Do People Really Want to Work? (Rants from GenX!)

On my way to work this morning, I saw seven businesses that had “Help Wanted” signs out front. The sign above is from a fast-food restaurant requesting you be nice to the few staff they have that are working their butts off to get you fat! Please be patient. Your fries, double cheeseburger, and shake will be with you shortly.

I was in Las Vegas last week for the SHRM Annual Conference. 25,000 HR professionals. It was giant. I spoke to hundreds of HR leaders and pros. Every. Single. One. of the HR professionals I met was having pain trying to hire and retain talent.

Do People Really Not Want To Work? 

1st – Of Course, People Don’t Want To Work!?! How stupid is this question!? (Wait, so let me get this straight, I don’t have to work? And I’ll get money? And I don’t have to pay rent? Okay, I’m not gonna work.)

2nd – Read #1.

3rd – If you give anyone a choice not to work but still get their bills paid, they will not work! This is what is currently taking place in this great country of ours. Some folks are making more not working than they were working. So, none of this is surprising!

The surprising part is politicians seem to be the only people alive in America who don’t understand that businesses can’t get people to come to work right now. Unemployment is still at historically low numbers, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon. Demographics are working against us, and we are losing people faster than we can replace them at a macro level.

We have a government, both sides, that can’t figure out better immigration policy, while we are surpassed by other rich countries who are now being super aggressive in the talent game. Both Dems and the GOP are lost when it comes to immigration. We need workers!

No, Really!? Do People Not Want To Work? 

Here’s my take:

People want to do things that make them feel valued. Things that make them feel satisfied. Where they have some freedom of choice, and at the end of the day, they feel safe, secure, and that they matter.

The vast majority of jobs from $10/hr to $20/hr can’t meet those basic needs. That doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t have those jobs. We should. It’s just complex to try to sell someone in that level of job they are truly valued.

If anyone of us was given the choice to not work and have our basic needs met, even for a short period of time (like what happened with the Stimulus package during Covid), most would take it and do things they would rather be doing. Some will help others and volunteer. Some will take time for themselves. Some will actually do nothing and just wait until the time comes around when they have to go back to work to meet their basic needs.

So, basically, if you are hurting for workers and you pay below $20/hr, you are going to be in a world of hurt for a long time. We don’t have enough humans to do no-skill, low-skill work in the U.S., and ChaptGPT isn’t doing those jobs, either!

What Can You Do To Get More Workers? 

First, do everything in your power to keep the workers you have. Be kind. Be helpful. Be understanding. If they are overworked, be empathetic and try to do what you can to help them and their quality of life. Do anything possible to give them some flexibility! Besides more money, it’s the one thing they want, and most people who make less than $20/hr never get the option of flexibility in their work. So, even small options are helpful.

Second, don’t give new employees stuff you won’t give your current employees. I see this constantly. Oh! Hey, come work for us, and we’ll give you a $500 signing bonus! But you won’t give your current employees a $500 retention or Hard Work bonus. Great talent attraction is about keeping your great talent first.

Third, stop thinking you are all that and a bag of chips! You can’t just throw up a Help Wanted sign and get workers. Be Better! Yep, that means you might actually have to put money into recruiting. Yes, hourly recruiting is as essential as salaried recruiting and, in many businesses, more important. But, I find most organizations that hire a lot of hourly workers are vastly under-resourced when it comes to hourly recruiting as compared to salary recruiting.

Fourth, it’s time to take some chances with all those biases you have. Hire folks who test positive for weed. Hire folks who went to prison. Hire folks who aren’t your “Norm.” It’s time to take some chances, which really aren’t chances, but being more inclusive in hiring, but that’s an entire another post.

Finally, vote differently. If one employer is having a problem hiring, most likely, that employer isn’t really that great to work for. If tens of thousands of employers are struggling to hire, something went wrong at a macro scale. In terms of our current situation, we know exactly what went wrong. Bad policy is causing some short/long-term pain for employers.

Economics will eventually take care of this problem. Employers will pay more, offer more, and change. This means we’ll all pay more for stuff we used to get cheaper. Some businesses will go under because you won’t agree that paying more is worth what they offer. This will cause workers to be unemployed. Making it easier for employers to hire at market wages. The law of supply and demand is undefeated.

One thought on “Do People Really Want to Work? (Rants from GenX!)

  1. I get that this is merely your opinion to appeal to the masses, but, to your fourth point, there may be legitimate reasons why someone who tests positive for weed or who has been in prison for a specific crime cannot be hired by an employer. Ignoring those items to “take a chance” are sure to get some employers in trouble.

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