It’s being called “the great resignation.” Millions of workers have yet to return to the workforce even as COVID surges begin to ease. An estimated 4.3 million US workers quit their jobs in August of 2021, and most have not yet returned to the labor force. Industries hardest hit by labor shortages include hospitality and food service, retail, and education.
In these fields, workers must have constant and direct interaction with the public. Abusive customers and clients, coupled with the surge in COVID infections caused by the Delta variant, may have had something to do with how many workers left their jobs.
Lack of workers has prolonged supply chain problems. Additional industries hardest hit by labor shortages include manufacturing, transportation (especially long haul trucking), and warehousing, where attracting and retaining workers can be challenging in a labor market where workers seem to have the upper hand.
How can businesses lure workers back? And how will entrepreneurs scale their businesses when it’s so hard to attract reliable and engaged workers?
Communicate Business Culture
While raising wages is certainly an effective strategy, it would be a mistake to think that more money alone is going to help a business attract and retain its workforce. First, many newer businesses and entrepreneurs can’t afford to increase wages or add benefits yet, as they’re still trying to scale up.
But workers will stick with an employer that makes them feel valued and that provides predictability along with the flexibility to accommodate work/life balance. If a parent needs to take a few hours in the afternoon to collect their child from school or attend their sporting event or performance, make that possible and stress-free.
Embrace Remote Work Where Possible
Remote work is here to stay; during the pandemic, workers happily gave up long commutes and noticed how much money they could save when they weren’t spending it on fuel or train tickets. Businesses that can offer remote work should. Productivity doesn’t have to suffer: it’s possible to improve productivity when employees work from home.
Treat Employees With Respect
More money will never make up for a neglectful, unsafe, or abusive workplace. Examine how you communicate with your employees: do you listen more than you talk? Do you take employee suggestions seriously? Do you acknowledge and respond to burnout with more time off?
When a growing business is looking to add workers, having an appealing company culture to sell goes a long way. Be able to describe your business’s values clearly and coherently and how you put those values into practice in day-to-day operations.
Flexibility, responsiveness, transparency, respect, and yes, fun can be very attractive to prospective employees who left jobs that were repetitive, had long hours and inadequate protection from COVID, or that exposed them to abusive customers. Be ready to show that you’ll stand up for and value your workers, and you’ll have a better chance at landing talented, enthusiastic, and loyal employees.