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More Demand and Less People: The Challenges of Asking More from Your People

Our economy has been on a rollercoaster ever since the pandemic. With talk of recession to varying degrees of severity (depending on the news source and day) and a volatile market, companies across the country have had to be agile to survive this season. One of the most significant disruptions in our operations has been related to our people. 

Just a few years ago, we encountered a workforce crisis that left us scrambling for employees. Everything from manufacturing to food service installed banners on the front of their buildings offering signing bonuses that sometimes reached thousands of dollars. Eventually the race to the highest bonus was replaced with other methods (and gimmicks) to get people to consider joining a company. We saw a wider range of benefits being advertised and a more relaxed stance on remote work. We saw starting pay incrementally increase, so that once-highly-coveted manufacturing jobs were being outdone by fast-food establishments. 

As the workforce stumbled, it was important that operations and production levels did not. The changes meant that companies began inventing new systems and methods for drawing more out of their people. But the question remains: Have they done enough? 

With the workforce in the condition it’s in, employees have more bargaining power. This means that companies need to think differently about what it means to attract and retain quality workers. 

  • The high-performing employee that asks for a raise may need to be given an audience with their manager, as competing companies are on the hunt for high-performers. 
  • Companies should spend more time building out (and highlighting!) employee satisfaction programs that highlight the more light-hearted or informal benefits like employee events, free lunches. 
  • Managers should solicit the feedback and input of their employees as they think about how to create a workplace culture that will keep their people engaged and incentivized. Employees know what they like and don’t like and can help you create a framework for implementing new and better ideas into your culture. 

It’s not yet evident whether the employee shortage truly went away or simply was repositioned as the new normal for running a company. But what is clear is that business owners no longer assume that they’ll be able to find good people to do the job. It’s requiring that they be more intentional with how they attract and retain their quality workforce.