Winning the War for Workers



It seems almost weekly we get contacted by an organization or event planner who wants us to deliver a keynote speech on how to “win the war for workers.”

We’re happy to oblige with a killer presentation that identifies irrefutable trends affecting the workforce and, most important, what leaders need to do attract and retain workers. 

Interestingly, we are hearing nearly identical concerns from leaders across industries, including healthcare, higher education, government agencies, and retail and convenience stores. They say good workers are growing harder to come by.

Our job is to track trends like this, which means we know what’s happening and why (and have ideas how to address it). But it seems this pain point is clearly catching some organizations by surprise. Many are no longer sure how to find, recruit, and retain talent as they once did.

This problem is worth a deeper look. On one hand, it’s your fault. On the other, it’s not.

What’s to Blame?

It’s your fault if your organization isn’t offering what today’s workers want in terms of jobs, responsibilities, work environment, work culture, and benefits. You have to get these basics right. It’s 2018, and job-seekers expect your organization to operate that way. If you’re still operating like you did 10 years ago, you’re behind. You must appeal to the wants and needs of today’s labor pool.

But it’s also not your fault (or anyone’s), because the economy has only 4.1 percent unemployment — meaning the supply of available jobs essentially exceeds the demand.

The bad news either way is that this trend doesn’t seem to be going away in the foreseeable future. Bain just released a report that projects that the average annual growth of the labor force will slow from 0.7 percent in the 2010s to 0.4 percent in the 2020s. Ugh. That means even fewer people will be available for recruiting to your team.

What to Do

The pressure is increasing on employers to make sure their work environments and cultures align with the expectations of the modern worker. Does your organization have a clearly articulated and meaningful purpose? Are you open, transparent, and flexible? How do your diversity and inclusion efforts stack up? Are your HR policies and rules updated, or are they out-of-date?

Organizations feeling the pain should start by assessing where they stand today. Figure out your current state, determine what needs reworking, and make a plan to move forward.

But you also need to be more intentional in engaging new workers. This starts during the recruitment process before they are hired and continues through their first year on the job. In our keynote for retailers, for example, we lay out step-by-step, specific ideas for connecting with today’s workers and getting them invested in the job and company — mentorship, affinity groups, and opportunities to take project ownership all among them.

The new reality for anyone in talent acquisition is that acquiring talent is going to continue to grow in importance. Plus, it’s going to be much more difficult tomorrow, so please, please, please, start focusing on it today. The small steps offered here are a good start.

Photo by Pawel Chu on Unsplash