During COVID, unemployment rose to obscenely high numbers, breaching any peaks this country had seen in almost 40 years. Government stimulus checks satisfied the need for immediate relief, but many issues caused the effects of a struggling job market to linger.

With vaccinations and booster shots on the rise and COVID cases trending down, the outlook is no longer so grim. Companies that have survived the last year are looking to ramp up their productivity once again, but they're finding a workforce with the lowest participation rate since the 1970s. This August saw a record number of people quitting their jobs.

So, why aren't people working?

From our perspective, lots of reasons.

Child Care

Prior to the pandemic, around half of U.S. families reported having trouble finding care for young children. Mid-late 2020, and a global pandemic, saw that number rise to two thirds of families, but not much has changed since - it's still a challenge to find child care, and there are even more kids requiring it. Any school reopenings this fall were counterbalanced by a quick-spreading Delta variant and ultra sensitive school closings. Younger, more vulnerable children are in many cases kept at home, in an effort to mitigate risk or in response to schools and centers being closed. And working parents are left with the responsibility of daytime care for their children.

Unemployment Benefits

Many companies can't afford large salaries during this period of pandemic recovery. Their hiring might be back to 2019 levels, but that doesn't mean their employee package is enticing enough to draw a pool of applicants. Additional unemployment benefits were generous and only ended recently, in some cases providing more income than a previously held job had, so the unemployed were less tempted to jump back into the job market.

Stimulus Payments

Alongside the decent unemployment benefits came multiple stimulus checks, dispersed over the last year and intended to ease this period of nationwide loss of income, removing the instability behind people's financial situations. A lessened incentive to find new employment, added to lack of child care and other personal struggles during the pandemic, means there are fewer job seekers.

Changed Values

Employees are demanding more from their employers, after time working from home held a magnifying glass up to their work-life balance. Commutes, pointless meetings, long hours, and meager salaries are keeping people from jumping into anything new without substantial consideration. Priorities have been reevaluated. 

Early Retirements

A less than ideal working situation pushed many on the verge of retirement over the edge. Boomer retirements more than doubled in 2020 from the previous year, removing a significant number of people from the workforce.

Fading Skills

Being sidelined for so long keeps many people out of practice, losing skills needed for jobs they once had. Lack of time or ability to prioritize relearning these skills means lower self esteem and confidence, holding many back from applying to jobs similar to what they held previously. Even though a skill lapse during these times would be easily explained, it can be an inhibiting factor to putting oneself out there.

There are jobs out there. And there are job seekers out there. But with many micro-shifts in the priorities and needs of the unemployed workforce, it may take some time before companies see their applicant pools grow. 

Posted: 11/3/2021 2:04:19 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments

After over a year of COVID-19's presence and its disastrous effects on global health and the economy worldwide, the job market has seen some steadying. Unemployment levels are much below the astonishing 14.8% we saw in April 2020, and the companies that survived are starting to see some relief. We hesitate to say "normal," but it feels like things are getting back on track.

Such a long time spent in this phase of uncertainty has surely affected the workforce. Remote working became much more commonplace, and this shift has lasting effects on job seekers. The market looks a little different these days, and hiring has changed along with it. 

Your local talent pool is pickier

If you aren't open to remote working, you may find your candidate pool smaller than it once was. With the receipt of stimulus checks, many unemployed job seekers can be particular about finding their next position. At the same time, anyone considering a move to a new company may be hesitant to jump ship in an uncertain economy. Besides preferences about their careers, many candidates are still under obligations for home child care or schooling. Taking a new position adds stress and uncertainty, and many workers just won't consider it right now. 

What you can do:

In the immediate future, you may need to allow for some working from home to satisfy the needs of the market, or be willing to choose from a smaller selection of candidates. The other solution, a much less appealing one, is to just wait it out. The stimulus checks will stop, unemployment will go back to normal levels, and job seekers will come out of the woodwork once again, willing to come back into an office full time. With the Delta variant, however, this may also be a challenging solution. 

Your remote talent pool is larger

Are you allowing employees to work remotely? Great! Your talent market just got a whole lot larger. Even a hybrid model, requiring some in-person presence in the office, allows candidates staring down a long commute to more readily consider the job. But, while expanding your geographic considerations might feel like a relief to a tight candidate pool, you'll need to adjust a few things if this is a new policy. 

What you can do: 

Ensure you have systems set up to support a remote team. Improve communication, setting up regular check-ins and utilizing programs and technology to keep communication channels open and your team engaged. New-to-remote-working employees report feeling less connected to their coworkers now, so try to incorporate some solutions for the loss of social interaction. Be sure to emphasize your plans to all job candidates. 

Understanding how hiring will change is critical to finding solutions to continue to attract the best talent. The pandemic has tested the flexibility and nimbleness of companies, and only the ones able to embrace change will come out on top. 

Posted: 8/23/2021 4:24:49 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments

Our last post discussed the best ways for employers to incorporate feedback, working to include an analysis/reflection step in their project cycles so employees can stay informed of their performance level and thrive in a communicative environment. Preparing comments upon project completion is a great opportunity for identifying problem areas and spotlighting employees' needs for improvement.

What if your workplace doesn’t value open communication and healthy, constructive feedback? Asking for it can feel needy or unnecessary. The truth is, however, that feedback is critical to your vocational growth and an important component of your professional relationship to management. Most importantly, you present yourself as a committed and passionate member of the team.

We've gathered some tips for getting the comments you need and implementing changes efficiently.

