As of September 8, the number of unfilled jobs grew further to a record 10.9 million while unemployed Americans fell to 8.3 million. There are enough open jobs to employ every American. But businesses across the country are facing a huge labor shortage. Some companies have changed their hours because they can’t cover all shifts, while others have shuttered entirely. Some have boosted their standard hourly wages, while others have offered added benefits like covering vision and dental insurance or paying out hiring bonuses.
Many observers have suggested that expanded unemployment benefits keep people from seeking jobs. Still, most of those benefits ended before September 1, while others blame the labor shortage on the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Childcare, skills gaps, and other causes are likely also playing a role.
Regardless of the reasons for businesses having difficulty filling open jobs, the truth is that employees have options today. At least in the interim, gone are the days where employers received 200-300 applications for every job opening. As a result, the Human Resource Departments may have to be more creative.
Pay Above the Market Rate
Minimum wage workers have leverage due to government aid and are holding out for higher pay for perhaps the first time. The number of $15 an hour job postings has doubled on Zip Recruiter since 2019, and companies like McDonald’s, Amazon, and Chipotle have raised pay this year for hundreds of thousands of workers. Business owners of all sizes will need to increase pay to keep up.
Lean into Remote Work in the Short and Long Term
As the delta variant spreads, giving employees the chance to work from home now is a must. Additionally, a McKinsey survey found that 52 percent of workers want a hybrid model working from home and the office even after the pandemic. So allowing those who can work from home will be an enormous long-term incentive.
Incentivize Commuting for Jobs That Must be Done In-Person
Now that people have learned they can work remotely and earn similar money; they do not want to commute. Harvard Business Review research found a 1% increase in distance to work leads to a 4.4% decrease in commuting flow across the country. As a result, employers could subsidize commuting costs, provide a corporate shuttle, and offer longer but fewer shifts.
Be Flexible with Parental Leave
It is difficult for both parents to return to work with children in and out of school. With no substantive government guidance in place, businesses must act. Hewlett-Packard launched a “Work That Fits Your Life” program that offers six months of fully paid parental leave for new moms and dads with an option to work part-time for up to 36 months. For smaller businesses, being compassionate and flexible with parental leave will attract candidates.
Labor Shortage Conclusions
It’s easy to blame the pandemic for the labor shortage and disruption of the job market. And to be sure, the ongoing crisis is having an effect. But the reality is that jobseekers today want what they’ve always wanted; the difference is that they now realize they have options in a way they may not have before. For employers, it may cost a bit more in salary and benefits to make the best hire, but treating workers well will pay dividends in the long run.