We have witnessed so many workplace trends driven by the pandemic and technological advents this year – from the Great Resignation and the Quiet Quitting to the Acting Your Wage movement.
However, the storm is far from over. Many organisations are still looking to reexamine their business direction, and as layoffs sweep through companies, both globally and in Malaysia, here comes the latest trend – career cushioning.
Simply put, career cushioning is when employees look to add security to their professional life and prepare for the unexpected, whether starting to prepare for a job search or actively looking for a new job that feels more stable. They could also be polishing their resumes in search of a position or workplace that better aligns with their values.
But it is not just that. The growing cost of living and worry about losing their jobs have caused workers to adopt a new career strategy that incorporates networking and skill-building. Instead of aggressively looking for a new job, the current trend emphasises increasing their individual worth and futureproofing their skills so that they will be recognised by the industry.
In a way, it is an extension of upskilling and reskilling – touted as the strategic response to the changing skill demands of the industry.
LinkedIn Economic Outlook, which includes the commentary on trends seen in LinkedIn’s Economic Graph data, stated that job seekers on LinkedIn dramatically increased the intensity of their job searches in September, with the average number of applications increasing by 18% over the year.
The same report also noted an increase in discussions on the platform on economic uncertainties. The number of postings using the phrases “layoff” or “retrenchment” rose by 17.9% compared to last year, while the number of posts using the term “recession” shot up by an astounding 879%.
Should Employers be Worried?
As with upskilling and reskilling, employees looking to improve their marketability in the long run by acquiring useful skills is a good thing and will also benefit the organisation they are working for.
But unlike upskilling and reskilling, where employers usually provide training during office hours, the act of career cushioning is done by employees’ own volition. It might raise a question of ethics if employees attend classes or look for jobs during office hours when they are supposed to be focused on their main responsibilities. It might also come at the expense of productivity.
Hence, to keep employees focused, it is important that companies and leaders be as transparent as possible. Employees’ anxieties come from not knowing what is going to happen to them, and this can happen even at an organisation where no restructuring or layoffs are being planned. News of organisations in the same industry or hearing about a loved one or a close friend losing their job can increase worry and anxiety.
Consider strategies to counter any disengagement by concentrating on some key engagement activities, and prospective aspects. Leaders should also create a promising outlook for the organisation as a whole.