We have a workforce crisis coming, yes, but no one really gives a shit

Workforce Crisis, But No One Cares

Watch that video if you get a chance. I watched it last night. It’s not bad, albeit kind of depressing. Basically it talks about the workforce crisis we have coming down the pike — 2030 or so — and then how we can solve it. The guy is a German consultant, so a lot of the context is German in nature. Hence, an American might not care. America has a workforce crisis coming too, but again, most people don’t care. Let’s start with a slightly different topic and move over to the workforce crisis one.

When the speaker above was discussing how to deal with the impending workforce crisis, here’s an interesting note:

Now, what are the job preferences of these 200,000 people? So, what are they looking for? Out of a list of 26 topics, salary is only number eight. The top four topics are all around culture. Number four, having a great relationship with the boss; three, enjoying a great work-life balance; two, having a great relationship with colleagues; and the top priority worldwide is being appreciated for your work. So, do I get a thank you? Not only once a year with the annual bonus payment, but every day. And now, our global workforce crisis becomes very personal. People are looking for recognition. Aren’t we all looking for recognition in our jobs?

This is the kind of shit Daniel Pink and others have been saying for years. Most bosses and managers and senior executives don’t get it as far as they could throw a bag of cement. When someone leaves, they automatically assume “Oh, he/she left for more money.” No, ass clown. He/she left because you treated them like a deliverables-only farm animal for several years. After a while, people get tired of that. That’s why “culture” matters, even though you can’t see it on the balance sheet.

OK, now let’s talk about this workforce crisis:

Fact 1: The Baby Boomers aging out and/or retiring will cost America some jobs, for sure.

Fact 2: A lot of people claim to be thinking about issues such as that, but it’s all lip service. No one thinks about “workforce planning” or “talent strategy.” People think, and talk, about the bottom line and financials and revenues. People are interchangeable.

Fact 3: People don’t have realistic conversations about what happened to the American economy since 2008. The rich got richer, earnings started to stagnate, Boomers aren’t retiring at the pace we thought (so long-standing but flawed management philosophies are staying the course), and everyone is super worried about margins and financial metrics and all that shit (if you want an example, look at time-to-hire stats; we’re taking way more time to find someone because of analysis paralysis due to money ties, and we’re still hiring the wrong people).

Fact 4: So we’re in this world where everyone’s worried about financials — which means that’s all they breathlessly talk about — and the top dogs (who are probably a bit older) are worried about getting out with their mint intact, so they’re trying to keep the system down. That screws the rank-and-file workers (more on that here), but the big dogs don’t care. They’re doing fine! (You know, so long as they can keep those margins tight!) I honestly think a lot of senior dudes and dudettes, running to meeting after meeting and chasing deliverables, probably don’t even care if their people leave. They just figure: “Well, we could replace ’em with someone cheaper.” That’s better for the bottom-line, right?

Fact 5: There’s a ton of people out of work, so the power is back with the employers — people love to quote that the unemployment rate is dropping, but no one understands what that means — and again, the focus is less and less on people, and more and more on products and processes.

Here’s the whole problem: no one’s thinking about “the workforce crisis” or “talent strategy” or “talent management” or “workplace planning.” They’re thinking about themselves. That’s the human condition. The thought is: if you spend 12 hours a week thinking about “workforce planning,” that’s 12 hours you’re not speaking about all your financial targeting. If you’re not doing that, someone else is. And they might beat you! That’s your retirement money right there! That’s your European cruise!

In reality, you’re probably going to be scrapping for years and years sheerly because you haven’t thought about issues like “Wow, we’re losing a lot of core people in Operations soon. What are we going to do?”

Sometimes I think the entire business world is a series of things-that-everyone-saw-coming-but-ignored-due-to-other-seemingly-more-pressing-deliverables, in turn leading to a Oh-Crap-Now-We-Need-To-Jury-Rig-A-Solution.

That said, I’m probably having a bad day.

Ted Bauer

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