Leadership Challenges with Post-Pandemic Employment and How to Address Them
The way people work will forever be altered after the COVID-19 pandemic, and the aftereffects are still hitting the corporate world hard. The pandemic made working from home mainstream, forced many individuals to file for unemployment, and inspired others to leave the work-force altogether. Regardless of the reasoning, the pandemic has stretched our labor force thin and leaders continue to struggle to fill these roles to keep up with demand.
Now, let’s look at how this new “normal” work-life has surfaced, reasons for the rapidly diminishing labor force, and how companies can better attract their ideal employee even during a changing labor market.
New “Normal” Working Conditions
The concept of a “normal” work environment quickly adopted a new meaning after the pandemic pivoted the way businesses operated. As individuals were transitioning into a new work-from-home lifestyle in 2020 and throughout 2021, their conviction to continue working from home held strong when their offices reopened. Business owners have realized this work-from-home luxury employees received during lockdowns cannot easily be taken back, leaving leaders to either conform to this new standard or risk the loss of their labor force by demanding a return to the office. Some leaders have chosen to remain fully remote in order to retain their employees, while others developed a hybrid environment.
A study from the Pew Research Center stated 60% of workers with jobs which can be done from home say if they have the choice, they would like to work from home all or most of the time. This number is up from 54% who said the same in 2020. Among those who are currently working from home all or most of the time, 78% say they’d like to continue to do so for the foreseeable future, up from 64% in 2020.¹ These individuals formed new habits and became favorably comfortable with their work from home statuses, such as saving money on commuting, flexibility to perform household duties throughout the day, relaxed work attire, and more.
It’s important to note, some individuals have been home due to job loss or left the labor force completely, in many cases to become the sole caretaker of children sent home from school. These employees contribute to our analysis of why the labor force is diminishing.
Where Did Our Workers Go?
The pandemic has become a significant reason as for why our labor force has rapidly disappeared. Even before the pandemic, a survey by the Manpower showed 38% of businesses reported difficulty finding workers in 2015, and in February 2020 the amount nearly doubled to 77% of US businesses reporting a talent shortage.² Business owners have struggled for years with hiring and maintaining workers, so it’s no surprise the pandemic aftermath affected these numbers.
It would be easy to blame the scarcity in labor entirely on the pandemic; however, another factor is weighing in on the conversation is the rise of the Baby Boomer retirement. These are individuals born between 1946 and 1964 who are now nearing or at retirement age. According to Pew Research Center, in the third quarter of 2020, 28.6 million Baby Boomers left the job market and retired; since then, Boomer-aged retirees have increased by almost 1.1 million.³
With the significant amount of births which took place during the Baby Boomer era, and these individuals now retiring, there aren’t enough workers today to fill the gaps. This is because it was common for families in the 1960’s and 70’s to have four to six children, whereas families today feel the burden of childcare costs and other responsibilities, leaving fertility rates lower than ever before. This means we aren’t having enough children to replace the roles which once were full, causing a continuous decline in available workers for companies who relied on Baby Boomer work with years of experience. A higher retirement rate will force companies to change the way they do business by either efficiently producing with less workers, or struggling with minimal help for extended periods.
Aside from the rise in Baby Boomer retirement, the unemployment rates ballooned during the pandemic, leaving more than 65 million Americans filing for unemployment in 2020 and hitting a record high of double-digits.³ The number of unemployed people left millions of job roles empty and companies struggling with increased workloads and lower production. Although the unemployment rate has significantly decreased from the pandemic’s first wave, there are still individuals who have not returned to the labor force. With many schools choosing to shut down amidst the pandemic, families with young children had to make a decision on either spending a significant amount of money on child care; finding a cheaper, low-quality child care; or leaving the workforce completely to be home as the sole caregiver, many of whom have continued to stay home full-time since childcare opportunities became scarce or unaffordable. A majority of these individuals who choose to become the sole caregiver were women, leaving a disproportionate gap in the candidate pool.
“How Can We Attract Workers?”
It’s now a job seeker’s market, which is predicted to linger for years to come. To attract and retain long-term employees, you should offer benefits above and beyond your normal allocations of paid time off (PTO), retirement benefits, medical insurance, and more. Although these are all critical benefits to have, there are some other, less formal benefits to consider. Additionally work perks could be a variety of offerings, such as:
- Hybrid or remote work opportunities
The freedom which came with working from home during the pandemic has caused workers to now seek out this luxury when applying to jobs. This flexibility benefits the employee as well as the employer, by freeing up or eliminating the use of office space and reducing overhead on rent, utilities, etc.
- Flexible scheduling
Allow your employees to build their own schedule, whether it’s four, 10-hour shifts a week, or negotiating their work start and end times. This can provide an excellent work-life balance to some who prefer different hours or who have to accommodate for children and family schedules, activities, or doctor’s appointments.
- Additional compensation earnings or value-added benefits
Offer incentives for employees who recommend candidates that get hired or for business development. By doing so, the employee is offered an opportunity to earn additional compensation and the employer is offered free marketing to attract new workers, business partners and clients. Consider adding other incentives to help motivate employees—for example, a recognition and rewards program, child-care assistance, profit sharing plans, health and wellness rewards, or tuition reimbursement.
- Complimentary snacks and drinks
Food is a love language, and offering complimentary snacks and drinks in the office can promote a daily serotonin boost we all could benefit from. Additionally, company lunches are a great way to build community in the office, which is a main motivator for employees who do still want to come into the office. This could be a vending machine with a monthly allowance to spend, or weekly lunches/snacks brought in from various vendors.
If you still aren’t sure about which incentives to add to your organization, ask your current team. This way, you are fostering trust between your company and your team, as well as offering incentives you know your employees will enjoy.
Where Do I Go From Here?
The cycle of finding ideal candidates, going through the hiring process, making a decision and extending an offer only to be left empty-handed becomes tiring. Our KerberRose Human Resources team specializes in recruiting so you don’t have to. We dig deep to acquire the ideal candidate with longevity in mind for your business, and we offer an array of services to help you build your benefits package to align with post-pandemic needs and desires. If you’re ready to take the next step toward growing your employees and their tenure, contact our Trusted Advisors today.
¹ Parker, K., Horowitz, J., & Minkin, R. (2022, February 16). COVID-19 Pandemic Continues To Reshape Work in America. Pew Research. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2022/02/16/covid-19-pandemic-continues-to-reshape-work-in-america/
² (2020). The 2022 Global Talent Shortage. Manpower Group. https://go.manpowergroup.com/hubfs/Talent%20Shortage%202022/MPG-Talent-Shortage-Infographic-2022.pdf
³ Fry, R. (2020, November 9). The pace of Boomer retirements has accelerated in the past year. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/11/09/the-pace-of-boomer-retirements-has-accelerated-in-the-past-year/