What’s Behind the Empty Seats at the Workplace: Where Did Everyone Go?


Recruiting and hiring have always brought their share of challenges to any business, but although this is old news, we may be in the most difficult time in memory.

There are many reasons behind the empty seats, of course. Overall, it’s probably safe to say that the pandemic caused many employees to hit the proverbial reset button and reconsider the role of work in their lives. Some retired, others changed industries or launched their own businesses, and still others simply decided to sit on the sidelines for a bit.

The cumulative effect, though, is significant. According to a July 2022 study from McKinsey, the voluntary quit rate remains 25 percent higher than it was prior to the pandemic. And that same study reports that, despite the economy and inflationary pressures, 40 percent of those who haven’t yet quit are still considering it. Those are big numbers.

Add to that the trend of ‘quiet quitting,’ where workers report being actively disengaged and/or doing the bare minimum required, and we have a real problem. Employers have empty seats to fill, and the workforce as a whole is not cooperating. So what’s an employer to do?

The simple (but not easy) answer is to reconsider company culture. That McKinsey study surveyed those who had actually left their jobs and asked them why. Six of the top eight reasons for leaving revolve around leadership, organizational culture or both. These range from “uncaring and uninspiring leaders” to “lack of workplace flexibility.”

Employers are likely to have to make some accommodations to both existing and new employees, and especially younger generations. Your team members want to be heard, they want to feel valued, and they want to have some flexibility in their work arrangements (as in, working from home at least part of the time). They want meaningful work and opportunities to advance, and an organization that doesn’t provide those opportunities will like find itself looking for replacements on a regular basis.

The wild card here is the economy. This could all change very quickly, and that change has perhaps already begun in some industries. The technology sector has seen widespread layoffs from some very big names this year, for one example. But for now, filling those seats will challenge employers, and will shine a very bright spotlight on organizational culture.

As recruiters we are keenly aware that many organizations are in the process of addressing the cultural issues noted above.  But we’re also witnessing the playing field beginning to level off in some sectors, and as that occurs it becomes more important to screen for employees that not only possess the required skills but are a good fit with the organization’s culture.  It is or will very soon be the time when employers will be able to screen for a long term dedicated employee who is a good fit for whatever culture change each organization has made.  Screening for those intangibles will soon be back, if it’s not already.

Questions about the current recruiting and hiring climate? Contact Peak Partners for answers.

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