Where Have All The Workers Gone?
Fact or hype? Is there really a shortage of labor or are workers just sitting on the sidelines?
In This Episode
For as much as everything around us is changing so fast, there is one thing slowing down. And that’s the ability for companies to fill vacant jobs fast. A combination of the pandemic and various structural labor market trends have shifted the way nearly every business recruits, hires, and retains workers. Look no further than fast food restaurants. With fewer workers, the lines are longer, menus are smaller, service is slower, and hours are cut. Similar scenarios are playing out in retail, healthcare, transportation, any many other industries. The pandemic ripped back the curtain on a fractured, fragile, and maybe even dysfunctional labor market that has been stretched and stressed for over a decade. In this episode our hosts Ira Wolfe, author of the Perfect Labor Storm, and Jason Cochran discuss how we got here and where are we going.
It’s long been predicted that automation and robots would be coming to take workers’ jobs. But with too few employees, automation may be the only way to get jobs done. One company, Taco Bell, is doing its best to get ahead of a future reality of fewer employees and lower retention. They just opened a two-story restaurant with four drive-throughs, of which three are touchless. Customers order online, pull into the drive though, and scan a QR code, which triggers the delivery, sending the order down through a proprietary lift system. This move to automation is how many companies are choosing to counter the labor shortage. While we will very likely see rapid growth and acceptance, automation offers just one potential solution. To learn about other potential solutions, click here to listen.
Humanity in a Time of Crisis
The tagline for Geeks Geezers and Googlization is “When the Shift Hit Your Plans.” Well, the pandemic did create a shift that that everyone’s plans and forced millions of workers to reassess their tomorrow and rethink how they balance work and life. Had the pandemic passed in weeks or months as many predicted, it is likely that many workers would have just returned to their daily commutes and stressed out lives. But after nearly two years working from home, even if only for a few days a week, exposed people to new possibilities and opportunities in an everywhere and anywhere workplace. It allowed people to reassess their lives and consider doing work that aligned with their purpose and motivations. To the astonishment and angst of many business leader, the back-to-work mandate hasn’t worked out so well as millions of workers are emboldened to quit instead of staying in a job where commutes are long, respect and recognition are scarce, and pay is low.
Bad Hiring Practices
Lower participation rates and growing skill gaps aren’t the only reasons companies aren’t attracting enough workers. Millions of candidates are lost and ignored each year due to bad and/or outdated recruiting and hiring practices. From job applications that are just too difficult to complete online (when 96% of all applicants apply online) to long delays in responding to candidates and scheduling interviews, many potential and talented new hires never make into a company’s talent pipeline. That’s like marketing a big sale to your customers and sending them to the wrong address or keeping the doors locked while they knock to get in. Ready to learn more about the impact of bad hiring practices? Start listening now.
Population and the Very Real Labor Shortage
Shifting demographics play a significant role in why so far people are participating in the workforce. Over the past 60 years, the Baby Boomer generation in the 60s and 70s and then the Millennials in the early 2000s fueled large unfluxes of new workers. The Baby Boomers spoiled employers and made filling vacant jobs easy. The much smaller Gen X generation spurred a bit of crisis in the late 1990s but then the largest generation in history, the Millennials, arrived to fill a massive amount new jobs. But age and the pandemic led to an mass exodus of workers, leaving a growing population with fewer working-age people to fill all the available jobs. But population trends are only part of the perfect labor storm story. What other factors are creating labor shortages and how long will these shortages last?
The Perfect Labor Storm
Host Ira S Wolfe has been talking about The Perfect Labor Storm since 1999. Below is a graphic with what he identifies as dark clouds that are sidelining millions of workers. Many of these clouds are real, some perceived. But all of them to contribute to an erosion of available workers to fill all the open jobs. This storm didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. It has been forming for nearly 5 decades. While many employers like to point the finger at one cloud, the reality is that the aggregate of all these clouds is what makes the future of recruiting and retaining employees so complex. To explore the Perfect Labor Storm more, listen here!
Looking for a Hall of Fame Speaker & Global Thought Leader for your next conference or business meeting?