Monday Fire Takeover

November 1, 2021



Ira S Wolfe

Happy Monday. It’s Nikki (Lewallen), and this Monday Fire takeover is with Ira Wolfe,  a new partner to the People Forward Network, and we are geeked to have him. He is a prolific business writer, podcaster, blogger, thought leader. And you’ve probably seen him somewhere like Forbes, Huffington Post, Inc. Magazine, Fast Company Business Week. I don’t know. He’s everywhere. Ira describes himself as a millennial trapped in a Baby Boomer body who is obsessed with workforce trends. His enthusiasm and engaging approach inspire his audience to challenge preconceptions about what it takes to attract, select, manage, and retain top talent and take the initiative to make change for them.

I’m about to turn it over to Ira, and you’re about to love this Monday Fire.

Hi, everyone. This is Ira Wolfe. Welcome to Monday Fire.

If I told you that tomorrow there was a risk of a Hurricane, torrential rains, tornadoes, and an earthquake, you’d probably think I was crazy if I invited you to a picnic, but this is exactly what almost every organization is trying to do these days. Hire workers in what I’ve called the Perfect Labor Storm.

What’s the Perfect Labor Storm? For those of you around in the late 90s, you’ll probably remember a time when fogging a mirror and a warm body was good enough to get a job.

Like climate change, many of us didn’t take that as a once-in-a-lifetime event. But the sign of things to come. All signs pointed to a confluence and convergence of trends that would ultimately create an acute shortage of qualified workers.

Unfortunately, I was right, and the pandemic didn’t cause but exposed how fragile and vulnerable our labor markets were. This leads me to today’s answer to a question I get several times a day.

What happened to all the workers?

The answer is a bit more complicated than most people like to hear, but it’s the unadulterated truth.

It’s not COVID. It’s not the Millennials and Gen Z. It’s not technology, it’s not school. It’s all of the above and much, much more.

For just a minute, I want you to picture a weather map. But in this case, it’s a labor market map. On the map, there are workforce fronts forming and moving across the country. Quite a few of those clouds look ominous, and they are. In particular, one large dark cloud is labeled “labor participation rates”. Where have all the workers gone might simply be answered by this particular cloud.

For example, in 1948, 82% of working-age males were in the workforce. In 2021, that number dipped to 62%. For male-dominated industries like construction, manufacturing, and computer Sciences, that is a horrifying trend. That trend was masked by the influx of women into the workforce over the same time frame. Only 32% of women participated in the workforce in 1948, and that number rose to 60% prior to the pandemic. But thanks to a COVID-19 induced “shecession,” females left the workforce in mass, and now, only 52% are participating.

But let’s not stop there. Another ominous cloud forming on our weather map is the skills gap. Nearly two-thirds of all jobs now require some proficiency using technology, but 130,000,000 Americans are functionally illiterate (lack digital literacy). Many workers, especially women, are not participating because [of a lack of]  caregivers and taking care of their children. Immigration is at or near a record low. So many low-skilled jobs are left empty. While good jobs are aplenty, many workers don’t feel comfortable going back to work while others refuse to comply with vaccination mandates.

Baby boomers are retiring in record numbers, and hybrid work has polarized workers. Some only want to work in person, others want to work remotely, and many prefer a hybrid option. What’s my point? The answer to where all the workers have gone is a complex one. Pointing fingers and deflection won’t help you find the solution. The perfect labor storm is a reality. The plans for the picnic got shelved. It’s time to figure out what you need to do differently to access the talent you need when you need it so that you can weather the perfect labor storm and catch a break in the clouds.

I hope you’ll reach out to me on LinkedIn. Let me know if you agree or disagree. What’s working for you. What’s not? Check out my Geeks Geezers Googlization podcast and YouTube channel too, where I’m always talking about innovative and forward solutions with experts in the field.

Thanks for listening. Stay safe, everyone. And remember, don’t let the shift your plans.

We just left the world a little bit better. Now go do something with it.

More on the Perfect Labor Storm.