The reality behind the headlines: what’s really going on in the job market and how does it impact your business right now?

It’s a turbulent and unpredictable time for businesses; it was confirmed that the UK entered a ‘technical’ recession and showed smaller than predicted economic growth in 2023. There are also a lot of mixed messages and data being thrown at us by the mainstream media and HR-specific publications about the state of the job market and predictions of continued disruption driven by unsettled employees.

Employment rates still below pre-pandemic levels

The Office of National Statistics data, also from February, showed us that unemployment rates remain low at 3.8% – which on the face of it appears to be a good thing and sign of a reasonably strong economy, particularly when compared to the last ‘major’ recession where unemployment was more than double that. But we also know via the ONS that vacancies are down – so there are fewer jobs available – and we’re being told the number of companies going bust is at a 30-year high and that the jobs market is ‘beginning to stall’. Employment rates are still below pre-pandemic levels, and while the number of payrolled employees continues to increase, the rate of annual growth is actually decreasing.

On top of this changeable and uncertain landscape, we are also seeing organisations encounter or anticipate significant problems filling vacancies, as well as issues with retention. The demand or requirement for flexible working is also continuing to have an impact on employees’ desires to stay in their current role – 2 in 5 working parents are looking to switch jobs for greater flexibility and up to 50% of people would start job searching if they had to work more days in the office.

Amongst all this noise, what’s really going on in the job market? And importantly, what do you need to do now to protect your business?

To be honest, I can’t fully explain all the statistics and headlines. To an extent, they can be interpreted any which way for whatever motive or intention. As the saying goes, ‘there are three types of lies – lies, damn lies and statistics’. But as someone who works in the outplacement space every day and speaks regularly with my colleagues in our recruitment team, this is how I see it.

Right now, it’s vital that you look after your people – both while they are employed by you, and if you have to let them go.

There is a high level of fear from those entering the job market, with lots of fluctuations and mainstream media predominantly pushing a message of uncertainty; whether that’s accurate or not, perception is reality, and this is what your employees will be expecting to encounter if they unexpectedly find themselves looking for a job. We’re still in a cost-of-living crisis and yet to see the real impact of inflation coming down, reductions in energy costs, affordable childcare etc. Finding out your role has been made redundant still feels particularly unsettling right now and leads to disgruntled leavers.

“My coach played a big role in keeping me positive during my job search, particularly during the weeks when the job market was quiet. I always came away from our meetings feeling motivated.”

The value of outplacement support

Providing comprehensive and professional outplacement support with an experienced outplacement coach will not only help people find their next role faster, they will have more confidence in themselves, have greater resilience throughout the process, and really importantly they are more likely to be a positive brand ambassador for your organisation. This will make it easier for you to attract and recruit people, whenever that time comes.

Candidates continue to hold a lot of power in the current market, and through our outplacement services I am still consistently seeing people holding out, waiting for the right company and turning down offers when a company’s values, benefits and flexibility don’t align with their needs and expectations. I can guarantee the best talent on the market will be looking at your company reviews on Glassdoor or speaking to current and former employees to find out more about your business. What is it they are going to see?

“I was really down when I was made redundant and had lost confidence in myself. Having my outplacement coach there really helped me through it. She was great at listening to me and made me feel much more positive during a very difficult time. It really helped with my mental health having her there to guide me. I can’t thank her enough for her support.”

Managing ‘survivor’s guilt’ post-redundancy

You also want to retain your people that aren’t directly impacted by redundancies, sometimes called the ‘survivors’. We know that offering outplacement support to your leavers also helps you retain those not directly impacted by the process, helping assuage ‘survivor’s guilt’ and reducing the worry of ‘what if I’m next?’. Being able to share positive stories with your workforce from those who received and benefited from the outplacement services will strength this further, reassuring your current employees that you have done the right thing by their former colleagues, and will do the same for them should they also find themselves impacted by redundancy.

“It would have been the easiest thing for my consultant to get me back into a similar job. Instead, she took the time to work out what I wanted and what I could offer. Now I’m doing something that I absolutely love, earning more than I did previously and clear about what I bring to the world. I couldn’t have achieved this without my consultant’s support.”

The importance of respecting work-life balance

The other thing we know is important to people right now is flexibility; on working location and often working hours. That doesn’t mean accepting you will have to have a fully remote workforce – for many, hybrid is the preferred option in helping your people feel engaged and satisfied at work. What I am consistently seeing through my client work, however, is a desire from employees to understand the rationale behind place of work edicts; where things turn unnecessarily negative is when people feel they are being told to come in for the sake of it. Acknowledging that people have lives outside of work is important, and this also helps with your workforce diversity. For example, research has recently found that working from home helps keep more women in employment, which will help with the gender pay gap and your workforce diversity, leading to more diverse, creative thinking, greater productivity, and greater job satisfaction. All of this means your staff are less likely to leave, saving you the time and expense of recruiting as well as the impact this has on productivity.

Talk to us

If you are currently looking for a job and finding things hard going, seek support from friends and family. Take a step back to remind yourself of all the things you are great at. Grow and use your network. Make sure you tailor your CV and tell your story through your LinkedIn profile. If you have been given outplacement support, make sure you use it!

If you think we could help you or your organisation please get in touch to find out more about our market-leading outplacement programmes by visiting our page on outplacement or giving us a call on 01491 414010.


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