Now hear this: The workforce needs you

News flash: The news about the workforce and the talent pipeline isn’t good, and your leadership skills will be in demand for at least the next decade. Do you want job security? Get the “leadership thing” correct.

I did a deep dive into statistics while preparing a presentation for the latest HR Specialist Summit hosted by Business Management Daily. A recent flurry of news stories stated, “The Great Resignation is over,” so I dug into workforce statistics. My findings were a bit concerning.

First, I found the core data that drove the headline. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks “voluntary quits” each month, and in mid-2023, the number dropped. However, the trend line is still firmly up from 2008, when the resignation trend began. What drove the drop? An equivalent drop in U.S. job openings, which will cycle back up.

This got me thinking: What is causing the workforce shortage, how long will it last and what tactics and strategies should leaders use to keep their organizations sustainable? Here is the list that I came up with:

1. COVID-19 pandemic impact

More than one million U.S. citizens died in the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands have been affected by long COVID and may never rejoin the workforce. Additionally, the fear of health risks and concerns over workplace safety during the pandemic influenced many employees’ decisions to leave their jobs.

Tough Talks D

2. Early retirement of baby boomers

Many (possibly as many as two million) baby boomers chose to retire early during the pandemic due to a mix of health concerns and a reevaluation of priorities. They may return to part-time or consultative roles, but only to full-time positions if their finances require the cash flow.

3. Increase in entrepreneurship

The pandemic spurred a surge in entrepreneurship, with many individuals opting to start their own businesses or pursue freelance opportunities. While they are in business, full-time employees are unavailable for you to hire.

4. Decline in birthrates

We are not replacing our population with new births—we haven’t since the mid-1970s—and the numbers are trending even lower. Demographic shifts with declining birthrates have led to a smaller pool of available workers, increasing competition among employers for talent.

5. Shorter length of service for younger employees

Younger generations tend to switch jobs more frequently, seeking better opportunities for growth, work-life balance and an improved cultural fit. FOMO (fear of missing out) and shorter attention spans create a perfect storm.

6. Remote work preferences

While returning to offices is happening, adopting remote work during the pandemic has shifted expectations, with many employees seeking flexible work arrangements or full-time remote options.

7. Work-life balance and well-being prioritization

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of work-life balance and mental well-being, prompting individuals to reassess their career choices. The pandemic provided a period of reflection for many workers, leading them to reevaluate their career goals and seek roles that align with their values.

8. Burnout and overwork

Blurring boundaries between work and personal life, especially with remote work, has contributed to increased burnout and dissatisfaction.

9. Desire for skill development and learning opportunities

Employees increasingly value continuous learning and development, and they may seek new opportunities if their current job doesn’t provide adequate growth prospects.

10. Company culture and values alignment

Disconnection between an employee’s values and the company’s culture can lead to dissatisfaction and prompt them to seek alternative employment.

11. Compensation and benefits

Salary and compensation packages are driving pay levels higher. Sometimes, employees may leave their current positions for better compensation packages, including salary, benefits and additional perks.

When will the talent shortage end? Looking at census data, it will get worse for at least the next five years before the people pipeline starts to have more people in it. Take a proactive approach by printing this list and posting it in your workspace. Use it as a reminder of the headwinds you battle against as you lead your team, and then anticipate your next steps to engage and retain your team. Go back to the material in this newsletter for tactics and get to work sharpening your saw. It’s up to us.