As the pandemic took hold, many people thought that higher unemployment rates would lead to a deluge of candidates vying for only a few openings. Others recalled the Great Recession when there were hundreds of applicants for every job posted, expecting that 2020 would look and feel almost the same. But it so far it hasn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Many companies are reporting that application numbers are actually down year over year. Or consider the nearly 17,000 Southwest Airlines employees who seemed to surprise leadership when they signed up for leaves of absence or early retirement, rather than wait things out. What gives?
Many of our theories about the talent market are based on our understanding of supply and demand. Using it, we typically do a pretty good job of anticipating what will happen in the job market because the forces at play are usually constant. After all, everyone wants a job. Until they don’t.
This is an easy trap for people to fall into. Trying to create a narrative based on top-down analysis using general principles and the same sets of assumptions we normally use. But when we don’t recognize that these assumptions have changed, we end up surprised by the results and lead to believe the market is behaving irrationally.
In ‘uncharted waters,’ it is important to revisit our beliefs and see if they still hold. A good way to do this is to take a bottom-up approach to interpret the job market. Start by looking at what individual people are doing and why they’re doing it. When you extrapolate those specific cases into a trend, we’re more likely to arrive at a valid insight.
But that’s just the beginning. Figuring out the way forward is the tricky part. Especially when it comes to recruiting. But maybe, just maybe, this is the time to go against conventional wisdom and track down the point of destabilization and fix it.