The Talent Market is WOKE

I consume copious amounts of media related to the future of work and The Great Resignation. What the big brains who write for HBR, McKinsey, Fast Company and others have penned is no different than what I share with clients and friends. As 2022 opens, I’m adding my voice to the Pundit Choir as we all explore why millions of folks quit their jobs last year.


People are FED UP.

You work for a company for decades, give up nights and weekends, and then the pandemic hits. Your company, the one who calls you a family member, cut the staff in half. Sticking around means more work for the same pay and in some cases, less pay. Your company leaders who celebrated during the boon and failed during the bust are scrambling to keep their jobs. Here’s what’s going on in these streets (courtesy of friends, clients, and the tea spilled on The Layoff).


  • 10% pay cuts for everyone!
  • Welcome to early retirement. (I hope you said yes, if you wait you’ll be laid off WITHOUT a package).
  • Suspended 401K match (just until we get through COVID)
  • No vaccination, no employment (it’s a federal mandate)


These pandemic responses include a series of austerity measures that leave employees scratching their scalps bald, asking, WTH am I still doing here? I could join the gig economy and fare better than waiting for a Titanic lifeboat overflowing with executives, vice presidents, and senior directors. I wonder if my friends ever recouped the 10% the company snipped from their paychecks, all in the name of saving jobs, avoiding a mass layoff, and fiscal responsibility.


Corporate values rarely reflect employee values.

Companies lead with their values and DGAF about yours as an employee. Do interviewers ask potential new hires, “what do you value?” Has HR or a member of the leadership team ever led a values discussion? Never. I’ve worked for A LOT of companies and the intersection of talent, company, and client values is not a hot topic. Is there any wonder people are exiting in droves?


On HBR IdeaCast, Espisode 833 the guest said that leadership can be out of touch with what employees need. Executives at a healthcare company actually entertained discount ski lift tickets as an HR benefit. Y’all. Ski lift tickets???? How about a child care credit? Or a discounted or free metro pass? What about a quarterly stipend for professional development to upskill or reskill?


Would you date or marry somebody who didn’t share your values? Yet, HR leaders expect talent to enter a corporate relationship, cast their values aside, and accept ski lift discounts, identity theft monitoring, and mandatory contributions to corporate foundations as a perk. A quick poll of the staff would tell HR what benefits the employees want. According to Pew Research, 29% of US adults have kids under 18 in the home. About 12% of these parents are also caregivers for aging adults. They are members of the so-called “sandwich generation.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that by 2030, all Baby Boomers will be 65+ and 9.5% of them will still be active in the US labor force. What kinds of benefits are offered to employees who are part of these shifting demographics?


The talent market is tired, period.

Essential workers are tired AF. They deal with the public every day, serving food, drawing blood, delivering groceries. They manage call centers answering health benefits and tax questions. As COVID lingers, we are revisiting what matters. Mental wellness, self-care, and physical well-being are common conversations on social sites. The pandemic is our alarm clock: wake up to what matters.


Organizations say they are struggling to fill thousands of jobs, meanwhile 57.3M Americans are gig workers. This number will grow and is a clear signal to HR leaders:  people are willing to work BUT they want flexibility, to decide when, where, and how to trade their expertise for compensation. Perhaps it’s time for HR to update their talent management playbook and embrace the shift.


Win them back.

HR leaders, stop looking for purple unicorns to fulfill every point in your essay, I mean, job description. Remove the skills assessment test from online job sites. People wouldn’t apply if they didn’t have the experience. Hire talent from an adjacent industry with transferable skills. Or, let the revolving door spin faster churning out the talented folks you overlook.


Gig workers and fellow soldiers holding it down in the organizational trenches, Stay Woke.


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