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You Can't TikTok Your Way to a Good Job

Caught between a sluggish economy and an enduring global skills shortage, displaced workers do not really want quick, self-serve fixes to help them navigate to the next stage in their careers. They want expert guidance and market intelligence that will help them find the right job for the future.
Russell Williams and Greg Simpson
TikTok is great for a whole bunch of things. But finding your next job isn’t one of them.

Employers must have been surprised when stories started appearing this year about laid off employees using social media to secure new jobs.

The people featured in these stories told heartwarming tales of going from the crushing disappointment of a layoff to the jubilation of securing a new job within a few days of first announcing their predicament on social media.

Stories like that are surprising because, as most employers know, finding a new or better job in the wake of a layoff has never been more challenging than it is today. A perfect storm of labor market and macro-economic forces have collided to create uncertainty.

Volatility and uncertainty characterize today’s talent marketplace

After two years of mass voluntary resignations and hiring frenzies, layoffs are picking up steam as the reality of high inflation and high interest rates starts to slow economic growth. Oddly, however, many people are still quitting their current jobs, on the expectation that the global job market still needs them more than they need their current jobs.

A recent global survey from LHH and The Adecco Group showed that about a quarter of workers (27%) are still quitting or thinking about quitting their current jobs in the next 12 months. And despite mounting news about layoffs, nearly half (48%) said rising inflation would make it more likely they will jump jobs to get a bigger salary and most of those people think they can get a new job in six months or less.

These findings were buttressed by recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which recorded more than four million voluntary separations in August 2022, a number consistent with monthly figures over the past year. Put those figures together and you will see that laid off employees are finding themselves thrust into a marketplace that is still flooded by the Great Resignation.

However, the total number of job seekers is not just the only complicating factor for recently laid off workers.

Skilled talent has been in such short supply that many of the world’s biggest employers are relying more heavily on internal mobility and reskilling. As more organizations look to utilize existing workforces to fill the jobs of the future, there is less need to look for people on the open market.

There are, no doubt, some people who are lucky enough to secure new employment simply by publicizing their recent layoff on social media. But it’s important to remember that the plural of anecdote is not data, and most people who are losing their jobs right now are facing real uncertainty. That reality could have dire consequences for employers.

Current conditions represent increased risk to employer brand

Stories about people recovering from layoffs by announcing their predicament on social media are worrisome because – directly or indirectly – they position former employers as heartless villains. ‘Only a really callous company would layoff someone off who didn’t desert them through the tumult of the pandemic,’ many casual observers may conclude.

It’s also important to remember that currently, there is evidence that laid-off workers are turning to social media to express anger about the terms of their separation. The anger is driven by the concern that workers who remained loyal to their employers through the pandemic, skill shortages and the Great Resignation are now being abandoned. Not all laid off workers feel this way, but it’s not hard to get the sense that some people who shop themselves around on social media were fired with little more than a severance payment and a pat on the back.

Make no mistake about it – anger over layoffs is growing. This is a reality both for those who suddenly found themselves out of work in what they thought was a hot talent market, and by those left behind who have found their workloads and stress levels growing exponentially. 

Combined, these trends make it difficult for organizations to retain their brand as an employer of choice.

Surveys of laid off workers confirm that if they are treated well and provided with transitional supports, they are more likely to not only return to work for that employer in the future, but also promote the employer to others in their networks. Those who are not treated well become brand adversaries.

Back to the future: high-touch, high support career transition is back in style

For much of the decade that preceded the pandemic, the career transition industry underwent profound change. The arrival of new providers started to move the needle away from traditional, high-touch career transition to plug-and-play virtual solutions. The proliferation of online job boards and agencies, along with unbridled faith that the internet would be a game-changer for job seekers—opening the job market in profound ways and offering easy and quick access to a plethora of on-demand resources—convinced many employers they only needed to get employees to sign into a job search portal of some sort to fulfill their moral and legal obligations to help laid off workers find new jobs.

This trend has been exacerbated in the last two years as the Great Resignation and the accompanying flurry of hiring drove many of the top outplacement providers out of the industry and forced others to significantly reduce their suite of solutions.

Virtual career transition platforms can produce value for the right people in the right situations. However, the light touch offered by virtual self-serve solutions have some obvious limitations. Laid off workers benefit when working with a coach for more personalized guidance on how to look for a new job, and often are better prepared and bring a more polished approach to the job search process. They need a career coach who can bring a subjective point of view and help them identify their true market value and the options and opportunities available to them.

All these factors mean that it’s essential to get layoffs right the first time. The benefits of a properly managed, high-touch career transition have two important and inter-related benefits:

1. Galvanizing employer brand. It’s always been a reality of the career transition market that badly handled layoffs do little more than erode employer brand as disgruntled employees head off into the broader talent market with horror stories about their final experience at their former employer. On the other hand, even before current conditions set in, employers who took the time to invest in a comprehensive outplacement solution found that former employees remained loyal. Sometimes, even after taking a new job, they remain part of an important alumni network that can be used to source talent.

2. Turning former employees into returnees. One of the unique features of the Great Resignation was the tendency of people who voluntarily resigned jobs to seek a return engagement if their new job didn’t live up to expectations. As many people jumped jobs to pursue lucrative salary and bonuses, the term “Great Regret” entered the lexicon of talent management. Organizations that use high-touch career transition guarantee a high probability of repatriating top talent that left during the Great Resignation. The same holds true for layoffs: organizations that must downsize to respond to economic pressures now expect to hire back some of the people they laid off when conditions improve. That is only possible if those former employees left on good terms. 

Summary

The global economy is balanced precariously on the edge of a recession. No one knows for certainty what is coming, and which sectors will be most affected. However, all signs seem to suggest that hiring will soften and that layoffs will pick up.

As has always been the case, employees who find themselves identified for involuntary separation will go through a range of emotions, from stunned surprise to various stages of anger and even resentment. That is a moment of great peril for employer brands.

Caught between a sluggish economy and an enduring global skills shortage, displaced workers do not really want quick, self-serve fixes to help them navigate to the next stage in their careers. They want expert guidance and market intelligence that will help them find the right job for the future.

It’s no longer about putting people into any job. It’s about finding the right job for the individual. And you’re going to need a truly trusted partner to make that happen.