At the beginning of the fourth quarter of a football game, often the team and the fans will hold up four fingers to indicate the last quarter of the game is about to begin. No other quarter gets this kind of attention, even though every quarter offers the same opportunity to score points that might result in a win.
The fourth quarter gets singled out because it is the last chance to make a difference before the time runs out.
Teams do strange things in the fourth quarter. They will abandon a winning playbook and resort to being conservative to try to “protect their lead.” That often backfires as their competition takes advantage of the weaker playing and may make some better moves that win the day. Some may find themselves in a tight battle where they need to stay true to the strategies that are working and remain consistent in their high level of play to pull out a win. While others may be counted out and have to dig deep to find that extra grit and resourcefulness to pull off a major comeback.
That is why you never want to leave a game early – even when you think the game is in the bag – because the fourth quarter can get interesting!
The Rules of the Game Have Changed
We are currently entering the fourth quarter of a very strange year for the economy and the labor market. Having been in the staffing and recruiting industry for a quarter of a century (yikes), I have been through a few recessions. But I have yet to see one that feels quite like this where the rules of the game have changed.
If you’re confused about what to expect from the economy over the next few months, you’re not alone. We’ve been getting nothing but mixed signals. Runaway inflation. Runaway housing prices. Technically, we’re in a recession, with GDP shrinking over two consecutive quarters. But we’re still creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs each month, unemployment remains relatively low, and there’s a real labor shortage in most industries.
What the heck is going on here?
Don’t look to economists for the answers. They’re as confused as we are. They understand the meaning of each of the economic indicators, but all of them happening at once doesn’t make sense based on past history. The best we can do is blame it on the pandemic, whose greatest hits include global supply chain disruption, paper product hoarding, and The Great Resignation.
Changing the Game Plan
Regardless of the mixed messages, I think we all see that the economy and the job market is changing. While economists waiver on how deep and hard a recession may be, they almost all agree we are in the middle of a slowdown that will continue. That means our game plan needs to adjust as well.
In addition to a changing economy, we have a changed workforce from just a few years ago with a more relaxed approach from workers who have been in control during a labor shortage. This has resulted in lighter workdays and strange new stances on work like the Quiet Quitters. Elon Musk has been quoted as saying, “All the Covid stay-at-home stuff has tricked people into thinking that you don’t actually need to work hard. Rude awakening inbound!”
While I think some workplace changes were necessary and the work/life balance areas are important, there are about to be some changes if the recession starts to behave more like a recession. Unemployment will begin to rise, and the job market will tighten. And all those who have been coasting may find themselves in a tough spot because a recession has little patience with quitters of any kind.
As with any game that takes a turn and the momentum shifts, you adjust. We need to make those adjustments now.
Making the Fourth Quarter Count
For most staffing companies, it has been a good year. With the current market indicators pointing to a slowdown, how do you maintain your lead and keep your high level of play while protecting your position? How do you build a game plan that can scale for the coming months’ best of times and sustain you down through the slow ahead?
For me, every strategy starts with your people and centers around performance. Your workforce is the foundation of your business, and you’ll need the best team possible – and bring out the best in them – to make it through these next confusing months.
But you also need a different approach for a recession because pressures are coming to your revenue that will expose weaknesses and uncover poor performers. We have spent the last several months focused on creating a culture to match the needs of the current workforce in the driver’s seat with a tight labor market. Now we will have to find a way to match the existing workforce, in its new state, to a new kind of economy that will demand more from them.
Fourth Quarter Rally: Blog Series on Strategies for Winning During Confusing Times
We see the fourth quarter as an opportunity to finish strong and rack up as many wins as possible while the market keeps chugging. At the same time that you are preparing for your current game, we want to give insights that will help position you to win in the future when market pressures complicate things.
Our current blog series, Fourth Quarter Rally: Winning During Confusing Times, will examine what is happening in the marketplace and how you capitalize on growth while preparing for a recession. We’ll be bringing you people strategies for both “Thrive” and “Survive” modes and ways to get back in touch with your core values and use them as guideposts for good times and not-so-good times.
We will also talk a little tough about the realities ahead because success is a good deodorant. When things get tough, you will soon know if there is anything rotten that needs to be addressed. Our advice is to do those assessments now while things are good. Take advantage of the fourth quarter to continue to win while ensuring your team is the right one with the right talent to play the game well when times get harder.
About the Author:
Rich Thompson, CEO of XPG Recruit, is an expert on staffing, human resources, training and leadership development. He is also a former All-Big Ten football player for the University of Wisconsin. XPG Recruit provides recruiting for staffing companies. The XPG Recruit Athlete division places former athletes into business careers and works closely with universities through its sister company, Podium X.