Employer’s Market

Over the past 10 days my office has experienced an increase in opportunities for Project and Technical Professionals. This has been manna from heaven for the recruiters in my office, and we’ve been burning up the phone lines and melting the keyboards reaching out to our qualified candidates.

Time after time perfectly qualified and available candidates declined the opportunity to be submitted for a bird in the hand, because the pot of gold was not as big as their stomachs Рor some amalgamation of clich̩ that fits the scenario.

The current truth is – clients have cut their rates. A lot. And there are tons of candidates on the market. So, when your recruiter calls you with an opportunity, think twice before passing on being submitted because the available pay is less than your ego thinks it should be. In all honesty, I don’t have money in the budget with which to negotiate, or the time to squander convincing you – my management expects me to move on to other candidates quickly, so we can submit in record time before the job order closes.

I’ve shown below the text of “Would you like a pay cut or layoff?”, originally heard on Marketplace Friday 1/23/09.

Or you can listen to the story here.
Yahoo's the latest technology company looking to cut costs. Word out of Silicon Valley today is that new CEO Carol Bartz has declared a pay freeze. That's one alternative to layoffs that a number of companies are opting for as the economy sinks deeper into recession. Not getting a raise so people can keep their jobs is one thing. Getting a pay cut is quite another, as Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson reports from New York.

Jeremy Hobson: If you had the choice between a pay cut of, say 10 percent, and layoffs at your company, which would you pick?

PERSON 1: I would take a pay cut, because I don't want to see anybody else go.

PERSON 2: I'd take a little pay cut. I'd feel better about myself and if I was helping out the company. But I don't know if everyone's like me.

They're not.

PERSON 3: I'd prefer laying people off because I think that there are plenty of people at my firm who aren't carrying their weight.

The problem is, 39 percent of companies have already trimmed their work forces. That's according to a recent survey by the human resources firm Watson Wyatt. But Laura Sejen, one of the firm's practice directors, says for many companies, layoffs are only part of the story.

Laura Sejen: Either before resorting to layoffs or in addition to layoffs, companies are trying other tactics. So they're doing a hiring freeze or they're doing a salary freeze or they're putting restrictions in place on company travel.

Or they're cutting salaries. The Watson Wyatt survey found five percent of companies have already done so. A number that is expected to double in the coming year. Jo Prabhu thinks that's an understatement. She runs the recruiting firm International Services Group.

Jo Prabhu: In this current economy, there is no yardstick. Layoffs are happening daily, companies are reorganizing daily. Because there is no money, there is no credit, there is no way for them to pay their salaries.

Prabhu says just as home values were too high during the boom, some salaries were too high and now they're correcting.

Prabhu: Actually this happened to my son. His salary was being cut by 15 percent, and he asked me to look for other positions for him. But the fact of the matter is I advised him to stay within his current job because the possibility of him getting another job with the same or higher salary is almost slim to none.

The choice between layoffs and pay cuts isn't easy for managers either. Some see layoffs as better for morale, because everyone affected is gone. Psychologist Ken DeMeuse has been studying the workplace for decades. He says layoffs can lead to stress and guilt for employees who stick around. That means reduced productivity and higher health care costs for the company. DeMeuse says cutting pay means everyone feels the pain.

Ken DeMeuse: But it does tend to foster, how can we work together to save our company, to save our jobs, rather than creating a situation of haves and have nots.

Demeuse says research shows that for a pay cut to work, it's got to happen from top to bottom. Executives have to share in the pain.

DeMeuse: Secondly, there has to be a communication that it's temporary. That once the economy turns around, that your pay will be brought back to the level it once was and hopefully increased. Because you've shown good faith to stay with this company and now we're going to compensate you accordingly.

Whatever the payoff is in the future, experts say all Americans should brace for the possibility of salary cuts. Because right now, it's definitely an employer's market.

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