-expected or not, is just keeping us even.

That’s the definition of mediocre in my book.

Employees, however, seem to be more bullish on job growth than I am, and the latest survey released this week by Glassdoor seems to bear that out.

“Most promising signs in five years”

Glassdoor’s Q2 2013 Employment Confidence Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, found that “more than two in five (43 percent) employees (including those self-employed) believe they could find a job in the next six months that matches their experience and current compensation levels, a high since the third quarter of 2009.”

That’s surprisingly optimistic given the less-than-stellar economic recovery.

Another recent survey — the Randstad Employee Confidence Index, also conducted by Harris Interactive — was released right before the July 4th holiday and also shows that “America’s workforce is reporting some of the highest levels of confidence seen since the recession. … Measuring employee’s attitude toward the economy, their employers, and even their ability to find a new job, the Randstad Index rose to 56.8 points in June, indicating a 2.0-point uptick in overall confidence among U.S. workers since May.”

According to Jim Link, managing director of Randstad U.S., “Our Index figures align with the June Consumer Confidence Index, which saw the most promising signs in five years. (It) also found over a third of employees are likely to seek a new job in the next 12 months – a sign that the economy has better opportunities available in the eyes of job seekers. The recent strengthening of both the stock market and residential property values are two factors that may help build confidence of the American labor market in months to come.”

I agree with the Randstad analysis that the stock market and rebound of the housing sector have restored some confidence in people, and as Ronald Reagan used to say, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”  Yes, good economic news in housing and the markets will definitely make people feel better about things, and people who feel better about economic matters are pre-disposed to feel optimistic about their job prospects.

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Still a buyer’s market for talent

That’s what these two surveys are saying, I think, and they seem to reflect more pent up demand and a a desire to feel better about the economy than anything else. People are sick of bad economic news, and they’re probably also sick of people like me reminding them that by any reasonable historical yardstick, the current economic “recovery” is mediocre at best.

Blame who you will for that, but I think it’s hard to ignore the inability of the Congress to do much of anything except squabble, as well as the lack of any sustained focus on job growth from the man in the big chair on Pennsylvania Avenue.

My take is that people are ready to be optimistic about the economy and jobs because they’re tired of being negative. They want things to be better so they project that feeling into surveys like this despite the fact that the implementation of Obamacare and the looming end of the economic stimulus by the Federal Reserve will undoubtedly have a negative effect on job growth.

In other words, it’s still a buyer’s market for talent. Employers are still in the driver’s seat and can still dictate terms, conditions, and wages to would-be employees no matter how much more optimistic they are feeling about things. And only 195,000 new jobs in June — barely enough to keep unemployment from moving upward — seems to underscore that.

The lesson for HR from DOMA

Of course, there’s more than if workers are optimistic about their job prospects in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Five reasons everyone sucks at interviews. Fast Company recently made the point that “job interviews are strange rituals,” and they are 100 percent right. They also dug into a recent New Yorker article by Maria Konnikova in order to find out “why interviewers are so bad at their job –to suss out whether a candidate will do well.” They came up  with 5 Reasons Everyone Sucks at Job Interviews, and it is worth a read for anyone who interviews anybody, ever. 
  • Employee Engagement more than just a productivity booster. John Baldoni, writing on the HBR Blog network, says that “Improving employee engagement is not simply about improving productivity — although organizations with a high level of engagement do report 22 percent higher productivity … In addition, strong employee engagement promotes a variety of outcomes that are good for employees and customers. … Engagement also improves quality of work and health. For example, higher scoring business units report 48 percent fewer safety incidents; 41 percent fewer patient safety incidents; and 41 percent fewer quality incidents (defects).”
  • The lesson from DOMA for HR. Liz Ryan at Bloomberg Businessweek had an interesting take on what the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act should mean for human resources: “We HR leaders made a fatal error when we wrote our HR policies, handbooks, and benefit plans merely to comply with existing laws. That was way too low a bar. It was a corporate culture cop-out, you might say. We knew that our gay and lesbian co-workers were getting hosed. It was an organizational decision, in every case, to limit the benefits paid out to every one of our employees. The death of DOMA is a huge wake-up call for employers, because the universe is telling us loudly: ‘Set the bar higher, where your team is concerned.’ ”
  • Harrison Ford answers Star Wars questions (sort of). Call this a holiday weekend diversion, but you should check out Harrison Ford “answering” audience questions on the Jimmy Kimmel Show earlier this year.


John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.