13 June 2023 – Fears about job security have led to the emergence of the new trend of ‘career cushioning’, where employees monitor the job market in case they lose their employment.
The pandemic has kickstarted the ‘great resignation’, with people leaving their jobs in search of more meaningful work or to start their own business. Then came ‘quite quitting’, where employees only do the bare minimum because they are dissatisfied with their roles.
Now the economic situation has created ‘career cushioning’. Employees regularly search job sites to see what the job market has to offer, in case they need another job to fall back on.
This new phenomenon could spell trouble for small businesses, especially because recruitment is still a struggle for many.
Worries About Job Security Main Reason For ‘Career Cushioning’
Recruitment firm Robert Walters has conducted a survey with 2,000 office workers which revealed that 37% of employees are ‘career cushioning’. While the reasons given vary, one has come out on top.
72% of respondents said that the lack of job security prompted them to be prepared to move to another job. This is not surprising, given we have already seen a large amount of redundancies in 2023 so far.
For 55% of workers, the current economic situation is the main reason why they monitor the job market. This shows that employees are keenly aware of the difficulties many small businesses face.
Internal changes within their business is the reason for 45% of survey respondents and 33% named low satisfaction with their current role as the main reason to look out for another role.
The results of this survey show how important it is for small businesses to put measures in place to ensure staff retention.
Employers need to show their staff that they value their work and commitment and must listen to their concerns, questions and feedback.Ian Moore, Managing Director at Lodge Court, HR Consultancy Firm
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 946,000 people moved jobs in 2022, which is a record high. Crucially, these moves were driven by employees leaving, rather than employers letting staff go.
This shows that it is well worth it for small businesses to put staff retention on the top of their agenda.
Different Methods To Be Prepared
Like with the reasons for ‘career cushioning’, the methods used are varied too. The majority (66%) of the workers surveyed said they monitor the job market regularly.
43% have updated their CV in case they need to apply for a new job. 36% are networking more to increase their chances of finding a new job quickly should they need one.
A third of workers (33%) are going a step further by actively applying for other jobs. 30% said they are attending training courses/learn new skills. 22% are working with a recruiter or career coach to prepare for any eventualities.
And 15% said they have started a side hustle, so they have something to fall back on if their current role gets cut.
With less than half of all respondents taking active steps, such as applying for jobs or starting a side hustle, it is clear that the majority are just preparing for the worst case scenario.
Small businesses owners will find solace in this fact. However, ‘career cushioning’ doesn’t always have to be a bad thing for employers. Some of the methods used can actually be beneficial for the business.
Career cushioning needn’t always be looked at as a negative by employers. In many cases it can lead to employees upskilling, being more determined to succeed or engaging in more networking – bringing greater value to the business.Chris Poole, Managing Director at Robert Walters
Many employers looking at other jobs might also find out that their employer compares well with competitors. 25% of respondents found just that and as a result, appreciate their employer more.
20% have said they realised that their firm pays better than the average salary for their role. So the comparison can actually benefit the employer.
Small Businesses Should Be Proactive
However, this doesn’t mean small businesses can’t act to ensure they retain their staff. One measure they could take is to check what other companies pay for similar roles and ensure they pay more, if possible.
Not only will this minimise the risk of staff leaving, it will also help with attracting new talent. If this is not possible, due to the current economic situation, there are other perks that a small business could offer.
One area that has become increasingly important for employees is learning and development opportunities. A small business that can offer such opportunities will look more attractive to current and prospective workers.
Other benefits, such as flexible working, can also help small businesses to retain their staff and improve recruitment.
So while ‘career cushioning’ can sound like a worrying trend for small businesses, it can also work to their advantage. And there are things that they can do to counteract any negative impact of this phenomenon.