We all know the story. The pandemic hit. It was awful. Many casualties. A lot of people couldn’t go to work. An expanded work-from-home paradigm took root. Employees were laid off. Record-breaking unemployment numbers. Scary stuff.
But what I think nobody ever suspected was that when the business sector started opening back up – and when unemployment started running out and no more stimulus checks were in the mail – workers were much less interested in going back to their jobs or even finding a new one. So there was a notable, sustained mass exodus from the workforce that continued past the course of all the lockdowns, shutdowns, and safer at home protocols. The popular belief was that nobody wants to work anymore. And the Big Resignation has been making headlines since.
Now I am no market expert, but I am a business owner who is quite literally surrounded by other small to medium sized business owners. And while there are most definitely challenges in hiring right now, I would argue that it has more to do with a labor force who had the time to rethink both their professions and their potential for entrepreneurship than it does an actual unwillingness to work. The movement might be more aptly named the Big Reevaluation.
I refute the popular “Nobody Wants to Work” employment perspective. I would rephrase it as “Nobody Wants to Work for You.” And the big question would be, why is that?
People still need to pay their bills and provide for their families. But the lure of business ownership and the freedom to follow one’s passion simply outweigh many workers’ willingness to remain stagnant in an unsatisfying, sometimes underpaid, and often underappreciated workplace. And don’t discount that freedom element to the equation. As a sole proprietor, one has the option to work from anywhere in the world. How is that for chasing an incredibly attractive dream?
WHY WOULD THEY EVER COME BACK?
Here is a little secret that many people don’t realize. It is really-really hard to run your own business, let alone make it into a sustainable source of wealth. Those exciting “side hustles” everyone was talking about were great as supplemental income, but often much less lucrative as sole sources of revenue. I suspect that there will be a renewed steady influx of workers into the labor market as more folks realize they are not making enough money trying to run their own businesses.
So how do you appeal to and attract these people back to your business? I suggest you start by giving them that feeling of freedom, a desirable (but appropriate) salary or hourly wage, and adding in some of those perks they desire.
As for the perks, enhanced benefits hold a big allure. Opportunity for growth and an upward career path can also reattract workers to your business. Smart businesses are also creating company cultures that align with the values of their target employee pool. It is about making the workplace a place where employees want to work. It is about getting employees jazzed to work for you again.
In this labor market, it is imperative that employers possess thoughtfulness around what their talent pool really wants and what will get them out of bed in the morning.
That feeling of freedom we talked about isn’t exclusive to business ownership. Give your employees the freedom to dream big. Then do everything you can to help them get there.
Blair Koch is the CEO of TAB Denver West, a TAB CEO Advisory Board Facilitator, and a Business Ownership Lifecycle Coach. Blair has spent most of her career helping small business owners achieve their personal and professional goals. She also hosts the Best Businesses in Denver podcast.