First, there was the “great resignation;” then came “quiet quitting.” And now we’re seeing the “quiet hiring” and “fractional hiring” trends build momentum as companies continue to struggle to fill critical talent gaps, and scale up or down as needed to meet changing business needs in a dynamic marketplace.
The good news is that the labor market is strong. Very strong. In May alone, U.S. employers added 339,000 jobs. And the employee “quit rate?” That’s back down to pre-pandemic levels. Great, right? Yes, But maybe a little misleading. We also have 10 million-plus job openings! Plus, it’s taking longer to hire — an average of 11 weeks to get the right candidate. And over a third of HR leaders say their recruiting strategies fall short when it comes to finding the skills they need. Not surprising, in a world where skills have a shelf life of less than two years.
At the same time, as companies continue to beef up their employee retention efforts they’re extending the duration of parental leaves — a good thing. But that’s also driving increased, intermittent talent gaps. On top of that, some organizations (yours?) are starting to put the brakes on headcount.
What’s most disturbing to me? What we’re doing to our employees — our most important assets. I just saw a new report this week showing continuing high burnout rates among professionals in this country. Now a third to nearly half the workforce! With mounting business pressures, heavier-than-ever workloads and staff shortages, something’s got to give. We can’t keep stretching our high performers so thin. You can be sure their productivity is being affected. And their loyalty. They won’t hesitate to soon start looking for greener pastures.
How, then, can we fill the gaps to keep the business on track without overwhelming our employees? And how can we achieve the work/life balance today’s employees are seeking — no, demanding?
To beat the current talent challenge takes a one-two punch, in my view. First, we need to look at upskilling in critical areas. There’s no question this will be a win-win. Upskilling can support your team’s career growth while making your organization agile and future-ready. We’re seeing upskilling strategies work for many of our fastest-growing clients. And importantly, they’re coupling this approach with a second strategy — one that focuses on interim talent to take the pressure off and keep the business thriving.
Over the many years we’ve supported clients in this area through our FleXforce group, we’ve never seen higher demand for interim talent. In fact, temporary business management roles are up close to 20% from two years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This has been an especially effective strategy for clients who needed to keep go-to-market plans on track while key functional leads were out on extended leave. Also, in areas like digital, where there is constant evolution, bringing in experienced interim talent has been a great way to not fall behind during critical times. And I’ve seen a number of start-ups punch above their weight, having had good success using “fractional hiring” to get the expertise they needed at the higher executive levels — contracting for a fraction of their time without breaking the bank with a full headcount.
One watch-out to keep in mind: When hiring on an interim basis, make sure your candidates have the exact experience you need. And plenty of it. Someone with at least 15 years of operational experience. Someone prepared to onboard rapidly and jump in with both feet, so opportunities aren’t missed.
There will always be market conditions that make upskilling and interim talent strategies right for a business, whether building a brand, generating an innovation pipeline or creating a go-to-market strategy. But especially now, the marketplace needs strong, qualified and flexible talent. If there’s one thing we learned during the pandemic, it’s the importance of employing new and creative talent strategies to ensure our organizations can turn on a dime to maintain business continuity and meet the latest challenges of the day. So I ask, are you ready to add a new one-two punch into your talent strategy repertoire to keep your team off the ropes and take your business to new levels?
Jason Reiser is president of sales services and strategy for Market Performance Group; marketpeformancegroup.com.