Ask the Worker

  • Published: Friday, April 14, 2023

Are you having trouble hiring employees? It is hard to find an employer who is not having trouble hiring enough staff. The worker shortage is real, and there are a lot of contributing factors. Is how you talk about your lack of workers contributing to the problem?

These days, it is common to hear, “No one wants to work anymore.” When employers say this during the recruitment process, in an interview, or front-line supervisors say it during a tour of a company, potential employees are hearing, “No one wants to work here anymore.” Banners in the front yards of companies offering hundreds or thousands of dollars in signing bonuses to new employees, without adjusting the wages of current employees, are telling current staff that they are less valuable than new hires. The words that are used can tell a prospective employee a great deal about the culture of, and the desirability to join, a workplace.

On Feb. 2, 2022, the Recovery Friendly Workplace Missouri website ran a blog article "Language Matters" to address how conversations about addiction and recovery have changed and led to connections between employers and potential employees who are overcoming addictions. The same kind of attention to how we talk about worker shortages, employee recruitment, hiring practices, and the onboarding of employees is just as critical.

Comments like “No one wants to work anymore” project a negative tone and image to any subsequent conversation. Once that shadow is cast, it is hard to remove. Similarly, when the focus of those banners is on the “dollars” and “immediate hiring” without any mention of “joining a good team” or “coming to work for a good employer", the image conjured is one of desperation.

This is not the first time industries in the United States have faced worker shortages. In his 2017 book The End of Loyalty, author Rick Wartzman chronicles the rapidly shifting dynamics of the U.S. workforce coming out of the Roaring Twenties, through the building of the industrial-military complex needed for World War II, and the workforce’s pivot to post-war consumerism. As demand for civilian consumerism grew, one industry leader summed up their perspectives on the then shortage of workers by saying, “Let’s look at the doughnut instead of the hole.” In other words, employers should focus on the workers they have. Keep them. Keep them happy, and they will become your greatest recruitment tool.

Writer: Douglas Swanson

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