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Labor Challenges and Opportunities


Developing and maintaining company culture is key

I recall being hired for my first engineering job back in February of 1995. I left the interview feeling confident the job was mine, even though they said they had several more candidates to interview. One week later, I had still not received the call (no one really emailed about jobs back then). I followed up with a call, and was told they were considering me, but still had a couple more candidates to interview. They received a greeting card from me, thanking them for the opportunity to interview; still another week passed. Finally, when I called to follow up again a little over two weeks after our first meeting, my new boss said “Well, we were thinking you would be a good fit, when can you start. By the way, we appreciated the card.”

What a difference 27 years makes. Now I’m the one hiring (and we are, by the way–of course), and it is surprising if there is more than one candidate that we would like to interview. This was the trend even pre-pandemic, but now it seems to be the rule.

Related: 4 Ways Through the Construction Labor Shortage

When faced with hiring challenges, there is a temptation to relax standards, and if you have the patience and are diligent with training, you can lower requirements for prior work experience and competency. Given the right candidate, skills can be learned, and the commitment you receive in return for giving somebody a chance is incredibly valuable. On the other hand, hiring someone who isn’t a fit for your culture, who isn’t motivated, or whose personality clashes with an existing team member, is dramatically worse than leaving the position open until the right candidate is found.

We all know there are cultural shifts that develop with each generation, and technological advancements both shape and enable changes. Whether it is adopting work-from-home strategies, embracing company endorsed mass-transit programs, or developing flex-time policies, the priorities of our team members must be my priorities, or I’ll have to recruit new team members.

Company culture. A phrase we’ve all heard, and a topic addressed by specialty consultants, authors, attorneys, and government labor officials. Developing and maintaining the right culture is key to minimizing the loss of valuable staff. While culture often reflects management’s personality and priorities, in order to retain people, it must also create meaning for the team’s efforts and provide a path for personal growth. Nobody wants a job that feels pointless and presents no opportunity for advancement. On the other hand, even very entry-level positions with fairly monotonous duties can be rewarding when members of the team understand how each position is integrated to deliver the company’s product to a grateful client, and how that can make a real difference in our society at large if it is the norm rather than the exception.

Related: Building a Safer Job Site

An organization should also demonstrate appreciation for its members in a very personal way. There is no greater reward than having one’s abilities recognized. We’ve had team members make extraordinary contributions because we encouraged them to create their own path, and then encouraged them to take leadership in an effort that I personally would never have considered. For example, an administrative assistant with a degree related to diet and wellness wanted to create a subsequent company program. This was not in the original job description, but by endorsing this request it provided an avenue of growth that brought new meaning to their position and improved our culture overall.

We’ve been confronted over the last year with supply chain issues. The labor market factors that contribute to supply chain problems have been developing for years, and the pandemic seems to have brought them to a head. Employers have a rare opportunity. No matter what the nature of the business, it was created to fill a specific need in our society. When employees share the vision of meeting that need, feel secure in their employment relationship, and are given the freedom to do so, surprisingly often they will step up and make unexpectedly significant contributions to the success of the organization. When this becomes intrinsic to the company culture, it creates meaning and promotes personal development and advancement. That is an environment that attracts talent, and an organization that is hard to leave.


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