Looking at the labor market, there is an inherent conflict in the current equation of jobs available and those looking to fill available jobs. There are millions currently unemployed in the U.S., and millions more jobs available. Does it make sense? Is it possible that the talent available and the jobs available are so disparate from one another that it will remain that way until the right talent is available for the right jobs?
That will likely never happen. Much like dating, just because you happen to be single at a certain time does not mean that your soul mate will magically appear, happening to also be available at the same. And if you believe that each of us has just one person in the universe, a single soulmate, who will complete them, you may be waiting a long time to find a good relationship. Similarly, if you are awaiting the perfect offer, the only job you will consider, or your company will keep a job open until that single one-in-a-million candidate emerges, the current state of Available Jobs vs. Available People will continue.
Pandemic, Global Economic Challenges, Generational Turnover are among the reasons people and companies need to think differently about their goals. ‘Work’ has evolved and we all need to evolve with it.
Remote v. In-House
In early 2020 the world changed facing a global pandemic, and with millions of people lost globally, it is actually amazing to think about how business so quickly shifted to a needed virtual environment wherever it was possible to do so. Loss of business and jobs was significant, particularly among brick-and-mortar businesses, restaurants, in-home services, door-to-door sales, etc. You think about every service or product that required personal contact of any sort basically stopped on a dime.
Companies that could make a quick shift to working from home, did so, and survived. Most businesses did their best to persevere and get through the most difficult points throughout this time believing if they could that the economy would return to normal. In some ways business did accomplish that, but to the individual worker, most came back thinking differently and working differently.
Working at home was a huge adjustment for most, as it was not just one person, it was the whole family – kids from school, two working parents both at home, extended family members, you name it. An average household had several people trying to keep things going as normally as possible in a world that was anything but normal. Doing that for such an extended period has made it difficult if not impossible for the business world to return to normal, if your definition of normal is how it was pre-2020. That no longer is the norm, it is truly ‘the way it used to be’.
As a result, you have workers that have either grown accustomed to working from home and will only do so, eliminating themselves from contention for all on-site employment. Some learned that it is not feasible to work from home regularly and will only take a job at a physical location, excluding the remote opportunities which are among the fastest growing segment of available jobs today. Overall, that is just one of several distinct areas that emerged from the pandemic that could have job seekers and those hiring at an impasse
The pandemic drove levels of stress to an unprecedented high for all current generations globally. Whether your mental health received a diagnosis or not, there was unlikely a single person on Earth who was not carrying with them a great amount of worry, fear and anxiety for a longer single stretch of time than they ever had. It was not over in days or weeks, but years. The toll that has taken on the average person is profound, and for some will be years in recovery if they ever get there.
Knowing that, work has become a secondary consideration in life for many, where it once topped the list of what people worried and thought about in terms of what is most important. People have elected to create other ways to survive, whether scaling back on their luxury or recreational activities and purchases, or starting their own business, many of which online. Some have sold their primary residence, downsizing to only fit their needs and subsist on the income netted from their home sale for as long as they can do so. Others have tapped into retirement or savings to stay afloat for as long as possible intending to reemerge in the workforce when they feel it is safe to do so and the right opportunity is there.
Due to the impact to mental health the past couple of years, the need for flexibility in the workplace is at its apex as companies aim to build on what may have been a minimal workforce that allowed their business to run in recent years. Companies that have flexed to allow employees to continue working remotely or offering a hybrid model have been able to maintain and begin the rebuilding process more quickly. Those that ordered all employees back to the office saw significant resistance and high turnover. Greater consideration for mental health through on-site specialists, rooms dedicated to relaxation, emotional support animals and more have all helped to bridge what has become a large gap between today’s workforce and that of just a few years ago.
As businesses continue to figure out how to operate in what has to be viewed as a new world, many aspects that are critical to employee turnover have taken a backburner. Initiatives on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion had begun to improve before the pandemic in some companies, while lagging in most and pose an even greater challenge since. While seemingly every company makes it a point to tie DE&I into their corporate mission, it has been slow growth on that front which is a mistake considering the value today’s workers put on DE&I.
Employee Engagement was once upon a time a ‘nice to have’, but now is akin to the value of health benefits for many new and tenured workers. Transparency is a good step that some companies have embraced, and every company will need to prioritize to attract the people they want and keep those they have. Tying employees into progress of initiatives and upcoming changes, even seeking input from their employees goes a long way to raise the morale and level of engagement of a workforce. Those that have yet to embrace those needs or continue on in an old school model of employees being fortunate to have a job there, will continue to see employee numbers drop along with their brand, leading to customer turnover and revenue loss.
Not so long ago the workforce was largely in buildings, offices of their own or a large rooms with cubicles and workstations ready to go for them, all set up, managed, hosted by an IT group keeping things going and ready to respond quickly to avoid any employee downtime. In the past couple of years, due to the shift to working virtually, what employees have is a manual or phone number to call should their system break down. Even if an IT group is staffed with the brightest technical minds, if a person has little to no technical aptitude, all the guidance in the world may not get them to a place where they are confident to work at home for an extended period. In those cases, having the option to come to a location to swap out equipment, or a shipping service that can quickly exchange equipment is key so that all employees feel supported, and there is business continuity.
Remote work comes with the need for video throughout the day from one-on-one meetings with team members, meetings large and small to company-wide conferences. Some companies and certain leaders require their people to get on video despite the anxiety it may give to their people. An employee may ask for a reprieve when they need it, and management is wise to comply whenever possible. But this too is a new world for many people and an adjustment that many have successfully made but not everyone. Flexibility and acceptance of people’s comfort level with technology and of the use of video and newer meeting technology is important for companies to remember to allow people the time to acclimate, which is a timetable for the individual to figure out, not a company. Blanket rules in today’s environment are simply unwise.
Overall, both companies and job seekers require a Hire Boost Product that they can live with and includes a range from the ‘Perfect’ or ‘Dream’ fit to ‘This can work for me’. Sure there is risk, no one can read the future. Even if not ideal, bringing in good, talented, well-recommended people should be enough for any company. Similarly, the company that can offer you most of what you are looking for is a win. On both sides of the hiring equation, looking for perfection, and waiting for that ‘soulmate’ job or candidate to emerge is going to create a ‘Spinster’ culture where both parties just stay single, unable or unwilling to compromise or adjust even a little to move forward and create a successful outcome. Job satisfaction, much like a great relationship, seldom starts there. It starts with a feeling-out process, it grows and builds toward what started out as two imperfect sides strike what can become the perfect partnership.