No One Wants to Work: How Can Businesses Survive Our Labor Shortage?

If there’s one thing common across my marketing clients, it’s that they can’t find enough good people to hire. For example, I help market a contracting company each year online. Their schedule gets booked with jobs by summer each year. They have about five workers who go on site and repair buildings. If they could hire five more, they could double their earnings, and provide a six-figure salary to five more Chicago area families. Since my job is to get them sales and leads through digital marketing, when they’re completely booked, we’re maxed out as well.

There also are some businesses that are temporarily closed because they lack workers. I tried to take my family to a frozen custard shop last weekend, and they were closed for this reason. Nearby restaurants were packed with people would go there for dessert. They definitely lost out on a great summer night of business.

I’ve also recently heard several stories of people opting to retire, here post-COVID. Two are in public jobs, and can retire at about age 50. I can’t blame them, but we intelligent, kind and hard-working people from the work force.

I’m aware that each generation says the next one “doesn’t know the value of hard work.” Until someone gets married, has children and owns a home, they really have no idea the financial demands in the United States, let alone if you try to make it on one salary. Making it harder for younger people in the workforce is the “helicopter parent,” who did so much for them, from signing them up for Little League and gymnastics to paying for their college education. None of that is bad, of course, but it can result in a person who lacks independence.

The pattern I have heard about from many small businesses is that younger workers aren’t motivated by money. More important are time off requests, working from home and having a voice in how work is done. Again, none of these things are bad, but they make it difficult to hire someone who will stick around and pay their dues. In fact, jSinger Marketing is often hired as a digital marketing option by people who first tried to hire a 25- to 30-year old who communicated poorly and didn’t do quality work.

Many business owners are aware of the problem. So what is the solution? How can a business survive a labor shortage?

Pay Well – Though this isn’t the No. 1 motivator, as workers age, get married, have children and buy homes, it becomes more important. Plus, there are always quality people and workers. The last thing you want is to lose out because of the pay rate.

Always Recruit – A job recruiter friend of mine gave me solid advice several years ago: “Always recruit.” Always say you are hiring and be open to bringing on good people. They are hard to find, and you don’t want timing to be the reason you miss out on someone valuable.

Offer Clear Job Descriptions – I’ve personally found younger people want a defined role, even down to a provided “To Do List” each day. This is a huge demand on a business owner, but seems necessary. The “helicopter parent” may be to blame for this lack of creativity and independence.

Offer Structure – I’ve learned this the hard way. Employees actually want structure. I’ve allowed employees to work from home, choose preferred hours, and take excessive time off. The result has always been that they push the envelope more and more until they become a deficit to the company. The best solution is to offer structure from the date of hire.

Accept that Your Company is a Revolving Door – Even if you do everything right, the fact is your workers, young and old, have lives that change over time. A good job for them today may not be good tomorrow. You shouldn’t take it personally. Expect your workers to come and go. Define and document your job roles, even down to task instructions, so you can quickly train and onboard the next person.

All of these are easier said than done. In fact, I’m working on them at jSinger Marketing as well. But I do believe they are extremely beneficial to helping your business get through the current labor shortage.

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