Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the ongoing worker shortage. Maybe you’ve walked past more “We’re Hiring” signs in the last 4 months than you can remember. Maybe you notice that your favorite restaurants and bars are all short-staffed.
According to the Labor Department, the U.S. had 10.4 million job openings in August. Leaving many economists wondering “what’s going on” with the American workforce. Early retirements, better opportunities elsewhere, extended unemployment benefits, ongoing school closures and the rise in homeschooling, as well as lingering COVID hesitancy have all been floated as possible factors.
In a statement to CNBC, ING economists said that the “labour market shortages could persist for a good deal longer than the Federal Reserve expects, which will mean companies increasingly bidding up pay to attract staff.” They pointed to “elevated quit rates” as driving the bidding war for workers.
The Great Resignation
As you’ll no doubt know by now, this “elevated quit rate” has been dubbed “The Great Resignation.” And it’s only accelerating. American workers quit in record numbers in August of this year, and then broke that record in September.
Surely many factors play a role in the Great Resignation, but one of those factors is employee disengagement and burnout. Harvard Business Review found that resignations were highest “in fields that had experienced extreme increases in demand due to the pandemic,” such as healthcare and tech. Fecebook and LinkedIn teem with tales of frustrated workers quitting to pursue better opportunities.
The Future of the Workforce
Meanwhile, in the midst of the Great Resignation and staffing shortage, Gen Z is hitting the workforce. Born starting in 1997, members of Gen Z are both the most diverse generation and the most online generation. They also have new attitudes about employment.
The Baby Boomers are ageing out of the workforce, with Boomer retirements accelerated by the pandemic and the decision of many older workers to hang up their spurs early. As members of Gen Z replace them (and with Millennials already the largest generation in the workforce), younger and more diverse voices will increasingly come to dominate conversations about work.
Employers will need to recruit members of Gen Z and retain Millennials, not only in order to solve the current hiring shortage, but also to avoid future ones. Which means employers will need to pay attention to what young workers want from their bosses.
What Does Gen Z Want in an Employer?
When asked about future employment, college graduates in 2021 often say they want to have their voices heard, and they want to feel involved in the company mission.
Older workers hear that and scoff. Some of them say Gen Z is entitled. (Just as they said about Millennials 10 years ago.)
But is there anything entitled about an employee wanting an engaging and challenging work environment? Or about wanting an employer who actively invests employees in the mission of the company?
When college students say they want to have their voices heard, they mean that they want to participate in the conversation about the direction of their work. When they say they want to be involved, they mean that they want engaging work and an employer who makes sure employees are invested in the business.
Actually, instead of an entitlement for younger workers, that’s the key to retaining employees of every generation. Is it really such a novel concept that employees would want to work at a company they care about?
The fact is, the Great Resignation forces employers to ask some hard questions. Why are they having trouble attracting and retaining workers? What would make an employee resign?
People aren’t resigning from jobs they love.
Employee Engagement – The Solution to the Hiring Shortage
The key to solving staffing shortages is straightforward. Employers should do their best to make sure that their employees love their jobs. The best way to recruit and retain a workforce is not only to provide a challenging and engaging work environment, but also to make sure workers feel that their effort is worthwhile. That their work has meaning and value. This means involving them in your company’s mission.
Ultimately, you want employees who actually want to come to work each day and do the best job that they can. It’s far easier to retain a current employee than to hire a new one. And job applicants like to see a thriving culture of employees who care about making their employer successful.
To deal with the current hiring challenges, businesses need to look for creative solutions to employee engagement. If you want employees serious about the success of your business, start by involving them in the mission in novel ways. Invite employee contributions and feedback. Give them stock options.
But also consider the fact that every employee is a representative of your company. And that workers who actively want to see their employer succeed will promote and recommend the company to other people on their own time. In 2021, (especially for Gen Z employees) that might mean on social media.
Younger workers want their voices heard, and most of them have multiple social media accounts. They grew up on Twitter and Instagram. One way to engage them in their work, and get some free promotion, is to let them rep the company on social media. Actively invite them to contribute to the company’s social media campaigns – from their personal accounts.
This is just one of many novel ways to make sure employees are invested in their work. Which ultimately will help with retainment and recruitment. However businesses choose to solve their current hiring challenges, they need to understand the hard lessons of the Great Resignation. It didn’t come out of nowhere. It came because workers were burned out and disengaged. The key to preventing the next one is fixing what caused this one in the first place.