Why you should care
The firms that survive the next recession will embrace the lessons of the gig economy.
You’re the boss … and your two-person finance team is falling apart. After just 18 months on the job, the young man who handles receivables and payables — and who took nearly six months to train — has decided to backpack around Asia and has given notice. His colleague is six months pregnant. Your chief financial officer search, meanwhile, has been ongoing for a year, and the seat remains glaringly empty.
Keeping finance machines well-oiled is a tough gig in any business. Combine that with new concerns over the possibility of a global recession taking hold — which will invariably make people less likely to job-hop — and that inability to fill seats becomes doubly concerning.
The data is clear: Hiring finance talent is tougher than ever. A study of industry leaders by consulting firm Ranstad found that most teams are 13 percent below desired staffing levels and that it takes 75 days to fill empty positions. For executive positions, it can take closer to 150 days.
That means the other contributors on your team are overworked — and some are quitting because of it.
Companies that have refused to adopt more flexible work styles struggle to attract and retain millennial hires, who are increasingly needed to replace boomers in the workforce. The finance industry is particularly guilty here, requiring staffers to dress the part and show up from 9 to 5 and later.
But if companies want to entice young, new talent, they must innovate — a need that’s all the more pronounced with a possible recession on the horizon.
Change Is Coming
Until cloud computing, working from home wasn’t an option due to data safety concerns and poor telecommunications technology, and culture wasn’t a huge focus for numbers-first corporations. But excellent company culture will be key to standing out, and surviving the next recession, because millennials and Gen Zers place importance on things like good benefits and positive workplace culture. When top talent has to choose between working for a company with these perks or one without, the latter always misses out on a great hire.
Younger employees know they’re going to spend most of their waking hours at work, so more and more of them are making sure those hours come with a culture and benefits that make it worthwhile. They crave the freedom of a freelance position when it means the benefit of better work-life balance, more freedom and good treatment.
During recessions, workers might not be leaving their jobs voluntarily. But in rough economic times, many turn to freelance work to make ends meet, and the first place they’ll take their skills will be to companies with a highly acclaimed culture.
Industry behemoths and midsize firms have long had an attitude that young employees should feel privileged to work for them. Now, with younger generations comprising the bulk of the workforce, corporations are scrambling to fill roles, backtracking to come up with benefits and implementing diversity initiatives that resonate with younger job seekers. When applicants don’t see people like themselves at the top of the ranks, they can struggle to see how they might grow their career at the organization and fit into its future.
As we anticipate the coming recession, bosses should see the evolving workplace as an opportunity. Now is the time for companies that have historically imposed antiquated dress codes, work hours and benefits policies to put on a fresh face and focus on what matters.
These same culture shifts are already taking place in many industries. Tech giants like Google, Microsoft and Samsung are reacting swiftly to changing talent demands and satisfying a younger talent pool by utilizing programs for remote workers. Google has an initiative that helps employees build freelance careers, while Microsoft and Samsung have on-demand talent teams to fill resource gaps with contractors when needed.
The autonomy and flexibility provided by freelancing are attractive to talented workers in all fields, finance included. In fact, 51 percent of freelancers say they wouldn’t switch back to a 9-to-5 job — no matter the salary, according to the 2018 Freelancing in America survey by Upwork and Freelancers Union.
People want to do more of the things they love and less of what they don’t, leading employees to perfect their specialized skills. These workers, with niche talents allowing them to seamlessly support existing teams, are the perfect candidates for project-based work.
Bosses should see the next recession as a do-or-die moment to adapt to an increasingly remote workforce. This will not only fill talent gaps during and after a recession but also augment full-time employees’ skill sets and lighten their workload, creating a stronger company culture.
Businesses that resist this changing hiring landscape will be left behind by the next global economic downturn.
Michael Burdick is the co-founder and CEO of Paro.