2024 holds a lot of uncertainty for the labor market and beyond. Globally, we’re in the midst of trying times. In addition to the personal unease you may be feeling, you could be wary of any number of potential professional outcomes — from layoffs to hiring freezes, to tightening budgets.  

And yet, 2023 is coming to a close. Your need to plan for next year hasn’t gone away, but it has gotten more complicated. 

Let’s look at how we got into this unique hiring market situation. Then, we’ll offer ways that, with your refreshed market knowledge, you can react and strategize for the best possible 2024. 

How Did We Get Here? Unpacking the Circumstances Carrying Us Into the New Year

The RedStream team has lived through many downturned markets. We were recruiting amid the Dotcom Bubble, post-September 11th, and during and after the 2008 market crash. Through it all, we’ve served our clients and candidates. 

Considering our many years of experience, we feel confident saying this particular moment is unique. Why? Because the market is tight on both sides.

So, how did we get here? We went from the “Great Resignation” to what’s being called the “Big Stay” in a relatively short span of time. The Great Resignation began in 2021 and lasted all the way through the beginning of 2023. It was characterized by employees ditching their companies in droves in search of greener pastures (aka more flexibility and compensation, mainly). When these people entered the employment market, they had their pick of jobs — and even competing offers. 

As 2023 wore on, however, desirable technology jobs thinned. So, as we said, the job market became tight. People are remaining in their current seats. No more mass resignation. Employees recognize it’s safer to stay put.

The Big Stay’s Unsteady Impact on Your Sphere

Unsurprisingly, the Big Stay has meant significantly lower employee attrition rates in 2023. From a people perspective, this isn’t inherently bad. In fact, low turnover, as you know, can be fantastic…your team is stable, your culture can flourish, productivity is high. 

The flip side of the coin? If and when you need someone with a new skill set to pull off a major project, you might not have the budget to hire them. Your team is too full. 

Bottomed-out turnover rates and other factors are also contributing to widespread layoffs at worst, and hiring freezes at best. So again, for one reason or another, you might lack the talent necessary to complete certain tasks. 

Make the Most of Your Budget to Combat Cuts

Given these realities, what can you do to set yourself and your team up for success (whatever that looks like) in 2024? 

It starts with squeezing everything you can out of your budget. You’re probably inundated with budgeting and planning meetings right now, so it’s the perfect time to consider how to make the most of your resources. We know your budget has always been scrutinized to some extent. But this year is proving to be different — and difficult — in so many ways. There’s no reason to think these aberrant patterns won’t extend to your budgeting seshes. To that end, work even harder than usual to prepare a realistic and compelling business case to show what you truly need to accomplish next year’s goals. 

You’re likely already accustomed to subtracting 10% from the budget you really need, knowing full well that leadership will ask you to lob off 10% anyway. But that trick won’t cut it this year. You’ll be asked to cut 10% and explain why you still need that lesser amount of money. So, when the budget isn’t budging but expectations remain high, get creative. We have two ideas for how:

1. Use Contractors to Share Resources Across Projects 

2024 could be the ideal year to leverage contract hires. Bring just one person aboard, but have them sit on more than one project. It’s one line item in your budget — and a temporary one at that — but they’ll fill two gaps. 

For example, perhaps two of your projects require someone who can code in Python. Seek out a contractor based on that skill…the ability to code in Python. Then, schedule your projects as such so the person can work on both. RedStream can even help find candidates with a combination of skills who can contribute to multiple projects with varying needs. 

Contract workers already cost less than full-time employees. Sharing the wealth of a contractor’s expertise across projects (or even teams) could be just what you need to, well, share the wealth of your budget. 

2. Hire Based On Skills, Not Pedigree 

If you need someone who can code in Python, what matters is their ability to, well, code in Python. That may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many hiring managers disqualify candidates who haven’t yet worked for big-name companies. Or who didn’t attend lofty universities. 

2024 should be the year you hire for the skills you need. Period. RedStream can assist you in analyzing your team to identify skill gaps we can then recruit for. 

The Human Touch Still Matters: The Slow Rise of HR and Recruiting AI 

It’s true that some of the largest employers are beginning to use AI capabilities in HR management and recruiting. However, there are still many obstacles for the industry to overcome, as well as morals to wrestle with, before AI can be embraced fully. To that end, we’re not expecting AI to take over in 2024. This is good knowledge for you to have. 

You simply can’t beat a human approach to recruiting and hiring. That’s why being high-touch is a RedStream hallmark. There’s a person behind every resume, and we feel strongly that you can’t properly place that person if you don’t use your very human critical thinking skills to vet them. You (and the recruiters you work with, if any) are invaluable when it comes to hiring. Because we’re hiring humans, not robots. 

A Little Staffing Creativity Goes a Long Way 

We’ve all been through challenging times before. With the ideas herein, you can make 2024 a good year. At RedStream, we’re here to help you spread your resources by creatively placing contractors and/or employees as your needs and budget call for.