Workforce Shortage or Obvious Trend? (What’s really going on with the current job market?)
by Robin Sacks
I was talking to a friend the other day and he shared with me how difficult it is right now to find ‘quality people’ to hire for his business.
His take included how some circumstances (read: unemployment dollars) are making it “easier” for people to not have to jump at jobs.
After listening to his thoughts on the current job market, I was more than happy to share some of my own.
Based on multiple conversations I have had over the past several months, along with simply paying attention to the human decision element of life lessons, here are some of the thoughts I shared with him.
People had to find other things, and so they did.
From Broadway actors to welders to retail workers, their jobs were not available for almost a year (or beyond)! Many people, for the first time in their careers, had an opportunity to explore other professions, experience a different work/life balance, and make their own choices, instead of just getting on and staying on the proverbial hamster wheel.
Many of these people did, in fact, find another career and have no intention of returning to their previous one. Some found something they just like better, while others were in a bad situation and the separation gave them enough clarity not to go back. For a year, all we had was time, and a lot of people took advantage of it by going back to school or learning new skills. For those people, they may have outgrown their previous roles by the time they were asked to return to them.
If your business’ work/life balance sucks, it’s going to be hard to attract quality people.
If you still are wearing the “you have to work hard” mantra on your sleeve, you are a bit behind the times. “Hard work” looks different today than it did in previous generations. We’re in the information age, not the industrial age.
If you are still trying to attract quality talent with the same words and schedules that you’ve used for years, you might mistake those who aren’t interested as “lazy” or “not wanting to put in the work.” In reality, job seekers are more savvy than every before, and businesses that understand this also understand that “hard work” doesn’t mean putting your nose to the grindstone without looking up — we actually know now that balance, breaks, and self-care push productivity through the roof!
When you find what motivates different people, you can offer them what motivates them, and get great work out of amazing people who bring tremendous value to you and your company. If you still believe that money is the only thing that motivates people, you’re losing the quality employees you want to other companies that already get that it might be something different. Self-worth, adding value, and purposeful work are major motivators for two full generations of workers now. If you don’t realize that, you’re behind the times and no dye job is going to cover your gray hairs. ;)
Fewer young people are going in to certain lines of work; that is why there’s a shortage.
The pandemic isn’t the reason there are shortages in certain industries. In some lines of work, there was a shortage before COVID was even known about.
Construction is a good example. I have had conversations with aging general contractors who have been looking for younger people to learn the trades for years without great success. Again, some might choose to view that as “they don’t want to work that hard” or “get their hands dirty.” The reality is that many of those younger people simply prefer jobs that allow them to take their laptop anywhere, whether that be a coffee house, the beach, an office or their living room, and do meaningful work on their own schedules, creating value for their companies, and getting paid well to make a difference.
They are working hard, in a different way.
As times change, there is simply more opportunity to do more and different things. It’s no different than looking back a couple of generations and trying to image yourself doing the work your grandparents or great-grandparents did. With progress comes new opportunities; and with new opportunities comes a distancing from the past.
The pandemic changed many things for many people; one of the things that changed for some is that they took a harder look at themselves and really thought about what they want out of life. It’s often only when we get kicked off of auto-pilot that we discover there is more out there for us that may be worth exploring, and I think that’s exactly what a lot of workers did before returning to the workforce. For many of them, it may have been the first time in their entire lives that they stepped off that proverbial hamster wheel and saw a chance to create a life chosen on their own terms.