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I’ve seen more than one social media posting lately about “people just don’t want to work anymore” signage. These signs are typically found at the front door of businesses asking customers to be patient because they’re understaffed. When they are posted, the business probably is not thinking how it relates to their employment brand.
I totally get the understaffed part. The latest unemployment numbers are around 6%. While that’s still high compared to the 3ish percent that we had prior to the pandemic, it’s significantly lower than the 15% we saw a year ago. Just my personal opinion, but the economic recovery appears to be moving faster than anticipated (definitely a good thing!) but it might have caught more than a few businesses off guard.
Now that we’re in this situation, it’s time for organizations to put some focused energy and resources toward building their talent pipeline. Which takes us back to my initial sentence and the “people just don’t want to work anymore” signs.
Some of you might be reading this and say to yourselves, “It’s true! All that unemployment and stimulus money has created a situation where everyone just wants to sit at home and collect checks.” And, I’m not so naïve as to think there aren’t people out there who might be gaming the system. But I’m not convinced the number of people doing this is significant. At all.
Other reasons that a person might not be actively seeking work right now include being concerned about their personal safety during a pandemic. Attorney Jon Hyman recently shared a post on his blog about an employer being fined by OSHA more than $135,000 for prohibiting employees to wear face masks. Or maybe a person needs to care for other family members who have been impacted. Then of course, there’s the whole “maybe it’s time to change careers” aspect.
But I want to toss out another point of view to consider. Candidates are smart. According to a report from LinkedIn, 75% of candidates will research a company’s reputation before applying for a job opening. That research might include driving by and seeing a sign that says “people just don’t want to work anymore” on the front door.
Douglas McGregor developed a motivational theory called Theory X / Theory Y while he was working at the MIT Sloan School of Management. In short, the theory says that there are two models of motivation.
- Theory X says that managers motivate employees by exerting a lot of supervision and penalizing people for not getting the work done.
- Theory Y says that managers motivate employees by creating interesting work and then supporting them.
Again, candidates are smart. If they want to work for a Theory Y manager, is it possible that the sign on the door screams “We’re a Theory X place to work.”
Let’s take the conversation a little further. Because this isn’t about just taking a sign down off the door. Organizations need to take time to think proactively about their employment brand. In the same LinkedIn report I mentioned earlier, companies with a strong employment brand are likely to see 50% more qualified applicants and are 1x-2x faster to hire. This could reduce cost-per-hire by as much as 50%. Finally, companies with a strong employment brand have seen a turnover reduction of as much as 28%. These are all things that companies want. It helps organizations staff their operation with the best talent.
So, employers have a tough question to ask themselves. Is it that “people don’t want to work anymore” or maybe people just want to work for better employers?
One last thing to consider. To the companies that are posting “people just don’t want to work anymore” signs, please remember that this also sends a message to customers about how your organization treats their employees. Customers are also smart. Ask yourself, “will someone really want to spend money with an organization that has this view about how to treat their employees?”
We all want the same things here. Everyone wants the pandemic to be behind us. Organizations want to make money. People want to stop wearing masks and travel again. But we need to be smart about the process of re-entry. Coming across as an organization that puts profit over people might not be the best look for your employment brand. Especially at a time when you need employees the most.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of South Florida20