Think Outside the Box with Your Workforce Solutions
Today’s employees want to maintain their quality of life, including hybrid work, well-being support, and competitive pay; employers need to creatively meet their needs in order to keep them from jumping ship.
But why are we having to be creative with the workforce? What does it mean to be creative with your workforce, and how can your creativity set you up for success within your industry? Also, while we are having a hard conversation, let’s talk about Gen Z and how they play a role in all of this.
What we can see from the statistics is clear: the baby-boomers are retiring in droves. According to Pew Research Center, the rate of retirement for baby-boomers has accelerated. Nearly 29 million boomers retired in 2020, and three million the year before that. By 2030, 75 million boomers are expected to retire. That translates to about 10,000 workers per day.
While this trend is not new or unexpected, the pandemic did escalate the rates of retirement, putting a major strain on the labor force participation rate. Currently, the U.S. labor force participation rate is the worst it has been since 1964, despite job openings being at an historical high in March of 2022. While there has been a shift in the number of people available to work, there has also been a shift in how people work — 2020 forced the “ability” to be flexible, by working from home or the need for one parent to stay at home as opposed to pre-pandemic dual-income households.
Regardless of how we got here, we must deal with where we are and understand the differences between expectations of employers and employees. Conversations with our clients tell us that employees view productivity as completing their required task. Employers view productivity as innovation and new ideas generated by the organization. This is a sharp disconnect.
Currently, the U.S. labor force participation rate is the worst it has been since 1964, despite job openings being at an historical high in March of 2022. JLL’s 2022 workforce report shows that employees renewed their focus on maintaining their quality of life, including hybrid work, well-being support, and competitive pay. Seventy-four percent of employees who have been working remotely three to four days a week were the least loyal and have left their jobs in the past 2.5 years, and 79 percent could do so in the coming months. This statistic is not shocking when you think about the limited connectivity and camraderie of remote work. The statistics go on to show that 59 percent of employees prioritize working in a company that supports their health and well-being, while 60 percent of employees believe the office will remain central to their working life in the long term.
Let’s break down the workforce discussion by two different sectors: office and industrial. We know the ability to allow flexibility is much easier with employees in an office setting as opposed to those on a manufacturing floor, but that doesn’t change the desire of those workers to have flexibility.
When we look at the office attendance numbers, JLL research reports that about 46 percent of the employees are having some sort of in-office attendance numbers. When we look at other key lifestyle indicators, the “attendance” is in the 90th percentile! These are things like gym attendance, air travel, restaurant reservations, and hotel bookings. So, what do all these numbers mean for the office sector? For starters, if your company’s in-office attendance policy conflicts with some amount of flexible work, you may be seeing high turnover. Finding a happy medium of providing flexibility while still providing required days in the office can be a win-win. If your boomers and Gen Xers want to come in everyday, they should have a space to do that and be welcomed with open arms. If your millennials and Gen Zers want more flexibility, you need to allow for that as well.
Speaking about Gen Z, they have been watching and listening and are going to do things differently, and I think we all owe them a huge “Thank you.” This generation has a focus on the things that go past the office. They are making the dash on their headstones count, and their legacy won’t be the job they had — but the places they went. After watching many of their parents work day-in and day-out until they were too old to enjoy retirement, they are making some changes — working smarter not harder, making their health a top priority, and taking mental health as seriously as it should be taken.
JLL’s 2022 workforce report shows that employees renewed their focus on maintaining their quality of life, including hybrid work, well-being support, and competitive pay. If you want to create a positive environment for all employees and make your Gen Z employees the happiest, you must focus on the employee experience. Incentivize the drive! What are they coming to an office for? The culture, a diverse environment, transparency between positions and pay, a place to have their voice heard, and some natural light. Yes, they also want good snacks, a sparkling water machine, and a barista-like coffee machine as well. Lunch a few times a month would be icing on the cake! But, they also want access to both a physical fitness center and access to mental healthcare. If you don’t have exercise facilities in your building, provide an allowance for gym memberships. Confirm your insurance provider has easily accessible telehealth options for mental health, and if they do not, add on a separate service that provides this and encourage your employees to use it. The mental struggle of this generation and those to follow is real. You can blame it on the pressures of Instagram, Snapchat, Tick Tock, Threads, or X, and we as leaders need to help change the narrative. Everyone has some type of mental struggle. It may not be every day, but it is real, and it is okay. In short, success in your corporate office environment means leaning into making your environment one where people want to be and feel good about being.
Regardless of the sector in which your employees work, there is a new urgency to understand the progression of where they are and where they are going. Having clear metrics in place for advancement make it easier on both parties for promotions. If an employee knows in year three that there is the ability for a promotion if they do X, Y and Z, they will think twice about jumping ship at the 18-month mark.
If your company's in-office attendance policy conflicts with some amount of flexible work, you may be seeing high turnover. Workers in the Industrial Sector
The industrial workforce has grown significantly over the past few years and, as the EV revolution continues, will continue to grow. Hiring and retaining workers is harder than ever. Their skills are often transferable, and the company across the street may be paying $0.25 more an hour than you are. So how do you compete with that?
Like those in the office sector, the industrial workforce wants flexibility. While there is an expectation that work happens on the manufacturing floor, being flexible with when the work happens is a new trend in manufacturing. With HR teams already working overtime, a company like My Work Choice can leverage technology to give your employees what they want.
Speaking with Adam Raimond and Holly Pennington at My Work Choice, they explained their platform allows for a manufacturer or a distribution company to build a community of full-time workers who need work-life balance: “A company can have the long-term, quality people that they need, while allowing them to have time off because they are building a backup community of workers to pick up where one left off.” There are also trends of same-day pay that keep employees coming back, since there is instant gratification in seeing your money in your account before you get home. Flexibility on the shifts you offer and seasonally changing what shifts are preferred to allow your employees time to make their kids sports games and the church potluck will go far, they say.
While some problems are easier to solve than others, child-care is still a major issue. Child Care Aware of America estimates that nearly 16,000 child-care programs across 37 states have permanently closed since 2020. Several companies have invested in on-site or nearby child-care centers. These are built by the company and operated by local providers who are skilled in the rules and regulations of running a daycare. While there is an expectation that work happens on the manufacturing floor, being flexible with when the work happens is a new trend in manufacturing.
Many states like Georgia have tax credits equal to 75 percent of the operating cost of the child-care program for the employer or business that purchases property specifically to build, expand, or operate these facilities. In some cases, child-care facilities are credited 100 percent of the cost of the qualified property over a 10-year period. Women make up about 30 percent of the manufacturing workforce, and 63.1 percent of women cited the lack of flexibility, and 49.2 percent cited child-care support as their top challenge. If the industry increased the share to 35 percent, 746,000 job vacancies would be filled today.
Some Concluding Advice
To add a few more things to this discussion, make sure your leadership is trained. While some leaders are born, some are trained, and if people are advancing with technical skills in your organization, you need to make sure they have people skills as well. Also, you should hire the whole family! Sixty-nine percent of workers in a manufacturing study said their employer’s family-oriented culture was important. Sponsor the softball team…have a company picnic…and put a wall of photos up for people to show off their children and grandchildren. Our JLL Charlotte team did this and it was appreciated by the employees. Bring back the boomer, but give them flexibility. They may not want 40 hours a week, but 15 hours of their knowledge can go a long way. Make the application process easy, as most of us have short attention spans, so don’t make the first step the hardest. But, of all the measures outlined above, I would put listening to your employees at the top of the list.
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