Strive to have a work environment that people really love
You probably don’t hear from my side of the desk too often, but I’m an employer who has a question for you. Since you’re the one who speaks to candidates, maybe you can shed some light on our employment challenge.
First, we’ve been trying to hire for the past year, with very little success. We used to have way more applicants than we could handle. Now, the good applicants are few and far between.
Second, we’ve noticed a new trend with our existing employees. The salary and raise requests we’ve been getting more recently are surprising. People with just a few years of experience seem to think they deserve large salaries for jobs that we don’t feel justify the requests.
Is this the new economy? Do we blame Covid? What are you hearing from potential employees?
~ A frustrated business owner
Thanks for reaching out. Being an employer today is a challenging position to be in, and I applaud you for being one of the brave ones who takes the risk on behalf of others.
I’m not surprised by your question, as I’ve noticed the same thing.
You are right that the changed economy has a lot to do with both challenges you shared. Looking back at the last two years, we see a few major shifts. The minimum wage has risen, and the number of people on unemployment benefits due to Covid is greater than ever in American history — even greater than during the Great Depression. Many people have unfortunately been incentivized not to work at lower-paying jobs, as the unemployment benefits are often higher than the salaries they could be making.
This affects the attitude of many entry-level employees who are coming into the workforce during this time. They’re absorbing the message that despite lack of training or skill, they are desperately needed, giving them the upper hand at the negotiating table. Just a few years ago, I believe that those new to the job market approached potential positions with more appreciation and humility, recognizing that they were being offered an opportunity, and that they would have to prove themselves in order to move up in pay grade. As the economy shifts again, which it tends to do, these people may be in for a tough wake-up call as the supply of employees outweighs the demand, and they actually need to work for their roles.
Another trend that employers would do best to follow is the new attitude of younger employees. Millennials and Gen-Xers are thinking about the long-term career path that a job can prepare them for. As I often share with employees: A job needs to give you a lot more than a paycheck. It needs to give you “résumé-building’ training and experience that align with your long-term goals, and increase your value on the job market.
Also, keep in mind that employees view themselves and their careers as ever-evolving, knowing that job security isn’t what it used to be. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Standards, workers now change jobs on average every four years. Employees nowadays are more likely to recognize that it’s up to them to keep their skills up-to-date, or they risk becoming redundant. As an employer, it’s important for you to think from this perspective as well, considering how each role contributes to employees’ career development and progression. If you can show the long-term path for a specific role, you’re more likely to be able to fill that role.
Now to address your second question — let’s differentiate between market demands and outright blackmailing. Yes, prices have gone up, the economy has changed, and salary expectations have changed in accordance with that. But if you are aware of those new numbers, it’s up to you to keep the balance and ensure that employees are not taking advantage of your position. Being fair works both ways. Just like I believe employers shouldn’t take advantage of employees who aren’t aware of what the competition would pay, employees shouldn’t make requests that are beyond their value.
How to make sure you’re being fair? Very simply, by being aware of each employee’s market value — because they most likely are. As long as you’re aware of what a competitor can (and probably will) offer them for a similar position, and you’re paying what it’s worth, you’re good. At that point, if employees are simply trying to take advantage of your need by asking for unreasonable compensation, I’d let them know (or let them go).
Most importantly, you want to strive to have a work environment that people really love, so that as long as they are being paid their value, they’re not looking to leave. Or, in the words of Richard Branson: “Train people well enough so that they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 879)
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