And then some
Sometimes you read that about relationships. Right now it applies to the relationship all of us have with the economy.
This headline from The Washington Post seemed to sum it up: “Pick your economy: Booming labor market or fizzling growth”
It’s hard to wrap your head around economic conditions that are so seldom seen in tandem.
The backdrop for the recent wage increases is very complicated, which is frustrating because everyone would like a very simple answer, and even easier solutions.
A recent paper from The Hamilton Project examines where all the workers have gone. In the most simplistic of summaries:
- • The U.S. Labor Force is down between 3 to 3.5 million people from what was expected
- • Over 250,000 pandemic-related deaths were those aged between 18 and 64
- • Government policies have limited immigration
- • The child-care crisis worsened during Covid and has diminished women’s labor force participation
Before panic sets in about a recession, perhaps look for opportunity? If other companies are laying off, it could be for a host of reasons that has nothing to do with your organization. External economic pressures can expose internal flaws in firms. Maybe they’ve just laid off someone with that specific skill set that you haven’t been able to find?
Remember, there are still approximately two job openings for every available person, which gives people the confidence to leave jobs. As the Atlanta Fed’s chart shows us monthly, the job switchers make more than the job stayers.
Our February musings have encouraged looking beyond your own environment — whether a groundhog emerging to see his shadow, imagining beyond deep snow drifts to the intricate physics of a single flake, and now urging you to gaze at STARs …
STARs is an acronym for Skilled Through Alternative Routes.
The Burning Glass Institute recently published The Emerging Degree Reset. While employers are finally understanding that eliminating the degree requirement for some of their jobs will give them access to a broader labor pool, there will be a burden as well:
“A reset requires employers to be more articulate about the skills they require for the job”
Article after article on this topic concedes that employers have used the degree requirement as a proxy for the competencies that they assume a college degree imparts, versus articulating or probing for those behaviors in the interview process.
How many more workers?
“There are more than 70 million workers in our U.S. labor force today who are skilled through alternative routes — through community college, through military service. Most often they’re learning on the job…”
If you’re wondering what sort of employers might be looking for STARs, the piece interviews Jimmy Etheredge, CEO of Accenture North America, who is an advocate.
“The assumption has always been, ‘I need to look for people that have a technical background, and then the easier thing to teach is the soft skills,’” “It’s easier to teach them the technology, and they already have amazing skills for doing client-customer interaction,” Etheredge said.
If you’ve ever seen a detailed image depicting the crystal structure of a snowflake, it didn’t come from a college graduate. Those photos taken under a microscope in the bitter cold were taken by a farmer nicknamed Snowflake Bentley who had all the competencies like curiosity, initiative, and determination – but lacked the technical tool to capture the images. Once armed with that technology, the sky was his limit, and his laboratory.
A friend’s recent LinkedIn post grabbed my attention and resonated with me, both personally and professionally. My friend is among 30 professionals who received recognition as a Military Veteran Executive. He credits his career success to many lessons learned in the Army, citing the fact that few civilian experiences require the same level of teamwork, or mental and physical fortitude.
My father was a member of The Greatest Generation; he served in WWII having enlisted in the Marines right out of high school. In my family, a grandfather, two uncles, and cousins also served our country in various branches of the military. My friend’s LinkedIn post reminded me of the many lessons my father shared with me about how his time in the Marine Corps shaped his life.
These days, the news is constantly filled with stories of the chronic labor shortage. How often do employers think about what an amazing and qualified source of talent our former veterans can be? As HR professionals, we readily see the breadth of competencies and experiences this talent pool offers:
- Leadership and teamwork
- Strong work ethic
- Problem-solving and decision-making
- Honesty, integrity, and attention to detail.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, 18.5 million men and women were veterans, accounting for about 7% of the civilian, non-institutionalized population ages 18 and older. Further, the Armed Forces see more than 200,000 U.S. service members return to civilian life each year.
Employers such as JP Morgan Chase, Walgreens, Boeing, and Home Depot all have hiring programs for veterans. While many smaller employers might not have such targeted programs, recruiters can consider resources both locally and regionally that offer programs to help veterans transition from serving our country to civilian work life.
Just few programs are:
- Hiring our Heroes
- Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW)
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has training videos for HR professionals on its website.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes job fairs offer in-person training for HR and hiring managers.
