To say the last year and a half has been a challenge would be an understatement. However, things are finally starting to return to normal. Stay at home orders have passed, businesses have reopened, and people are heading back to work — all good news following record-breaking unemployment rates.
While things are definitely on the upswing, the trouble isn’t over quite yet. Although unemployment rates have started to shrink, many businesses remain severely understaffed. According to CNN, “The United States reported a record 9.3 million job openings in April.”
Many factors are contributing to today’s workforce shortage, but one thing is clear: employers need to adapt to the current needs of the labor force. Understanding how the workforce has changed is the first step to adjusting employment strategies to attract new talent and retain existing employees.
How Has the Workforce Changed?
The labor force has undergone some pretty big changes over the last year or so. Below are some of the most significant workforce trends resulting from the pandemic.
The Rise of Remote Work
One of the most noticeable changes has been the increase in remote work opportunities. While remote work was necessary for businesses to carry on during the pandemic, it seems to be here to stay. Many companies, including well-known brands such as Facebook, Dell, Zillow, and JPMorgan Chase, plan to offer partial, optional, and fully remote opportunities going forward.
More Women Are Leaving the Workforce
Since 2020, more than 3 million women have dropped out of the workforce. So why are so many women calling it quits? The most common reason is the inability to create an effective work-life balance.
Among employees with families, women typically take on the role of primary caregiver in addition to their work responsibilities. In a survey of 5,000 working women across ten countries, nearly 80% said the pandemic increased their load at work, with 66% also reporting more responsibilities at home.
Trying to balance mounting obligations has significantly impacted women’s physical health, mental wellbeing, and career goals. Making matters worse, many companies lack policies that enable employees to properly balance their work and personal responsibilities.
The Great Workforce Reshuffling
Last year was a shock to the system that had many individuals reevaluating their careers and priorities. This forced introspection has since resulted in many people making changes that allow them to pursue new opportunities and improve their quality of life.
Some are trading in the grind of traditional employment for the freedom of entrepreneurship, opting instead to join the gig economy, freelance, or start a business. Others are taking advantage of remote work opportunities and moving to rural locations.
How Can Employers Attract & Retain Employees in a Post-Pandemic World?
As employees get ready to return to the workforce, they’re demanding employers step up and meet their needs. Businesses need to consider implementing new strategies like the ones below to attract and retain the best and brightest talent.
1. Offer More Flexibility and Perks
According to a survey by PwC, employees have begun to prioritize time and flexibility above higher pay. Non-monetary perks such as unlimited sick time, extra paid time off, and flexible work hours have become even more appealing.
As expected, remote work also continues to be an effective way to attract and retain employees. This is especially true among younger generations, with 45% of Gen Z and 47% of Millenials reporting that they’re willing to accept a smaller salary in exchange for virtual work.
Offering flexible work options and non-monetary perks helps companies of all sizes stay competitive in the job market. It can also improve the happiness and productivity of existing employees. Not sure what kind of perks to offer? Crowdsource current employees to identify and resolve common pain points.
2. Provide More Support for Working Caregivers
Policies that provide flexibility and support for working [caregivers] will be key to attracting and retaining top talent,” notes Megan Cerullo. New policies and resources for caretakers may also go a long way in reducing the number of women leaving the workforce.
Research by Deloitte Global suggests:
“Employers that give women the culture and support to enable them to succeed have a more productive and motivated workforce and are likely to report greater retention.”
How can employers better support working parents and caregivers?
There’s no easy answer, as everyone has different needs. However, a great place to start is by adding resources for childcare, which is one of the biggest and most expensive challenges caretakers face. Offering resources like on-site daycare or childcare subsidies can be a game-changer. Paid sick leave also makes it easier for caregivers to take time off to care for a sick child or family member.
3. Invest in Workforce Development Opportunities
As the pandemic showed us, adaptability is incredibly important — both for employers and employees. One way businesses can ensure employees have the skills they need to adapt to a rapidly changing environment is to invest in workforce development. Additional training, mentoring, and development opportunities offer many benefits, including making for a better workforce overall.
Some of the benefits that come from investing in employee growth include:
Greater ability to attract great employees
Employees feel more valued and engaged
Fostering promotable employees and a robust internal talent pipeline
Creating an organization that is future-ready
Helping employees enhance and develop their hard and soft skills doesn’t have to break the bank. There are many government-funded programs, grant opportunities, and local resources that make it easy to contribute to employee education. Whether you pay out of pocket or receive assistance from federal, state, or local programs, investing in employee growth is sure to pay off in the long run.
If you’re struggling to fill positions and retain employees or want to learn more about workforce development opportunities, reach out to Greater Fergus Falls. Our team would be happy to connect you with the right resources for your business.