Labor Shortage: Where Did Workers Go & How Businesses Adapt

Since early June there have been a number of employers looking for employees to fill in positions they had lost due to the pandemic shutdown. Many businesses, especially those in the food, hospitality, and retail industries cut their staff dramatically. As restaurants and travel lodging started opening up and positions started opening up quickly. Willing and available employees however did not. This is currently leaving many people and business owners desperate and confused. Some people blame the generous unemployment check to be at fault for this. Claims that government support has made people lazy and unmotivated are expressed by many, especially those trying to keep their business running post-pandemic.

A worker serving people at a restaurant
Fewer workers are taking on more responsibilities in small establishments.

The truth is that some people are getting more money from not working than when they were working regularly. But before hasty prejudice, it is important to remember that these “essential workers” also faced the highest level of risk to COVID. Additionally, complaints of mistreatment and disrespect from customers or management pushed many workers to their limits. Why would they go back to that? Devaluation is often cited as one of the reasons why workers themselves do not want to go back to certain service jobs and sites. This is similar in office settings where the work is not as cumbersome to the body but certainly tolling on the mind. Flexibility and grace were greatly needed as office workers took their jobs remote. As remote working became easier, it became the preference as it allowed employees the ability to tend to ill family or themselves. As we’ve discussed in other blogs, the 8-hour workday is hardly ever just 8 hours. Simply commuting time and preparation time can add 1-2 hours to your workday. Work gets a lot more difficult for parents with young children that need to supervise their children during their hybrid school programs. With these conditions in mind, the labor shortage comes as much less surprising. It is apparent that many businesses did not have the resources or management foundations to make it through COVID, let alone rebound.

Can you cut some of the ordering tasks with online tools?

One thing that is clear is that as local workers become harder to find, businesses will need to adapt. Depending on the industry different options will be available. For those in the food service and retail industry, investing in technology will be the most helpful. Just in the last few years many of us have seen more self-check-out options available in restaurants and grocery stores. This will expand. As will phone applications that permit orders to be made online and delivered or picked up. Retailers big and small will need a well-established e-commerce foundation and engagement in social media. This is especially true for small businesses with brick-and-mortar establishments that might experience a decrease in foot traffic and in-store visits. Physical retail spaces will be exceptionally valuable places to provide your customers with experiences and personalized attention. To get the most out of a storefront and worker, technology that can cut out menial administrative tasks will be a solid investment.

Can you imagine a world with no cashiers, just self-check-out machines?

In sum, this labor shortage may be a sign that changes are coming and that businesses will need to adapt and stay ahead of the curve if they want to survive. Some of the available options for entrepreneurs in these industries will be to increase worker wages, health benefits, and offer more accommodating schedules. Investing in technology that cuts administrative or customer service tasks will also be an important move for small business owners. Lastly, those with physical space should think heavily about establishing a strong e-commerce and media presence. Retail space should be devoted to creating meaningful experiences for their clients.

For businesses trying to grow their social presence and staff, holding development workshops and giveaway contests can be an excellent way to connect and provide value to your community. Promotional items can complement your marketing and hiring efforts very well if you use them wisely. See some of our favorite items here for ideas. Whatever direction you take to develop a more sustainable business model, with compassion, innovativeness, and authenticity your business should stand out to potential employees and customers. 


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