Companies of all shapes and sizes, from small businesses to global corporations, are susceptible to the consequences of inflation. But how will inflation impact the labour market and broader world of work? Workers are requesting more compensation to offset the growing cost of living, while employers are forced to find ways to reduce expenses to make a profit. In this interview, Leslie Tarnacki, SVP of HR at WorkForce Software, talks about inflation, its impact on the world of work and companies’ return to work plans.
Leslie Tarnacki brings more than 22 years of executive level HR experience to her role at WorkForce Software. Leslie is responsible for all global HR functions, including talent acquisition and onboarding, employee relations, organisational development, compensation and succession planning. She also partners with the leadership team on employee engagement strategies and sustaining a high performance culture. Prior to joining WorkForce Software, Leslie led HR teams for companies such as New World Systems (now Tyler Technologies), Dorado Software, AiMetrix and Frontier Communications (now CenturyLink).
Here are the edited excerpts.
Do you think the soaring inflation will impact the future of work?
With a sudden influx of highly skilled professionals back into the market due to job cuts and hiring freezes, inflation will certainly have an impact on the new world of work. Plus, many former retirees are finding their way back to the workforce and putting their retirement plans on hold, as the money they saved for retirement isn’t going as far. However, there are still millions of job openings available throughout the larger economy – many of which offer gig work opportunities. In this new world of work, I expect to see workers looking for flexible/gig roles to help them manage financial demands and to support a desire for more flexibility to accommodate their post-COVID-19 lifestyles. Company leaders need to think beyond the traditional 9-5 work pattern and provide their staff with flexible scheduling to ensure retention and satisfaction – especially as they seek ways to balance company needs with labour availability.
What do you think about rising commuting costs and how it might impact businesses' decisions to require employees to work on-site? Are we seeing more employers postpone plans once again?
With gas prices on the rise – company leaders continue to receive pressure to reconsider their policies on in-office work. Many are providing their office-bound employees with the option to choose where they work (in-office or remote) and right now, it's essential for businesses to show their employees this support in order to retain great talent and mitigate any additional financial burdens caused by inflation. Where remote work is not an option, more employers will need to offer alternatives to support employees. Deskless frontline workers can use technology to support them in these moments when they may want to pick up extra shifts to make ends meet, or even to request being scheduled with certain coworkers so that they can share rides to and from work together, saving on gas. This type of flexibility allows employees to feel supported and increases productivity within the workplace.
Can inflation result in more job cuts, hiring freezes, and rescinding of job offers?
The future of the labour market remains uncertain as some companies scale back on hiring to ensure security and prepare for the unknown. In some industries, we expect to see more businesses follow suit and implement hiring freezes and rescind job offers. However, we are still in a hot job seeker's market and there are plenty of businesses that are actively looking for ways to retain their current employees and capitalize on this influx of coveted talent now circulating back in the market.
As inflation continues, what impact will it have on employee satisfaction and wages?
As the cost of goods and services continues to rise, employees may begin to feel underpaid and overworked – leading to an unhappy and unmotivated workforce. Some staff may go as far as requesting a pay raise or increased benefits packages to compensate. While most companies cannot match wage increases with the inflation rate or increase benefits for all staff, it’s imperative for them to invest where they can as it will show employees that they are valued and supported during this challenging time. Some ways employers can invest include providing technologies that make employees feel seen, heard, and connected, and encouraging workers to use these systems every day.
Meanwhile, even as fears grow about a looming economic slowdown, the Great Resignation hasn’t really slowed down - with confident employees still leaving the labour market, according to reports. What’s your take on this?
It has felt like a hot trend to quit and start a new job – despite the economic slowdown. Employees who are discouraged in their position are quitting in search of a better, more fulfilling role, without fully thinking it through or identifying what benefits, perks, and opportunities they value the most and the potential impact a recession could have on their search for a new job. We expect to see a slow down on the significant compensation growth of the past two years as access to capital becomes more challenging and companies begin to prepare for an economic slowdown.
How do you see the future of the labour market? What’s your advice for business and people managers?
The future of the labour market is still unknown. In the face of uncertainty, my advice is that business leaders must be prepared with the proper tools to maximize their labour spending and find ways to retain employees. As a first step, leaders need to think about how they can implement technology to optimize their workforce, as well as to engage and support (not just manage) their employees – no matter where they are in the world.. Implementing the right tools will allow companies to create connections and positive experiences, improve productivity, engage and motivate staff, in order to ensure successful business outcomes. Younger, digitally native employees are expecting to be armed with consumer-grade, high-quality applications to help them successfully navigate the organisation, connect and collaborate with colleagues and managers, and be successful in their roles.