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Talent Employer Brand The Future of Work

The great reflection: what does talent really want?

By Imogen Wallersteiner, Senior strategist



The Drum Network article

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October 31, 2022 | 7 min read

Is the ‘great resignation’ caused by a deeper phenomenon, the ‘great reflection’? Imogen Wallersteiner and Henry Bushell, creative strategists at Wiser, argue that it’s time to change the way we think about work.

A timepiece being spent in a slot, like a coin in a vending machine

As employees re-think how they spend their time, employers must ask: how can we give them what they really want? / Morgan Housel via Unsplash

The great resignation,’ ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘ghosting coasting.’ What do these terms have in common?

They aren’t just terms that have sprung from post-Covid turbulence across the world of work. No; they signal the next stage in a movement that began long before Covid. The root causes date back over a decade – and unless companies are prepared to change the way they think about talent, this state of flux could be here to stay.

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Let’s rewind the clock

It is an undeniable fact: the landscape of work has shifted.

Phrases like ‘bad work’ and ‘bad bosses’ have begun to take on real meaning, and the data backs up this discontent. Uber and Lyft have been facing driver strikes across the US and UK since 2017. Online, Reddit community r/antiwork, where people proudly announce they are quitting their jobs, has grown rapidly to 2 million members. In March 2022 there were 11.3m job openings in the USA, and only 6.3 million people were unemployed. Meanwhile, in the UK, constant rail strikes define disruption.

Supply and demand for talent are no longer matching up like your economics professor said they would.

The working world has been in flux since long before Covid. And it is becoming clear that this is the state in which it will remain for the foreseeable future. So, amid this sea of unfilled vacancies, how can employers stand out? How can they hire the right people to fill them? What does talent really want?

It’s all about the clock

‘Quiet quitting,’ the recent phenomenon that has swept across TikTok and Instagram, is all about time. As Zaid Khan, the man who coined the term, says, it’s about “quitting the idea of going above and beyond.” Whether that’s giving yourself a full hour for lunch or setting an alarm to 8.59am, quiet quitting is about making conscious choices over how you spend your time. People are no longer prepared to give their time with not enough in return.

The pandemic forced us all to take a pause and think about how we spend our time. Days and weeks in isolation; moments we were unable to share with loved ones: it all reminded us how precious our time really is.

Perhaps ‘the great resignation’ was really caused by a ‘great reflection.’ People sat back and considered how they wanted to spend their time. Many left their jobs as a result. It can’t help that, in the current cost of living crisis, employees feel increasingly overworked and underpaid.

Why should they sacrifice their time for so little in return?

At Wiser, we transform how brands attract and retain talent. Our experience of working with leaders and their businesses proves that many issues stem from the realization that people now value their time more. But most companies haven’t really realized that yet, and haven’t adapted to these changing needs. Companies aren’t using the right messages to attract talent, and they’re not building cultures that make people want to invest their time in work.

Earning people’s time

If time is the root cause of these workplace trends, what can leaders do to fix it?

There’s always been a case for investing in company culture; 67% of job seekers would take a lower salary to be part of a great one. A toxic culture is 10 times more likely to contribute to attrition than inadequate pay.

But it’s easy to talk about ‘investing in culture’ without providing tangible steps to achieve that. In a rapidly-changing world of work, it’s no surprise that many leaders suffer from analysis paralysis in the face of a talent marketplace in flux.

We recently launched Wiser Insights – our thought leadership guide taking a pulse on the world of work – with a panel event. We asked business leaders how they’re earning people’s time. Culture-building was the topic of the night, and as Ganan Kanagathurai, UK chief executive of Itsu, pointed out, companies “now need to create cultures that people want to come and work for.”

We’ve done our research, and it’s clear that perceptions have changed. Time at work must be time well spent.

To find out how you can earn your people’s time, download our Wiser Insights report today.

Talent Employer Brand The Future of Work

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Wiser is an award-winning creative & recruitment company combining culture and performance to change the way people think about work.It's a home for people who...

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