I read with interest a recent NY Times piece about the growing Brexit-inspired labor shortage spreading throughout Britain, as foreign workers across the breadth and depth of the workspace are deciding in droves to take their services where they feel more welcome.
Something similar is happening in the U.S., as borders are tightened, nationalist interests are rising, and key talent reservoirs are shrinking in the face of a warming economy.
My business partner, Richard Hadden recently keynoted for North American dairy farmers gathered in Las Vegas for the MILK Conference. How cool is it that a guy who has spent the last 20 years writing and speaking about “Contented Cows” gets an entire room full of dairymen and women, as an audience?
Guess what their #1 concern was. Not unlike the Scottish fruit farmer profiled in the aforementioned piece, they were concerned about the shortage of labor, and the concomitant difficulty in getting the wash, ‘er milk out daily at a cost they can afford.
As we all know, American dairy farmers aren’t the only ones finding it difficult to recruit and retain workers of late. Most recruiters, in fact, are experiencing steadily increasing “Time to Fill” rates, a measure that is getting super-sized as 100,000 daily resignations cause the requisition pile to rise. So what to do? Short of showing recruiters some love, which wouldn’t be a bad start, here are three ideas, expressed as a derivative of Peter Drucker’s sage advice that managers should, “feed the opportunities and starve the problems.”
Starve These Problems:
- Stop tolerating unacceptable behavior and/or insufficient performance by people who have been given reasonable opportunity to succeed. Why is this #1 on the list? Because with each passing day, it’s adding to your list of jobs to fill as A and B players get tired of carrying someone else’s load, or working with turkeys, and vote with their feet, further marginalizing an already depleted talent pool. Keeping malcontents or non-performers on the job is one of the cruelest things you can do to them (yes), your workforce, and customers alike. These problems won’t fix themselves, so it is left to you. Do it humanely, but do it… soon.
- Truth be known, many of the things that slow people down or otherwise frustrate their best work performance are often the product of institutional stupidity: Methods, procedures, policies that were once advisable or well-intentioned, but no longer fit. Like grains of sand in the shoe, they wear people down, and in general make them crazy, or, just want to quit. In speeches and seminars I often use as an example, a picture of an airline flight attendant re-arranging and stowing luggage in the overhead bin just prior to push-back from the gate. She didn’t sign up to be a cargo handler, but winds up serving as one because of an idiotic policy whereby airline passengers are incentivized to schlep excess bags aboard, rather than check them with the airline for an extra fee. There is more baggage carried aboard than the aircraft cabin can accommodate, and it falls to flight attendants to solve the problem before the plane can depart.This procedure, repeated on nearly every flight, thousands of times per day, doesn’t just grind people mentally, but physically, with added injuries, not to mention flight delays. It’s completely preventable. We all have similar spirit and productivity-killing practices in our own workplaces. Let’s do something about them. Make it a significant part of your daily regimen as a leader to discover and fix situations like this that make your people crazy, and keep them from doing their best work. In turn, you will earn their undying appreciation and discretionary effort. Who knows, they might stick around longer, too.
Feed This Opportunity:
Since the year 2000, more than 2% of women aged 25 – 54 have dis-enrolled from the American workforce (source; OECD), causing the female workforce participation rate to shrink to 74%.That shrinkage rate is accelerating. By comparison, in the same period, France, Germany and Britain (combined) have seen female workforce participation grow by 4 points, to an 82% participation rate. This hasn’t happened because American women don’t want paying jobs or careers. Rather, it’s because the deal in the U.S. workplace doesn’t work for them very well. Many find our employment practices especially unwelcoming, notably those that revolve around work scheduling, career pathing, and a very narrow path for women into the executive suite. If we addressed some of those issues, and closed only half the gap between the U.S. and the named European counterparts, mathematically, we would have more than enough job candidates to fill the current 6 million job vacancies, with candidates who, by the way would tend to be better educated than their male counterparts. As for the executive suite, there is evidence aplenty that organizations with women meaningfully represented in management have a habit of making better decisions, innovating faster, and generating better returns for shareholders. I’m willing to bet there is less sexual harassment going on as well.
If you’ve got a workforce matter like this, or another that you would like some coaching on, I would be happy to hear from you.