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This Labor Day, we should reconsider the employer-employee relationship.

This Labor Day, we should reconsider the employer-employee relationship.

Employment and the Workforce

Labor Day was formerly a day for celebration and meditation on the worth and meaning of American labour, before the introduction of mattress sales and before it became the unofficial end cap to summer.

With 10.1 million jobs unfilled – the most in 21 years – it is time to return to that way of thinking. This Labor Day, it is time to rethink the American employer-employee relationship; economic development depends on it.

Over the summer, hotel and restaurant workers departed at an all-time high — despite the fact that average income has risen considerably, with gains not seen since the early 1980s. Meanwhile, as demand has increased, industrial facilities are downshifting production, and packed container ships have been idled in the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles owing to a lack of labor.

Due to workload and stress levels, call centers, particularly in the healthcare sector, are reporting high turnover rates, and new phrases such as the Great Resignation have been developed. Workers of all stripes are reevaluating the overall satisfaction that their employment provides and discovering the flexibility to leave when the fulfillment isn’t there. This spring, the “quit rate” exceeded the 20-year high and continues to grow.

Some argue that it is a cyclical pattern caused by government stimulus and eviction moratoriums that were intended to boost the economy but instead resulted in a labor shortage. However, removing the stimulus will not address our labor problems.

The “Help Wanted!” posters put on virtually every business in every resort town and city this summer highlight a fact that is more than a cyclical trend; it is a structural change in the economy. The power dynamic has moved from employer to employee, a movement that was already underway prior to COVID-19. COVID-19, contrary to popular belief, hastened it.

Population reductions, immigration restrictions, skill training possibilities, technology, and employees’ greater flexibility and freedom as a result of the epidemic have all contributed to a change in the balance of power from employer to employee. Such a shift of power has not occurred since before the Industrial Revolution.

As a result, it is necessary to rethink the value of the modern workforce and how we demonstrate the value that we ascribe to labor. What is required is a new agreement, one that is designed by employers with more than simply pay and safety in mind. 

The power dynamic has moved from employer to employee, a movement that was already underway prior to COVID-19. COVID-19, contrary to popular belief, hastened it.

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It’s time to replace the compact.

A new agreement will take into consideration the nearly unanimous demand for increased worker autonomy and flexibility. It is a myth that these benefits can only be obtained through “do-from-anywhere” professional services work.

One of our most forward-thinking customers, for example, is now offering a “create your own schedule” option in which candidates may choose between one and five days to work. Another customer is thinking about creating a parent-friendly 9am-2pm shift, allowing individuals who have childcare coverage during normal school hours to work. Both are warehouse customers.

Technology allows for more innovative approaches to scheduling, shift swapping, and responsibility-sharing, and companies should be proactive in adopting it to foster a more flexible culture that attracts talent.

A new agreement will emphasize advantages that are more than just gimmicks or fast hits for HR trade journal headlines, but are also practical, useful, effective, and resonant. Employers are increasingly interested in college degree-earning programs. According to our research, the most common reason employees reject engaging in such programs is a lack of time. In a new agreement, such perks will accommodate this reality with effective “learn while you earn” programs. Furthermore, given our present skills mismatch, this is a program that all companies must do right.

Similarly, when implementing mental health and employee wellness programs, businesses should consider if these activities are just a box-checking exercise or genuine expressions of a company’s concern for its employees. Employers must be partners in their workers’ lives – both within and outside of the workplace.

To entice people back to the office, companies must consider the entire person, their lives and beliefs, rather than simply the individual they see for an eight-hour day or a dinner or lunch shift. Employers must be partners in their workers’ lives – both within and outside of the workplace (physical or virtual).