- The Society of Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Foundation has developed the Veterans at Work program to provide HR professionals, people managers and business leaders with proven educational content and resources, at no cost, to learn effective ways to reduce barriers and stigmas affecting the employment of veterans and their families.
- The Foundation also offers a Veterans at Work Certificate Program education program that focuses on best practices to attract, hire, and retain veterans.
This Veteran’s Day let’s go beyond the “Thank you for your service” and find tangible ways to honor their service by creating ways to welcome them into the workplace. I don’t know about you, but I sure think a few more veterans in some logistics jobs might help us with some of our supply chain issues!
Manufacturing equipment has come a long way since 1964. The environment in which you put your equipment? Back then, a somewhat level floor, a power supply, fans for HVAC, and what was a little grease on the floor? You turned it on, and assumed it would run. When you invest in a sophisticated machine today, you may build a special room, complete with its own HVAC and filtration. You wouldn’t dream of operating this equipment without the needed care and calibration. Your organization ensures that those responsible for the care and upkeep of this huge capital investment have the requisite technical expertise to protect your investment; you wouldn’t dream of leaving it to someone that didn’t know what they were doing. Yet why are we okay doing that to our largest investment: our employees.
The current conversation about “back to the office” seems a lot more like 1964, the year that Gary Becker published his first book on human capital. He rocked the world of economics and business with his work on the value of human capital –– people were one of your most valuable assets. It paid to further invest in them now that their life span was longer and technological advances made new skill acquisition imperative.
We sit here in 2021 as the seeming randomness of Covid deaths and quarantining has given Americans plenty of time to pause to reflect on the meaning of life. For many Americans, they are finally understanding their worth as a unique model of human capital. They’ve grown to understand the distinctive sets of skills that they have acquired, honed, and refined over the years AND the optimum conditions under which they perform. When an employer doesn’t understand that, enter…
The Great Resignation
One of my favorite Total Rewards thought leaders, John Bremen, has written a great article, advising how organizations can turn The Great Resignation into the Great Hire. He very rightly points out that more people have been hired in 2021 than have quit – which side of the equation is your organization on?
Solution? It’s not about going back to “the way we always did things.” It IS about recognizing the conditions under which employees can turn in peak performance and earn their organizations more gold.
“Nothing gives you better clarity than a near-death experience. It awakens you to the frailty of life and the importance of living with purpose and meaning.”
You might think that quote was from one of the residents of this London street in 1940, at the outset of the Blitz: lucky not be among those killed that day, but as one of the survivors surveying the randomness of the dropped (and exploded) bombs, wondering if there were any unexploded bombs, why their neighbor’s house was gone and theirs was still standing, and what would tomorrow bring?
Instead, the quote was from an article written by Jack Kelly in Forbes just last month, Read More Here and it was an insight that reinforced a hunch about the current labor market that had been nagging at me.
Nearly 40 years ago, I decided to study abroad because of my interest in events that had taken place 400 years earlier. Living in England just 40 years after WWII presented an entirely unexpected gift: eyewitness history from people who had survived the Home Front. I heard first-hand accounts of the London Blitz from people who had lived through it.
At the same time, both in Britain and traveling throughout Europe, I noticed a healthy respect for leisure time. A weekend was a weekend – no work involved. Vacation – usually double the American allotment – was to be taken and one did not check in at the office.
Eventually I connected the dots: while Americans had rationed, grown Victory Gardens, lost young men, when death happens on your doorstep, to your next door neighbor, without rhyme or reason, you realize that there is more to life than work.
Covid has been our Blitz. Those who have contracted Covid, maybe at the same gathering as others who did not fall ill, seems as random as where a Luftwaffe bomb fell. Everyone has heard a story of the perfectly healthy person who has died from Covid, not unlike the one house on the block that was flattened by a V-1, while all the neighbors’ homes remained intact. We might not have had to sleep in backyard bomb shelters or Tube Stations, but quarantining has given Americans plenty of time to pause to reflect on the meaning of life.
Is it any wonder that in the face of what seems like random death, with plenty of time to ponder, Americans are reassessing how they want to spend the rest of their lives? An article in last week’s Economist drives home this fact, “… recent research by Goldman Sachs … finds that “excess retirees” account for about a quarter of the decline in the country’s [labor] participation rate.” HR experts have been warning the C-Suite for some time now that employees are aching for meaningful work; Covid has them searching for a meaningful life.