Brower: Trouble finding workers not exclusive to county
A famous French comedian offered this quip in one of his routines about work.
“They keep saying everybody out there in the world wants jobs,” he’d say. “But not me. I just want the paycheck. You can keep the job.”
After the laughter died down the difficult truth about this became apparent. Perhaps it is true that people don’t really want jobs, they just want the rewards of a job. That is, money. And, perhaps, a higher sense of meaning through a job.
And now, after sitting through several symposiums and conferences with small business and rural business development groups in Arizona, I have learned that the struggles Grand County entrepreneurs and business owners have with finding, hiring and keeping employees isn’t uniquely a Grand County or uniquely a Colorado issue. It’s a burgeoning crisis that is affecting the economic fabric of communities across the country.
I know that’s small consolation to my clients who are struggling to meet the demands of increased business here in Grand County. But other people in the U.S. have been trying to figure out how to address this problem.
Here are some of the strategies I learned about.
The values and standards of baby boomers like me are not the same standards of many of the Millennials and Gen Xers, who are much of the work force today. That means a job that I thought would be great in my youth is not a job that current jobseekers might think of as great, which is a roundabout way of saying employers are learning that changing the way we work is an important way to lure and retain workers.
First, it was noted that many employees today aren’t in the market only for a huge paycheck, although I know that helps. They are in the game for a type of qualify of life that helps them nurture their family and recreational values. To that end many companies are experimenting and finding success with flexible work schedules that allow employees to have time with family while still giving the employer a 32-hour of 40-hour workweek. This could involve flex schedules, perhaps work-from-home plans (although this is fining increasing dis-favor with workers and employers) and an open attitude to the demands of raising a family.
This could include offering daycare at a job or providing significant child care added incentives to workers.
Another surprise finding in the research being conducted about worker satisfaction centers around the value of providing “meaning” or “social responsibility” through work. This could involve, perhaps, tying a job’s goals in with environmental sustainability, green energy or social value in the workplace through efforts to aid the indigent or disadvantaged. Employers are finding that many of the new employees want that sort of value in their job. It gives their work a sense of meaning beyond a mere paycheck.
For many employees, that sense of meaning is very important. It could be that sense of value and meaning that keeps an employee happy and on the job.
This next point may seem obvious, but any benefits in a job that add to financial and familial security, such as pensions and health insurance, are greatly valued by today’s new workers. And yet, in findings gleaned from a variety of surveys, many workers are accustomed to living “on the edge” and without benefits as corporations cut these perqs. Therefore, a small business that can offer even basic benefits in those areas has an advantage.
So it’s still true that people would rather get a paycheck without working. But since that’s unrealistic, offering jobs with flexibility and meaning as well as a paycheck can help in confronting this confounding jobs market we all face.
Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching for anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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