As business ebbs and flows, so do the tides of people that work within them. Throughout the years employees have had markets comparable to those of housing. It boils down to supply and demand. When it’s an employer’s market, there is a low inventory of available jobs, average pay is market at best, and there’s an abundance of people looking for work. Conversely, when it’s an employee’s market, the inventory of jobs is high, wages are usually above market, and there’s fewer people looking for work.
Today, we are experiencing a unique phenomenon in the form of a blended market. We have boomers exiting the workforce in record numbers. According to Pew Research Center, 3.2 million boomers left jobs in 2020, which is more than any other year dating back to 2012. However, the jobs they are leaving are mostly unskilled. Today’s workforce is mainly comprised of GenX, Millennials, and GenZ, and the majority are highly skilled. The jobs that boomers are leaving behind are not getting filled quickly or easily. While they remain open, they are inflating the number of open jobs available for skilled labor.
Subsequently, skilled jobs are seeing record numbers of candidates applying. On average, a corporate job attracts 250 resumes, and of those, four to six will get called for an interview, and only one gets the job, per Glassdoor. But that is not stopping talent from applying. According to the World Economic Forum, 40% of employees are thinking of quitting their jobs in 2022. Thus, there are plenty of jobs and plenty of people. It’s an employer/employee job market. Probably the biggest labor market disruption we know of today. According to the World Economic Forum report in October 2021, the rapid acceleration of automation and economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic will shift the division of labor between human and machines, leading to 85 million jobs being displaced and 97 million new jobs being created by 2025.
More and more people are looking to make a change due to a variety of reasons, such as overwhelming workloads, inability to attain a work-life balance, feeling disconnected from employers/colleagues, and lack of learning opportunities. According to a report written by Workforce Planning in 2021, the life span of a skill is just five years and growing shorter. Now is the time to consider what needs to be done to protect your workforce.
In-Office Work Environments
If your office environment is traditional with offices and cubes, it’s time to get the designer in and rethink how the floor plan lends itself to not only safety but focus, fun, and collaboration. If you cannot redesign your space, then perhaps add a fun and/or focus room/area.
The work rules are simple, if it’s designated a focus area, then no talking permitted, offer reading, listing to music through ear buds, meditation, and even a nap. If it’s a lunch break, then why no nap? It’s their time to focus — let the autonomy on how to best focus be the norm. Similarly, a fun area should be just that — fun. A room with games, a TV, and tables for collaboration. Choose one or the other, but do not expect employees working in an office to be jazzed about returning to a coffee mug they left on their desk along with the same paint on the walls.
It doesn’t have to be expensive to reenergize and make an area look and feel like invigorating. For those looking for a change, this may just satisfy them. You may even want to send a survey out or put together an office improvement team. Get them involved in the process and excited about the outcome.
Virtual Work Environments
If you and your employees are virtual and need to focus, then set your DMs to “do not disturb” like you would if you stayed at a hotel. Set up your email for autoreplies while you are away, too. Transparency is key and should be acceptable. Instruct your team to work according to the office work day norms, and if they are taking a break, then take it, but let others know. This builds trust and accountability while working remotely.
Virtual fun time for collaboration could be a group meeting in person or virtually, but prepare in advance and be sure to send an agenda and topics everyone should be discussing. Go around the virtual room for participation from each team member. Raise hands and refrain from interrupting one another during mid-sentence. Start on time and end on time. If you don’t get to everything because it is a collaboration for fun, then put it aside and make time for it again. In person meals are always a good way to bond with your colleagues whom you haven’t seen face to face. If it’s a safe time to get together, then make the time, pick the place, and bring the talking points.
Specific to managers of virtual teams, please remember, you are the glue between the organization and your team. Do a check-in to see how your team is doing on an individual basis. Don’t make this check-in about work, but about mental state and ability to manage life with working from home. Remember those that no longer come into the office are no longer participating in the typical social interactions experienced within an office atmosphere. It’s easy to forget the human element when it is no longer in front of you physically.
For All Work Environments
Help your employees rediscover or reaffirm their work purpose within your organization, not outside of it. Begin with surveys or one-on-one intake sessions to find out how everyone is feeling about their role within the company. Ask hard questions and make it safe for the truth to come out of the conversations. Some sample questions could be, “If you were to interview here, why would you take the job if offered?” or “If you looked for a job in our company, what job would you apply to and why?”
Remember what motivates employees to leave could be the same reason for them to stay. One thing is for certain, no longer is work just work. It’s work with a purpose, and the purpose is a disruption we have never seen.
Gina DeWar serves as Chief of Human Resources for Spectrum Automotive Holdings.