Is your hiring culture more Famous Five, or Lord of the Flies?

This month’s guest article is from Stephen O’Donnell, tech recruitment Industry stalwart, founder of the NORAs, and TAtech chief growth officer.

History has shown that employees can, and have, tolerated much higher levels of stress, hard labour, and the deprivation which results from low pay and demeaning, brutalising conditions.

However, in years past, they had much lower expectations, were far less aware of their own situation (compared to others) and were much less able to organise with each other (even with unions).

Being fully aware of your own relative poverty, the unfairness of your situation, and that you belong to an immobile, collectively impecunious class, is compounded by the insidious permanent view into the lives of those who (seemingly) have everything. And this includes your bosses.

This can only serve to rub employees’ noses in their own misfortune, but will it also have the effect of making the CEO class genuinely care about their welfare?

I read an article today about employers being able to accurately and fairly value each role, and the concomitant need for employees to value their skills and labour. It reminded me that every product or service provided by a company must be priced in order to not only pay for the materials, salaries, and profit of the company, but also to invest in the future of that organisation.

A huge part of that far-away future has been accelerated to right now, in 2023, where new jobs and replacement hires are the first to be redesigned for our current circumstances – remote working, disjointed supply chains, departmental functions in silos. With the tasks and methods used to create products and services changing rapidly, many of the metrics used to set the price for customers have become relatively obsolete. Job functions that had remained consistent, whether it be a lawyer, engineer, trucker, or sales executive, are now in flux, such that staff need to handle change, and learn new skills, at a faster rate than ever. Inevitably this has led to a proportion of the workforce either choosing to leave or having that choice made for them.  

In the job board sector, we see reports of lower volumes of job ads being posted, and that the number of applications per job has seriously dipped in the past year. Conversely, at the beginning of 2023, we are seeing a candidate-scarce market (not in all sectors) gradually flip to become a job-scarce market. This turning of the tide means that employers are now losing some staff they really needed to hold onto – and replacements are very expensive. So, if employers are to focus on retention as a priority, as well as handling contentious salary transparency issues, what can they possibly do to stem the flow of talent leaving?

The key ingredients are, as ever, salary, benefits, training, career prospects, inclusion, and appreciation. If you really want and need to retain your best talent, then you need to be sincere about addressing these issues across your organisation.

However, what I see often appears to be performative caring, with an emphasis on low-cost mental health provision, and box-ticking equality measures, instead of better salary and conditions. Forgive me for being a little cynical about their sincerity, but this could have been addressed years ago.

Start with making 4 weeks’ holiday a minimum in US jobs, remove fire-at-will policies, work towards salary transparency, make a serious investment in training, and a commitment to real job security.

For as long as short-term gains are the goals in hiring, then employment will always feel like Lord of the Flies.

Stephen O’Donnell, Guest blogger

Stephen has been actively involved in the professional recruitment sector since 1987, owning and running recruitment agencies since 1993. His expertise is in online recruitment platforms and technology where, in 2000, he established the UK’s first comprehensive online portal to every advertised vacancy in the UK and devised the National Online Recruitment Awards (NORAs).

As well as The NORAs, he is now driven to grow the membership of recruitment technology providers and job boards for TAtech, as well as hosting kick-ass events worldwide.

Email: Web: or call Stephen on 0141 637 9000



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