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Where Have All the Workers Gone?!


Where Have All the Workers Gone?!

Colleen Stalker’s exasperation echoed through the phone and joined the nationwide refrain:

“Where have all the workers gone?!”

As the Branch Manager of the Canandaigua Adecco, Colleen has felt the absence of workers more acutely than most. She connects employees to employers. In any given week she has less than fifteen qualified employees that she is matching to a pool of jobs that is near – and often above - the triple digits.

“It feels like an Amazon warehouse opened up in the middle of [Ontario and Wayne} counties.”

And it shows no signs of improving.

A recent study conducted by the Harvard Business School and consulting giant Accenture sheds some light on a new dilemma: the hidden workforce.

Hidden workers were described as coming from three distinct camps:

  • Those that were “missing hours” (working part time and seeking full time)
  • Those “missing from work” (currently unemployed but seeking employment)
  • And those “missing from the workforce” (not actively seeking a job, but open to the right opportunity)

Each of these groups contained a wildly diverse demographic and background. It is estimated that there are a staggering 27 million of these hidden workers. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are over 10.9 million job openings, a number which is rapidly climbing.

It appears there is an abundance of available workers, and yet we’ve heard the continuing refrain from our membership that they are chronically understaffed and could be working at a higher capacity if they could just fill their openings.

In the long term this is bad news for the economy. We are capped in growth because of this labor shortage. Based on our national debt, our nation must grow in GDP to outpace the throngs of creditors we are beholden to.

While the study shows that the hidden workforce could more than make up for the deficits in employment, there are some challenges.

  1. Training Gaps – Often workers may not meet all the requirements that an employer is looking for. In this worker led economy, you may need to adjust what qualifications are essential and which can be learned on the job.
  2. Screened Out – Many capable workers are being screened out of job lists by “smart” AI that can determine if a potential hire is a good fit. Gaps in employment, resumes that aren’t a perfect match, and older workers who aren’t familiar with keyword language are all being automatically screened out of many opportunities that they would excel at – if they could just get in front of a person.

Take a close look at your hiring practices and job requirements to make sure you aren’t screening out capable candidates.

While the short term pinch of this worker shortage is painful, we may be in for more challenges ahead.

George Friedman, in his 2009 book The Next 100 Years, predicted a labor shortcoming in the 2020’s. Driven by an aging population, falling birth rates, and limited immigration, the labor shortage may not just be a COVID related phenomena.

Expect to see more strategic conversations in the coming years relating to technology in the workplace, the changing nature of work, and immigration policy.

We’d encourage you to join the conversation on Facebook. 

What are you seeing in the workforce?

What have you done to adapt to the changes?

And what do you think needs to be done to solve this problem?


By | May 7, 2024

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