Ask. Ask again.
Request a meeting to evaluate your work upon project completion. Next time, request again. Keep asking until it becomes the norm. Your boss should consider these discussions to be an investment in the success of the company, and even if they don’t have time for a meeting, suggest a quick one or two sentences on an area that could be bettered.

Don’t get defensive
Teams are supposed to be collaborative and supportive of all members, so comments that come your way should be taken seriously and not personally. Pointing fingers at others while deflecting useful feedback yourself just perpetuates inefficiency. Take each piece of advice and assume it’s coming from a genuine place.

Make a point to be better
Feedback and suggestions are useless if they aren’t implemented, so with each new project, set a small goal based on past calls for improvement. Targeting your focus will better indicate the success of your efforts, streamline the process, and organize your goal into actionable steps.

Be ready with questions
If you get the sense that management can't devote the time for proper evaluation, keep it simple. Ask a very specific question to direct their comments - something like "How did my timing feel on this project?" or "Would it help if I _____ next time?" This way, you're not demanding much of their time but still demonstrating your dedication and making moves to better yourself.
Try these suggestions to begin making progress towards improvement your performance at work. Your employer will thank you in the long run. 

Posted: 6/10/2021 4:33:01 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments

Evaluating your performance after completing a project is crucial to improving your professional skills. But, it's not always easy to take a step back and look at the successes and the failures objectively. How can you know what needs improvement without a proper system of assessment? And employers, how can you groom a lean, mean, productive machine without your team knowing what's working and what isn't?

Our best suggestion? Build a project cycle that includes feedback and analytics. You have brainstorm/kickoff meetings, right? Consider adding in conversations to wrap up the project, including employee reviews as well as project analytics. Having a system that includes feedback makes open and honest communication much easier, and gives both parties an opportunity to comment on the process and final product.

Use specifics
No vague mentions of "doing better" are going to prompt any changes. Just like your meetings should end with actionable items for each person, these conversations demand takeaway points for improvement, if there are any. If you can provide numbers of any kind, even better. This makes the feedback less subjective, and gives evidence that improvement can be measured.

Don't compare
In a performance evaluation, avoid pitting employees against each other. A team should be supportive of each other, and, as they say "comparison is the thief of joy." Keep your team happy and collaborative by steering the feedback towards their individual work, mentioning specific points relevant to their performance, rather than pointing out a fellow team member's successes or failures.

Welcome critique
Being open to employee comments will make your team immensely more available to receive your feedback. Communication is a two way street, and there's no reason to target employees as the sole owners of the success of a process. Besides soliciting comments, regularly request specific points for improvement from everyone on your team after every project, whether it applies to you as an individual or the company as a whole.

Remove their personality from the equation
Try to address the behavior that needs changing rather than judging a personality. It's challenging, for example, to avoid mentioning someone's ego when discussing their tendency to interrupt, but “Your frequent interruptions stifle candid conversation,” is a more constructive comment than “Check your ego at the door.”

Your team will greatly benefit from an established system of evaluation as well as an environment that is collaborative in its efforts to improve. Be open to suggestions, and be sure to effectively provide the feedback your team is looking for. Let us know how it goes!

Posted: 6/3/2021 4:25:04 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments

You are a self-starter.
Employers aren't looking for a team member with a constant need to be directed in their daily tasks. Bring a sense of urgency to your daily workload and be the one to initiate your own progress. Try to think several steps ahead, and keep things moving along the pipeline without demanding any time or too much direction from your superior.

You can collaborate.
You know how the sayings go: "Teamwork makes the dream work." and "There's no 'I' in 'Team.'" Professionals might easily forget that their job does not stand alone. A close network of collaborators requires freedom of discussion, an openness to all ideas, and a hefty dose of humility. Egos need to be left at the door, and hiring managers will be on high alert for any hint of self-centeredness. 

You can manage your time.
With an increasing number of companies entertaining the possibility of a remote team (80% plan to allow employees to work remotely at least part of the time after the pandemic), trust to manage your workload will be of the utmost importance. While hours in an office are automatically considered working hours, time spent working from home often lacks boundaries. Knowing how to separate personal life and professional life will be the key to success, and juggling projects without any in-person prompting from a manager will require strong work ethic.

You can adapt.
The speed at which technology moves these days, you have to start learning an updated program as soon as you've finished learned the previous version. It's changing nonstop, and the only way to keep up is to change with it. In addition to programs, change can also be expected within your role, based on your company's strategy moving forward. You acquire skills as your job evolves, and it's best to be open to new job titles that reflect your expanding skill set. 

You're organized.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but organizational skills apply to all areas of a career - if you're organized, you can multitask, you can be trusted with management responsibilities, and you're likely to be a reliable, punctual colleague. You also probably have a perfectly executed digital file organization system (cue the cry-laughing emoji face).

You're enjoyable to work with.
Bring a great attitude (or at the very least, leave all negative vibes at the door), and not only will you be a valued member of the team, but you might even inject some motivation into your workplace. Positivity breeds more positivity. Avoid getting defensive or remaining unengaged with your coworkers, and instead try to be friendly and curious. And let's be clear: we aren't suggesting you accommodate every request with a "yes," or that you hold your tongue when it comes to difficult feedback, but understanding the power of a pleasant response or constructive criticism can go a long way.

You are a clear communicator.
Straightforward communication is essential to a smoothly running workflow. Is something taking longer than anticipated? Say so. Unclear on the status of a project? Just ask. No need to hide your thoughts or hesitate to inquire about something for the sake of politeness or lack of responsibility. Plus, staying in close contact with your colleagues and management keeps you all on the same page.

Posted: 4/23/2021 11:12:54 AM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments