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There’s a dearth of talent available right now. Or is there? That’s the question du jour. We’ve all seen the recent headlines, the TikToks, and the LinkedIn postings talking about this very topic. In fact, a Washington Post article on the April jobs report featured the headline: “It’s not a ‘labor shortage.’ It’s a great reassessment of work in America.” The writer goes on to state: “There is also growing evidence – both anecdotal and in surveys – that a lot of people want to do something different with their lives than they did before the pandemic.”

It seems our country isn’t lacking employees; instead, people just don’t want to go back to the job or career they had before March 2020. As a result, jobs are left unfilled and companies are scrambling to find the right talent.

Further supporting that perspective is The Atlantic article, “A Once-in-a-Lifetime Chance to Start Over,” written by a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, which outlines the unique opportunities people now have to create a new and better normal than they may have had before the pandemic.

And in a recent TikTok, Leadership Coach Dr. Kim Hires aptly discusses that it’s not that people don’t want to work, but that they just may not want to work for your company. She makes the point that a company’s talent shortage is actually a reflection of the organization, the employee experience, and the company culture. And like any relationship, they’ve decided to break up. 

It’s Not You, It’s Me

In the classic tradition of break-ups, we’re seeing many employable people say, “It’s not you, it’s me.” But we all know the underlying truth behind that statement – it is, in fact, most definitely you. The last year has given your former employees (and your future employees) the opportunity to reassess what’s important to them and their families. And let’s be honest: your company may not fit the bill.

People are simply no longer content with compromising on the things most important to them. For example, many remote workers have discovered that not everything needs to be face-to-face and that there are significant work-life balance opportunities to be had by eliminating hour-long commutes and interacting with their partners or kids throughout the day.

Employees working on the front lines or in manufacturing facilities throughout the pandemic (because you can’t take a huge piece of equipment home) have also reassessed things: Was the job worth the health risks? Was it worth dealing with childcare (or the lack thereof)? Was it worth the stress of dealing with belligerent customers?

Some folks are answering these questions with a definitive “No.” The Washington Post article references a long-time retail manager who has thrown in the towel on that job and is now learning to be a wind turbine technician. That retail manager is not alone.

Many women who work outside the home, but still carry the bulk of the household responsibilities and chores, including childcare and navigating remote schooling, have abandoned their jobs and careers in droves simply because their employers didn’t or couldn’t offer the support they needed to wear all the hats the pandemic forced upon them.

Not every employee, however, has become dissatisfied. In fact, certain organizations discovered that business was able to run smoothly even when people had more flexibility and less micromanaging. Lots of organizations realized they could be more agile – within weeks they had sent millions of employees to work from home. Some even found that remote workers enabled them to eliminate some of the costs of doing business while also accessing new talent pools.

Additionally, tons of businesses have rapidly changed the way they serve customers, often in ways that customers have been wanting for years. (This doesn’t apply to my local Thai restaurant that stopped offering home delivery. You’re definitely going to take a sales hit. Sorry.)

But back to that break-up line. It’s time for organizations to take a good look in the mirror and consider the real reason they can’t attract talent.

Is it that people don’t want to work or is it that your employee experience and culture are subpar and people are no longer content to grin and bear it?

Assessing your organization’s appeal to both current and future employees is more critical than ever, as the Achievers’ Employee Engagement and Retention Report suggests that a stunning 52% of workers plan on looking for new jobs in 2021. Holy Moly! (Your poor talent acquisition team… Might want to check on their wellbeing regularly. Hint: pizza parties or donuts in the breakroom aren’t going to cut it.)

Think about the costs associated with onboarding half your workforce when the average cost per hire across organizations and industries is $4,125. If nothing else, there’s never a bad time for a bit of introspection. 

Building a Brag-Worthy Organization Profile

When people are deciding whether they want to continue working for your organization or apply for one of the many job openings that are likely being posted as you read this, there are many things they evaluate. Among the most common are:

  • Is there trust between your leadership team and employees? Do people believe leaders are transparent and honest? If your people don’t believe leaders have their best interests at heart, your HR team is going to be very busy.

How to appeal to employees: Before creating another job listing, your organization must focus on improving the levels of empathy and honesty among the leadership team.

  • Before the pandemic, the number one reason people left their jobs was because of their boss. Do your people managers have the skills to create high-performing teams? Do they know how to help their people develop their capabilities and grow as individuals? Do your managers even know that’s their job?

How to appeal to employees: It’s time to invest in your managers and help them develop the skills they need to make people want to work for them.

  • Do leaders send emails at 9:00 p.m. and expect people to answer right away? Are they monitoring peoples’ work habits? Is there empathy if someone has family issues? Are people afraid to speak their minds? Are there flexible work hours if they’re appropriate for the job? Do people trust leaders and believe they’re telling them the truth?

How to appeal to employees: People want to work for leaders who are honest, authentic, and empathetic. People will no longer settle for a culture in which behaviors, processes, and policies exist. Creating a workplace culture that is proud to recognize that employees are people first is imperative to attracting the best talent.

  • More and more people want to do work that is meaningful and makes a difference. Does everyone in the organization understand how their work affects the outputs of the company? If not, your leadership isn’t doing your mission justice.

How to appeal to employees: Make sure all leaders can share your organization’s mission through emotionally impactful stories and messaging that allow for two-way conversations.

Entering the Era of Organizational Self-Reflection

The pandemic has created an opportunity to reevaluate how we do business and who we want to spend our time with. It has changed the fundamentals of the workplace. And for better or worse, leaders need to adjust their behaviors and organizational policies to reflect the needs and wants of the employees of 2021.

It’s time to consider how your organization’s leadership, management, culture, and purpose are resonating (or not resonating) with the public and the workforce at large. This means taking a hard look at what you want your organization to stand for and evaluating what elements of your culture need to change to retain and attract the type of worker who will be an asset on your journey to success.

Simply put, it’s time to determine whether your organization needs to stop saying, “But that’s how we do things around here and always have.” Almost nothing is what it used to be. Organizations must reflect and adapt because the talent pool has spoken. The time is now to work harder than ever on creating a fulfilling employee experience and an appealing corporate culture. If you’re not sure where to start, or if you’d like insight on how to attract the right candidates ASAP, check out Part 2.


June 2, 2021


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