In this economy, shooting requires hard work

To hold a job these days, it seems like a worker needs one basic trait: pulse.

Some jobs always require a little more than being able to stay awake. In the narrow labor market Within half a century, people may pass into higher positions just by going through the motions as well.

“You have to be incredibly shoddy” to be fired as a software engineer right now, says David Cancel, who employs nearly 700 people as the CEO of Drift, a Boston-based marketing company that uses artificial intelligence. “Most companies – and we, in some cases – are keeping people who would not be on the team in a more fluid market. Standards will be higher.”

Although some economists warning of the next contraction, layoffs and layoffs In recent months it has hit all-time lows at or near, according to the Labor Department. Less than 1% of workers get pink slips, nearly half the norm, with job security particularly in finance, education, health care and the public sector.

For those who put in less than full effort or don’t make it to the job: Your boss probably knows it. But there’s little guarantee of finding a better person anytime soon, so you’ll likely keep cashing in on that paycheck.

As much as companies love to promote ambitious corporate cultures – and they have many ways Track employee productivity—Some can gladly accept the Intermediate level now.

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When HR software company UKG recently surveyed 2,000 managers, nearly two-thirds said they would rehire former mid-level employees, and 16% said they would take back anyone, regardless of skill.

“I call it bird-in-hand management,” says David Gilbertson, UKG vice president, who leads the company’s workforce research. “All the companies I talk to are concerned about hiring.”

Companies in a wide range of sectors are obligated to train or retrain the people they already have, adds Jim Link, chief human resources officer for the Society for Human Resource Management. Qualification of a new worker cost thousands of dollars before the pandemic, according to SHRM, and since then it has become more difficult as many people report to offices part-time, if at all.

“Employers are looking at how to upgrade the skills and capabilities of employees within their staff, and they are making great efforts to do so,” says Mr. Link.

This can mean teaching workers how to do their current jobs better or transferring them to different jobs, in the hope that they will fit in something else.

Basically, managers are trying to become like Bill Belichickthe New England Patriots football coach who turned wide receiver Troy Brown into a solid defensive back, turned quarterback Julian Edelman into a prolific passing player and used linebacker Mike Frapel to score touchdown as a court finisher in two Super Bowls.

Not because I advise you to slack off. The national unemployment rate reached 14.7% in April 2020, early in the pandemic, before dropping to 3.6% last month. Now, some of the companies that thrived during the recovery may have outgrown their growth plans. This seems to be the case in

CarvanaAnd

who said last week that she would Shrink Size Its staff increased by 12%, eliminating nearly 2,500 jobs.

Joshua Brisnal says he was stunned to lose his job delivering cars for the company in Chattanooga, Tennessee, after seeing the number of his office heads quadruple in two years. But he soon regained his faith in the job market.

Mr. Brisnal has created an online spreadsheet where laid-off former colleagues can post their contact information and recruiters can do the same. Within two days, more than 200 recruiters entered their data, many of which requested applications from former Carvana employees.

Mr. Brisnal, 23, says he’s done nearly a dozen job interviews and hopes to land a role that takes full advantage of his degree in marketing.

“Perhaps being laid off was the best thing that could happen in my career,” he says.

To see how far you can afford to be in your own job, ask yourself this, says Benjamin Friedrich, associate professor of strategy at Northwestern University: “How valuable is what you do to the company’s earnings?”

If you are not very important, your performance (or poor performance) is not likely to hurt you much, and ironically, you may be worth keeping it in some capacity. Dr. Friedrich says he hears of companies assigning menial tasks to many employees, rather than laying them off.

The stakes are higher for people who play bigger roles. Several HR professionals have told me that CEOs who report disappointing results may be at risk because their failures cost more.

Companies’ willingness to deal with substandard employees may prompt good employees to look elsewhere if they do not feel rewarded enough.

Banks by Wall Street Paid huge rewards After big gains last year in the stock market, you may not be able to make such a great payout this year, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down about 13% so far in 2022.

Mark Ross, a former banking vice president turned career coach in finance, says a year of underdevelopment can undermine the jobs of serious workers by reducing the number of promotions available. While those who lose their numbers avoid the dire consequences, the frontrunners may miss out on the usual incentives.

In teams where there is little distinction between good and bad work, morale can erode over time.

“You’re showing your top performers the lowest you can afford,” says Jessie Wisdom, co-founder of Humu, a company that helps companies motivate their teams. “If I work really hard, but see that management doesn’t treat me any differently than they treat someone who does the bare minimum, that’s very frustrating.

“Why do I have to do my best anymore?”

Write to Callum Borchers at callum.borchers@wsj.com

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