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People keep asking . . . . .

When I turned 63 (and I am now 65), people started asking me about my retirement plans.  No one asked before I turned 63.  Interestingly, the number of questions I get on this topic have decreased as I have ‘passed through’ 63. 

Let me answer . . . . . I am not planning on retiring in the next few years (actually – not for a LONG time)!  But that is not the topic of this blog!

We, as executive search professionals, are in the job market every day.  We see trends.  As a profession, we are considered a ‘leading economic indicator’ – if we are busy, that is a good economic sign and bodes well for the economy for the next 3 – 6 months (generally).  There are many other leading indicators – we are simply one of them.  So, what are we seeing and what are people asking us?

Are we busy?

Yes – and we don’t see it slowing down.  Our clients are small to medium-size organizations representing multiple sectors (manufacturing, healthcare, retail, not-for-profits, academia, etc.).  They continue to have needs.  (See next question!) 

Why are we busy?

To start the calendar year, we received three calls from three very different employers about the same need – they had a “surprise retirement”.  These are two words we don’t often see put together.  We see surprise turnover or a pre-planned retirement, but never (before this) a surprise retirement.  People have decided to change their routines – getting away from work as their main activity.  We can get into the reasons, but the trend is clear. 

As the year has progressed, we continue to see turnover at senior levels – retirements ahead of schedule, people going to other career or job opportunities and people moving to be closer to family. 

We are also seeing growth.  Our clients are not concerned about the dollar’s performance against foreign currency on a daily basis.  Remember – our market is focused on small to medium-size employers.  They are laser-focused on doing great work and increasing their market share. 

What are candidates asking when we call them?

The first question we receive is about hybrid work arrangements.  Remember, virtually everyone we talk with is busily employed.  They are engrained in their current work environment.  They moved to home-based (or partially home-based) work when COVID started.  Most have not entirely moved back to full in-office schedules.  They like the flexibility and don’t want to change it. 

The follow-up question for regional or national searches is about location/relocation.  Candidates do not want to relocate.  They are asking about commuting possibilities.  Many large and multi-national companies are offering fully remote work possibilities.  As mentioned above, our clients are what I refer to as ‘Mainstreet USA’.  They want people in the office.  While they may be national or global in scope, their headquarters staff is all in the same building. 

The next question they ask (OR we ask) is about salary.  Overall, organizations have done well during COVID (yes – there are exceptions).  And salary increases have been above the typical 3%.  They want substantial upside potential if they are going to talk with us.  NOTE – in Minnesota, Wisconsin and many other states/municipalities, we can legally ask about current salary expectations.  We do this to avoid challenges later in a search process.  We want to assure we have ‘room to talk’ with our candidates. 

How is the overall job market?

Candidates often engage us in a more macro-employment conversation.  The answer – we are still seeing record low unemployment and challenges finding people at all levels.  National unemployment is at 3.7%.  The Minnesota rate is at 2.1%.  Unemployment for people 25 and older with a four-year degree or higher is at 1.9%.  Those numbers truly represent full employment – jobs available for all that want them.  (That does not mean finding a job is easy, but there are jobs out there and not as many readily available workers to fill them.)  We can emphatically state that finding candidates for the searches we do is challenging, not impossible, but challenging nonetheless. 

Keep asking!

And we will keep answering.  Executive/retained search firms are a barometer of the economy.  We will continue to track trends and report back.