I must admit that I grew up in times different from today. Many of you, as I, remember the 1960s, 70s, and 80s when obtaining a job offer was a significant task. Like our fathers, we recognized that a good job meant a long-term relationship with our employers. Unfortunately, that relationship doesn’t seem to exist anymore, not in most job settings. In a recent article by Anne North, titled “The death of the job,” she asks this question: “What if paid work were no longer the centerpiece of American life?”
For decades Americans have been encouraged to join and stay with companies because of reinforcers such as attractive wages, health insurance, and retirement benefits. Americans, more than workers in most other countries, see their jobs as a sense of identity. But these reinforcers appear to be disappearing at a rapid pace.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the so-called death of the job. With so many employees now working from home, coworker relationships have suffered, and commitment to employers has taken a hit. A record 4 million people quit their jobs this April. North refers to the pattern as the “Great Resignation.” If I can borrow from a well-known song lyric, … “The Times They Are ‘A-changin’.”
Where does this put you as an employer?
As this plays out, the nation is ready for an influx of new talent. Hiring is still happening despite the economic turmoil resulting from the pandemic. To name just a few companies, Amazon announced that they are hiring more than 100,000 people; UPS has open positions for the same; Ace Hardware is hiring 30,000 people to work in stores nationwide; Allied Universal is hiring 25,000 people; and, HCA Healthcare is hiring more than 23,000 people for permanent roles.
There are also significant hiring opportunities reported in certain regions of the country. For example, St. Louis reported optimism for future hiring in a 2021 State of the St. Louis Workforce report (St. Louis Business Journal August 13-19, Vol. 41 NO.52). The journal surveyed 516 employers across 16 employer categories representing a composite of the region’s economy. St. Louis companies reportedly were optimistic about plans to increase staffing over the next 12 months. Nearly two-thirds of the companies stated that they would increase employment levels into 2022.
However, asked what possible shortcomings to their optimism are, most employers reported concerns about a shortage of workers with knowledge or skills. Sixty-six percent of St. Louis employers are experiencing a shortage of applicants. The top four functional areas representing the most significant shortages were skilled trades, patient care, manufacturing maintenance, and customer service.
Applicant shortcomings reported by St. Louis employers included but were not limited to what I see as five essential attributes that cut across all industries and functional areas:
- Poor Work Habits
- Lack of Communication or Interpersonal Skills
- Unwillingness or Inability to Learn
- Lack of Teamwork or Collaboration
- Lack of Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
In many of my writings, I address the importance of screening applicants for what we call work attitude. You don’t have to look closely to see that four of the five attributes listed above are components of attitude toward work. (Arguably, the last attribute, Lack of Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, could be due to an unwillingness to see problems through rather than a lack of cognitive skills. This would place all five attributes under work attitude.)
Yes, there are significant obstacles to the optimism for future hiring. We are witnessing a significant talent disconnect. The baby boomers have retired, millennials share a new view of the word “job,” and work attitude is undermining the success of many potential employees.
How can your company excel in this new world of work?
In today’s world, companies will need to focus on three areas. I’ll call them HR flexibility, leadership awareness, and people culture.
You’ll need to be flexible in your talent acquisition, and leadership must become aware of the challenges related to today’s workforce. Rethinking the work environment that your company provides is a must. Finally, pay close attention to the type of people/organizational culture that attracts and keeps new employees.
Expand your applicant pool by looking deeper than technical skills. Look beyond industry knowledge or experience. I acknowledge that these are important, but they are also less predictive of job success than most would hope. Screen for work attitude. Companies will have to put more time and money into skilled training or lengthen job orientation programs that include onboarding and job skills training.
Organizational culture is also in question today. While too much remote work can lead to isolation and lessened commitment to your company, the new workforce has had a taste of working from home. A mixture of remote and in-office days may just be the combination to attract and keep employees.
Your leadership will need to get involved. Not just to get buy-in. Leader behaviors will need to change as well. If nothing else, regular communication from the top will be required. The new workforce wants to know they impact the organization and understand their efforts are acknowledged.
About the Author
David Smith, PhD, is the founder and CEO of E.A.S.I-Consult®. E.A.S.I-Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. E.A.S.I-Consult’s specialties include leadership assessment, online pre-employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring advisement. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about E.A.S.I-Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.