Employers Struggling To Find Workers Need To Cultivate Better Work Environments And Management Cultures
The US economy continues to do well despite a trade war and a prolonged government shutdown. Thanks to the stability of the growing economy, many businesses have seen increased demand for their services and, therefore, an increased need for workers. Jobless rates have been declining as more people have been able to find and keep jobs. This has placed upward pressure on wages and other forms of employment compensation. Income growth is, of course, needed to fuel consumption and feed a virtuous economic cycle. Looking at the Chinese economy, which faces numerous structural issues including lack of self-sustaining domestic consumption, it is obvious why businesses need more Americans to make more money. Unfortunately, not all businesses and industries can support higher wages and salaries. The simple truth is that not all workers can be high wage earners, but it is the trajectories of a person’s income and career that actually matter more than their current socioeconomic standing. That is why all businesses need to give their employees opportunities to grow.
Amazon represents both a business that is growing quickly as well as an employer that is rapidly expanding its workforce. In recent years, it has succumb to market forces and increased the pay of workers. Workers, however, want and need more. Given Amazon has breached the $1 trillion market evaluation cap, the demands of its workers seem pretty reasonable. To ensure they will have a voice at the negotiating table, they have decided to seek unionization. Beyond wages, the move also positions Amazon workers to address workplace grievances and improve their working conditions. For decades, the wages of average workers have failed to keep up with rising expenses. The inability to make and sustain a living wages has meant many Americans have been living at a deficit. Because workers can only afford to live at a deficit for so long and/or forgo capital building, workers need increased wages. At the same time, better working conditions are also a major concern, especially in a jobs market where workers can be picky.
In the tech sector, especially among technology giants like Google, Apple, and Microsoft, work conditions have long been a top concern. After all, the talents of tech employees tend to be rare, so tech firms need to provide both generous compensation packages and enticing work environments. Google, for example, has essentially created a workplace that is more akin to a playground. It even features snacks and slides. The vast majority of employers do not need to go to the extremes of Google, yet they do need to focus on improving work conditions. This includes companies that are already increasing wages in order to retain and recruit employees. Unfortunately, it is a lot more difficult to understand what needs to be done in order to improve a work environment than it is to simply deal with the budgetary issues of raises. Fortunately, low-wage employers, which are forced to consider alternatives to wage increases before they resort to wages increases, serve as laboratories that can help offer insights for employers seeking to improve their work conditions.
The food industry, for example, has always had to rely on cheap labor due to tight margins as well as a drive to provide returns for owners and investors. In the current job market, it has to do more to entice workers. Restaurants have to make it more convenient for would-be hires to be hired. They have to make it more convenient for workers to work by creating predictable, consistent, and flexible schedules that provide viable incomes. Above all, they have to create work environments that people want to work in, which can be very difficult for dirty, low-paying jobs. They also have to avoid undercutting the quality of their services and products by allowing workers with poor work ethics to create dysfunctional work environments Hiring anyone who comes to a job interview in order to get free nacho fries, e.g. Taco Bell, is probably not the best approach. Offering workers free food does, of course, create an emotional and social incentive that pairs well with a pay check. That said, hiring someone with a poor work ethic or lack of employment history is not the issue. It is a failure to create an aggressive workforce development initiative that trains workers with the hard and soft skills they need while cultivating the strong work ethic they also need. As such, who is hired might not be as important as how management operates.
By recognizing and addressing the non-economic needs of employees, employers can do a lot to make their work environment more palatable to workers, but they can only do so much to change the nature of the work. Quite frankly, low-wage work is likely never going to be pleasant. It is something people do and try to do well, because they need a job and/or they have a professional mentality that drives them to do a job well for the sake of doing the job well. Recognizing employees do not tend to quit their jobs, they tend to quit their bosses, one of the most important steps in creating a more attractive work environment is to cultivate a pro-employee management culture. Managers need to respect their subordinates, respond to the needs of their subordinates, and support them in order to help them accomplish their mission while holding them to standards. Unfortunately, supervisors and managers with the service-oriented skills needed to cultivate this kind of management engagement are in short supply, even in high-wage industries. Employers can, however, help by focusing their recruitment efforts on developing a more employee-friendly management structure. For employers, including those in low-wage industries, this means paying generous wages to core team members who can and will provide the training and support team members need.
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