Addressing the Great Resignation
“I want 20 years of experience and a PHD. This job will require 80 hours per week. We will pay $10 per hour and no benefits as this is an entry level position.” This is how I think a lot of discussions begin when management considers positing a job opening. At least, that’s the impression I get any time I see a job posting or hear friends and family speak about their job search. So then why is there such a disconnect in the workforce?
Employees can’t find a job they qualify for, and employers are shouting “nobody wants to work anymore”. Ghosting is becoming more prevalent among employees and gig work is becoming more appealing with each passing day for some. Employers may be trying to compete with one another on wages, but there is an apparent ignorance of their greatest competition. The gig economy and passive income are more available than ever to the average person. People want to work, just not for todays employer.
Employees Have Options Now
You may find yourself asking “why would I wake up at 7 am, spend time commuting just to be trapped at a job for 8 plus hours, and be treated poorly for $10–15 an hour when I could just do my own thing with Task Rabbit, Uber, Gigwalk, Upwork, Fiverr, Udemy, Youtube, or a thousand other projects and get to do it on my own time?”
The answer is becoming more apparent. You don’t want to work for little money, respect, and freedom. People don’t want to work for less than they are worth. In America we have a capitalist society and for a long time it has worked in favor of the employer with the exception of a few unions who have occasionally tipped the scale here and there. As a whole its always been the employer that has the upper hand.
Balance of Power
As an employee you do what the employer says when they say and for the amount they say, or you get out. That’s fair, you wouldn’t hire a plumber to fix your pipes and not expect to be able to find someone else if they weren’t performing to your standards. However, on such a large scale the fairness has dwindled over time. The productivity of the average worker has increased but the wages have not kept pace, nor have the benefits or respect.
Now I am not now, nor will I likely ever be a proponent for a drastic and sudden minimum wage hike. It just doesn’t make sense from an economic perspective as it doesn’t better the lives or wealth of the employee. In fact, it actually helps to increase the wealth gap between the rich and the poverty line as well as between the rich and the middle class. I have some solutions to propose but that is a discussion for another day.
Nevertheless, something must be done to create amicability between the employer and employee. The employer has been reaping greater benefits year after year while the employee has paid for them. Today businesses are wondering where all the labor has gone. It is the employer that is in the hot seat rather than the laborer.
This is because the scales have tipped to give employees greater leverage in their negotiating power and businesses are still trying to hold onto the same, antiquated ways of doing business. We are currently in the age of a paradigm shift, and this could go very wrong or very right, but regardless of the long term outcome the status quo is soon to be no more.
So what can businesses do to entice employees to stay or even apply?
1. Let the skillset match the job
2. Make the pay match the skills
3. Invest in developing the employees Skills Knowledge and Abilities
4. Emphasize Work/Life Balance
5. Transition from Managers to Leaders Managers
6. Transition to “gig”/contract labor where possible
Struggle for Balance Between Employees & Employer
There is in my opinion a strong connection between the rising productivity/wage gap and the ever-growing qualifications at every level of work. Employers are getting incredible deals on their wage costs today. Their savings come by hiring only overqualified employees for wages far beneath their skillsets. Until now, employees had to settle for whatever they could get and work hard to advance in their organizations, so this was an absolute win for businesses.
There was also little need to invest in the employees because they were already capable of doing their jobs and the jobs well above their paygrades. Besides, its not like they were going anywhere. Most businesses structure themselves like this, and if employees did try to “shop around” they would be labeled as a “job hopper” which would weaken their employability. In short, looking for something better was a risky endeavor for an employee.
Work/life balance wasn’t and still isn’t generally a concern for many employers. The transaction is a mutual agreement, the employee sells the employer their time and that’s the end of it. But why does the agreement feel so one sided? Because the employer held all the leverage.
Employees hold the Risk
What is the number one question you are likely to be asked in an interview? “Why did you leave your last job?” This question is difficult to answer because an honest answer can mean you don’t get the job. There’s no grand capitalistic conspiracy to keep the working folk under control of big business or anything like that, but it happens to work out the same as if there were.
If your previous employer decides to no longer engage in buying your time, then that termination reflects very poorly on you. Furthermore, it can make it difficult for you to provide for yourself or your family. However, if you decide to no longer sell your time to a specific employer, then that employer will suffer no long term consequences. Unfortunately you still may be seen in a negative light for leaving in some cases.
Power has Shifted to Employees
Now employers need to see their relationship with employees differently and for the partnership it is. Employees have always been encouraged to look out for the best interests of the businesses for whom they work, even while off the clock. Now its time for employers to do the same for their employees if there is any hope of salvaging their abilities to hold onto workers.
Leaders who care about building up their employees and operating as a team can go a long way in achieving this. Management that cares about their employees can make great strides in reducing absenteeism, presenteeism, burnout and turnover while raising productivity. This shift doesn’t have to be a negative for anyone. Instead it can be an opportunity to build a better way of doing business.
Offering greater flexibility, allowing for work on demand jobs when possible, treating employees with respect, matching skills with the job position, and investing in employees growth all seem like obvious opportunities to develop and retain a motivated and powerful workforce, but first the idea that employees are beneath the employer in this odd power struggle must be done away with.
There is strength in unity between the employee and employer. Unfortunately, as long as employers try to hold onto the power businesses will face loss and employees will continue to seek opportunities outside of the traditional model.