The workforce has reinvented itself.

The workforce has reinvented itself.

Head-scratching has turned to frustration. It’s a mystery that I have invested several dead-end hours trying to wrap my head around. You can’t hire anyone for that good paying job.

It’s easy to think it’s you, your location, or your business. It’s not. Every industry is being affected throughout the US. Employers are desperately hiring with sign-on bonuses and will offer cash to anyone with a pulse just for interviewing. The president of a casino & hotel resort in the south told me recently that nearly 100% of her team members were given an increase in pay due aggressive hiring practices her competitors are using. She also raised the minimum pay for every entry level position.

Recruitment is a big part of what I do every day. An invitation from a lobbyist and the Chamber of Commerce to join a ‘think tank’ conversation confirmed how bad the problem is. Our State Governor is increasingly irritated by what she sees is an impossible to solve conundrum. Unemployment high – applications low.

After surveying multiple business owners throughout the US and my own clients, I have come to some concrete conclusions and I think, one simple solution you can use immediately.

“Clear signs that mimic a recession or World War II”

With over 6% unemployment, nobody is incentivized to work. Bunkum! Despite a recent release from the US Chamber of Commerce and politicians’ claims, other studies have proven that unemployment payouts are not stopping a return to work. Others insist the problem is related to a fear of working with unvaccinated coworkers. Both are only partially true.

I am convinced that the workforce has reinvented itself and morphed into something new. There are clear signs that mimic a recession and World War II. Wars come with casualties and we have already lost 100,000 working age adults due to COVID-19 in the United States. Humans are adaptable. We see. We assess. We react. Survival becomes paramount, innovation is imperative, and we adapt when reality sets in.

To survive, high risk workers – think restaurants and chefs – who were suddenly forced out of well-paying jobs are now working safer, less volatile positions for less. Statistics will prove they won’t return, and a new generation will need to replace them.

Innovation kicks in. Expect the US to report a surge in small ‘kitchen-table’ businesses. Despite the pandemic, more new businesses were created in 2020 vs. 2019. Expect similar results to be announced for this year.

Household budgets are slashed. Moms who sent their children to daycare or school and forced to stay home, quit if their job couldn’t be done remotely. Over 2 million women have left the workforce. Some are figuring out that the quality of life with their children is better than a stressful job and the privilege paying for childcare. In tough times, singles and low-income couples move home with Mom and Dad. Garden centers are selling out of vegetable seeds and families are eating together again.

Reality and a correlation to recessions and World War II go further than that. Think about how many times you dined out in 2019 and early 2020. With nowhere to go, we dusted off the cookery books, went grocery shopping and…hold on to your recipes…we made our own dinners and washed our own dishes.

The truth is, we need less to survive. We have adapted. We don’t plan big weddings, vacations, conferences or need new wardrobes. We learned how to share quality time and celebrate with less. How long will this last? Maybe not long…but you can’t wait  a year to hire can you?

“The priorities must be flip-flopped”

Now you need to adapt. Hours of reviewing job openings reveal an ugly truth about the way US employers hire. The priorities are completely upside down. What stands out in a job post in a larger font size, front and center? To be considered, applicants see the age-old expectations. The need for a degree, a minimum number of years of experience and experience in a similar position.

What we’re really looking for is reliability, a willingness to learn, the ability to ‘fit’ and a great attitude. THOSE are the qualities that we can’t teach. The rest is our new reality and our responsibility.  Now I’m not suggesting you can’t add the qualifications in your job posting. I am saying the priorities must be flip-flopped. Get that innocent, enthusiastic, “green” applicant to work for you and treat them well with the promise of a real future. Earn their loyalty by allowing them to get one foot in the door. Put a training program into place, communicate their progress, review them regularly, and nurture their natural talents.

You’re not supposed to like it, but this is our new normal at least in the short term. There are 9.8 million unemployed workers right now and they don’t want to work for you. Give them a compelling reason to read every word of your job posting. Then get them hired.

Sean Barnard is a Kolbe Certified Consultant, Certified Professional and member of the Society of Human Resources Management. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and are not to be considered legal advice.

Sean Barnard, SHRM-CP
Sean Barnard is a public speaker, corporate trainer, consultant and certified human resources professional.