Employer Token Offerings Won’t Fix Labor Shortage


Today’s workers are showing dissatisfaction with their work at unprecedented levels. At the end of July, for example, protesters in St. Louis congregated in an otherwise noisy drive-thru of a local McDonald’s. They were there to demand that the corporation pay them at least $ 15 per hour, about $ 5 more than the current minimum wage in Missouri.

However, worker discontent is not a problem unique to my home state. From Charlotte, North Carolina, to Detroit and Houston, workers are on strike for better wages, benefits and working conditions. And who can blame them?

As many of us transitioned to remote work during COVID-19, employees in low-wage, low-opportunity jobs, such as fast food workers, had to duck.

This often meant working longer hours in dangerous conditions with little or no risk pay or sick leave.

The hiring problem

However, strikes are not the only problem employers are struggling with. Like fast food chains expand locations to match consumer spending, recruitment cannot keep up. “Help Wanted” signs abound, but the restaurant industry still 1.2 million employees short in March.

The Internet has no shortage of pro-business experts who blame the labor shortage on unemployment benefits. The stimulus payments, they would like you to believe, have incentivized people to stay home and collect from the government.

Beyond further stigmatizing minimum wage workers, this line of thinking is fair. just wrong.

Missouri, for example, was one of the first states to end federal aidHowever, our job market remains sluggish at best. And even though a quarter of Americans earned more money from unemployment than they would have earned working – one third he was still struggling to cover basic expenses like food, shelter, and medical services.

When people can’t pay basic living expenses – it says much more about American employers than employees.

Done with dead-end jobs

The workforce needs a reboot and a serious culture shift among employers will be necessary. Instead, many have turned to token offers like signing bonuses and Free iPhones in an attempt to lure the workers back. But these kinds of solutions just won’t work because the problem extends far beyond employee incentives.

During the pandemic, many people realized that doing the same low-wage, low-skill work every day I was not going to cut it anymore.

The job with no way out have to die for people to re-enter the job market.

We must first examine the current skill sets of American workers and then determine how to equip them with more skills in demand, something that workers desperately want. TO BCG study found that 68% of workers would retrain for a new position, but that readiness was closer to 70% for occupations hardest hit by the pandemic. Most people, however, cannot afford to get a second college degree or pay thousands of dollars for a training program. This is where employers can step in.

Improved skills in practice

Last year, for example, Amazon announced that it would invest $ 700 million to upgrade the skills of 100,000 employees (about a third of its workforce). Similarly, Comcast created a program turn your customer support staff into software developers to fill vacant positions.

Programs like these are designed to provide upward mobility, helping adults move from a low to medium job to a higher skill job. When that model is replicated across the market, it creates a more fluid and vibrant workforce. Offering a one-time material benefit, such as a toll-free phone, won’t make a company a better place to work, and it certainly won’t create a self-sustaining talent stream.

Time to prioritize upward mobility

There is no return to a pre-pandemic American workforce. While it was once possible to earn a living working in a fast food restaurant, that hasn’t been the case for some time. In St. Louis, for example, a MIT analysis shows that the living wage for a single adult without children is $ 14.23 an hour. That number doubles even with a child in the home.

Upward mobility has stalled and it just doesn’t exist in most cases.

No wonder the resignation rate was 2.4% in March. However, the writing was on the wall before COVID: A January 2020 Report found that lack of career progression was the top reason people quit their jobs, followed by low wages.

Depends on employers

The gap we see between unemployed Americans and the growing number of open jobs tells us that employers are not offering workers what they need.

We need to build a workforce that opens up new opportunities for those just entering the market and regularly moves people into higher-skilled jobs, a career path so to speak.

Employers who consistently and strategically move employees along a learning path, creating long-term success for them, will also reap huge benefits for themselves.

Image credit: tim mossholder; unpack thank you!

Jeff mazur

Executive Director of LaunchCode

Jeff Mazur is the CEO of LaunchCode, a nonprofit organization that aims to fill the gap in tech talent by matching companies with skilled people.


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