by Nancy S. Charney

At the end of 2023, experts predicted massive layoffs. There are many reasons for this shift including pandemic-related overhiring and overspending, a fear of recession, and the desire for increased restructuring to incorporate artificial intelligence.

Although analysts are quick to assert that the labor market is still strong, companies are clearly struggling, and the effects are becoming more noticeable. Leading companies in multiple industries are conducting widespread layoffs. Organizations are finding ways to replace paid employees with AI or simply spreading the workload among remaining staff.

Those businesses that can avoid cutting employees are reducing costs in other ways including eliminating training and development programs and internship opportunities. In fact, when businesses need to reduce expenses, specialized training programs are the first line items eliminated. This is unfortunate because often these provide opportunities for growth and upward mobility within the organization.

What’s most alarming is that we’re seeing this disengagement on both sides. Yes, companies are being forced to let staff go, and sometimes with limited notice. However, employees are increasingly adopting the practice of “quiet quitting” which refers to doing the least possible amount of work to continue receiving a paycheck. In addition, it’s increasingly common for candidates to accept an offer and either back out at the last minute or simply not show up for work as scheduled.

Companies allocate significant time and financial resources towards recruiting and onboarding new employees. Prior to even extending an offer to a stellar candidate, considerable effort is put into identifying specific staffing requirements, organizing multiple rounds of interviews, and conducting thorough background and reference checks. Once that individual accepts the position, the organization incurs expenses for essential work tools like cell phones and computers, training during onboarding, travel costs, and in some instances, even company cars. Employee turnover not only impacts the financial health of the company but also leads to a decline in morale and productivity among the existing staff.

Various methods for controlling costs at struggling companies like massive layoffs and hiring freezes have been widely reported in the news lately. Rescinding job offers and internship placements are some of the alternative, subtler techniques employed. However, it’s not fair to label these organizations as the “bad guys” in the job market. Companies have continually been losing money to unengaged employees and job abandonment. It’s time for both parties to extend equal respect throughout the employment process.