Changes in outlooks from both employers and employees have, outside the direct effect of the Covid-19 virus, been the largest feature of working in in America this year. What do I mean?
First, we have what’s been called the Great Resignation – people quitting their jobs. Before it was identified as such, when it was a general problem known as “employee turnover,” Marcel Schwantes wrote “Why Do People Leave Their Jobs, Exactly? The Entire Reason Can Be Summed Up in a Few Sentences” (Inc., February 28th). He said that when you hire a bad manager, “nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits – nothing.“ Such employees need empathy, shared responsibility, and vulnerability. That is worth revisiting now, as some companies are having turnover problems that cannot completely be blamed on a nationwide trend.
Into current times, “Another 4 million workers quit in the 5th month in a row of record exits, and it shows how the pandemic is still making people rethink that they want out of work and life” (Juliana Kaplan, Andy Kiersz, and Madison Hoff, Business Insider, October 12th). The exiters are most likely to have “low-paid, mostly in-person roles,” but three-quarters of overall Joblist-survey responders “were thinking about leaving their jobs during July, August, or September,” with “no one answer for why workers are turning their backs on jobs.” This pattern cannot continue forever, but it seems deeper-rooted than some might think.
The failure of existing requirements to gather enough workers has helped one group, as “Once shunned, people convicted of felonies find more employers open to hiring them” (Don Lee, Los Angeles Times, October 5th). Before 2021 it was common to refuse any such applicants, but it need not be a problem for all positions. As the first example here shows, there is hardly any reason for ex-felons not to make high-demand home gym mats at U.S. Rubber Recycling, and even to supervise others doing that work. That firm did not, for example, hire someone convicted of fraud to handle money, but did, in this case, offer her “a job working with employment applicants.” In this case, as in others, we see a healthy, elemental requirement for potential employees – Show up every day on time and do your job, and you can keep it.
Despite so many unfilled positions, some applicants aren’t getting there. One way is the old-fashioned, “’Throwing resumes into the void’: Job seekers describe the frustration of sending hundreds of applications and having nothing to show for it” (Dominick Reuter, Business Insider, September 30th). This piece relies on anecdotal reports, but, apparently, such hapless people still exist, some no doubt hampered by unmentioned negative factors. The more modern reason centers “In the Middle of the Great Resignation, Employers Are Rejecting Millions of Qualified Workers, New Harvard Research Finds,” by Jessica Stillman in Inc. on September 9th. The bug here is “automated hiring software that unnecessarily screens out many qualified candidates.” That can be caused by employers which “throw every “nice to have” item they can think of into their job ads,” which the software takes as required, along with such gaffes as “hospitals scanning resumes of registered nurses for ‘computer programming,’ when what they need is someone who can enter patient data into a computer” and “power companies” which “scan for a customer-service background when hiring people to repair electric transmission lines.” Employers using such software clearly need to know more about what it is doing.
A few Great Resignation explanations turn up in “Will Covid Really Change the Way We Work?,” by Spencer Bokat-Lindell in the October 21st New York Times. From survey data, they are stagnating wages, lack of vacation time, “a shortage of affordable child care,” and positions being “unstable and precarious,” making employees “subject to unpredictable fluctuations in working hours that can upend their family lives,” fueled by often high personal savings. Perhaps, per Bokat-Lindell, this situation will endure, but maybe “workers will soon lose their leverage.” He doesn’t know, and the rest of us don’t either.
We end with something from my humor department, “The Strange New Trend That’s Enraging Hiring Managers” (Alison Green, Slate, October 25th). It’s not new, but reversed – it’s employers, who have so long and often ghosted applicants at whatever points in the hiring process they choose that job-seekers take rudeness and insincerity as routine, being cut dead themselves, with one manager saying “No response. I don’t get it,” and “I’m at a loss and feeling really discouraged.” Doesn’t feel so good when the other side is doing the kicking, does it? Maybe employers can go back to candor and rejection letters. Until then, they should take this turnaround as pure karma.