Think the bosses are back in charge? Think again: Recruiters predict talent will keep leverage for another 5 years

March 21, 2023, 1:13 PM UTC
Meta CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg
Don’t be fooled into thinking Mark Zuckerberg’s back-to-the-office call amid layoffs signals that workers no longer have bargaining power.
SAUL LOEB—Getty Images

As countries around the globe face varying levels of economic hardship, business leaders have been trying to take back some of the leverage their employees gained in boom times.

On the heels of a second round of mass layoffs, Meta’s founder Mark Zuckerberg called on staff to “find more opportunities to work with your colleagues in person.” Likewise, Amazon told employees to return to offices three days a week from May in the aftermath of letting 18,000 workers go. 

It’s a clear sign that workers no longer have the same bargaining power they possessed during the pandemic and the Great Resignation era. With financial security now at stake, employers are hoping that workers will ask “How high?” when told to jump, instead of conscious quitting, career cushioning, or rage-applying.  

But despite bold moves from the tech industry signaling that bosses are back in charge, recruitment experts warn otherwise. 

LinkedIn interviewed thousands of recruiting professionals to find out what the future of recruiting holds.

And although a slowdown in hiring and a contracting economy typically translate to less power for workers, 64% of those surveyed predicted that the leverage will be more favorable to candidates and employees (as opposed to employers) over the next five years. 

Employers still won’t be able to low-ball candidates

With rising inflation and a competitive labour market, businesses may think that they can go back to the pre-pandemic ways of lowballing candidates.

Yet, despite there being a plethora of candidates hiring managers can chose from, all of whom need stability during the cost-of-living crises, this old-school tactic still won’t fly.

“As a corporate recruiter, I used to be proud of closing a candidate for a less-than-market or less-than-approved offer—now I’m embarrassed that I did that,” John Vlastelica, CEO at Recruiting Toolbox, says in the report. 

He warns that the “new hire becomes an immediate flight risk who can be poached with a better offer”—especially if talent retains the upper hand. 

To stay competitive, the report recommends employers offer candidates the thing they want most “by a fairly wide margin”—excellent compensation and benefits.

“There’s much more to your employer brand than good pay and flexibility, and offering them may not make you stand out—but be warned: If you don’t provide them, talent will take notice,” the report adds.

DEI is still a priority

In an uncertain economy, businesses go into budget-cutting mode. 

It’s why some may worry that in spite of the progress made during the pandemic to bolster diversity in the workplace, such efforts may be pushed down the priority list or pulled back entirely.

According to LinkedIn’s report, that won’t be the case.

Though most recruiting pros admit that hiring on a whole has been negatively impacted, three out of four say that inclusive hiring has not been deprioritized. In fact, nearly 20% say it’s a higher priority now than in previous years.

Plus, in a clear warning to leaders who may be tempted to scale back on their DEI pledges anyway, the report advises that employees, candidates, and consumers will hold businesses to account on the promises they made.

“DEI is a priority to the next generation of employees,” says Dr Tana Session, LinkedIn’s DEI strategist. “Their expectation is to see leaders who look like them and to know organizations are committed to DEI long-term—not only during times of social crisis.”  

There’s still progress to be made

“While it is encouraging to see that diversity, equity, and inclusion remains a key business priority in the face of economic uncertainty, there are still too many women who struggle to rejoin the workforce after having a family, and too few in senior leadership positions,” Becky Schnauffer, head of global clients at LinkedIn Talent Solutions, tells Fortune

LinkedIn’s data shows that while women currently make up 42% of the overall workforce, under a third of senior leadership positions are held by women.

According to the report, women typically set a higher self-qualification bar to apply for jobs, so by hiring for skills instead of traditional experience, hiring managers can increase the talent pool of (underrepresented) women by 24%.

“Our research suggests that focusing on skills-based hiring, as well as offering flexible working as a standard, can help companies expand their talent pools and significantly increase a woman’s likelihood of applying for a job, especially for industries that currently have low female representation,” Schnauffer adds.

While fostering an inclusive work environment will make businesses more appealing to female candidates, according to the report, an added bonus is that it’s also key to attracting Gen Z workers.  

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