Today's post comes to us courtesy of board member John Frehse, Senior Managing Partner, Ankura Consulting Group, LLC.

July 1 marked the halfway point for 2018 and represents a good time to reflect on what lies ahead. National unemployment is extremely low at 3.9%, and employers from healthcare to logistics to manufacturing are all complaining about the same thing: The inability to hire and retain qualified employees. This has been an issue for decades, but the current state could, and should be labeled a crisis. Companies are not meeting demand and losing customers. There are three reasons why this will only get worse in 2019:

  1. The Booming Economy: This comes and goes in cycles and no single piece of legislation or President can really drive this cycle alone, but tax changes and relaxing of regulations are at least partially responsible for putting the economy into overdrive.
  2. The Changing Needs of American Industry: Every industry in the United States has evolved rapidly over the last decade. Service, products, and technology are all better. This evolution, largely driven by analytics and the ability to see inefficiencies and improve upon them, along with a wide range of technology breakthroughs (think Uber, robots, and other automation innovations), has created a demand for higher-skilled employees.
  3. The Changing Appetite of the American Workforce: The workforce is changing, and this is not just a discussion about Millennials. From the youngest to the oldest generation, changing attitudes about how long to work and how long to stay at a job have destabilized labor supply.

So, what are we going to do about it?

To answer this question, we need to understand what today’s employees want from their employers. Uber and others have created a more on demand environment where you work when and where you want and report to no one. When compared to traditional employment opportunities, this is very attractive. Here are the top 5 things our clients talk about their employees wanting the most. Notice that pay is not on the list. Although important, it is not primary.

  1. The ability to make a difference every day
  2. Recognition when earned
  3. Time off – specifically a significant number of weekends off
  4. A shift schedule that maximizes the number of days off each week
  5. Shift schedule predictability

The labor supply is not growing, and based on birth rates, it may be shrinking in the next two decades substantially. Employers need to be proactive to compete for the talent they need to keep their businesses running. The right labor strategies can help any company standout. Instead of approaching labor strategy by copying what everyone else is doing, some differentiation will make a difference. If everyone is working 8-hour shifts, maybe offering 10 or 12-hour shifts, with the right work and pay polices, will drive interest and applications. Think about what your employees want most – beyond just a paycheck - and then find creative ways to meet and maybe even exceed their expectations. If you’re able to do this, you’ll be in a strong position to survive and maybe even thrive in this increasingly tough hiring climate.

summer jobThe following guest post is courtesy of our board member, David Creelman.

With Spring upon us and Summer right around the corner, many businesses are actively hiring seasonal workers to ensure they have coverage for their busy seasons.

For example, just last month, Home Depot, the nation’s largest home improvement chain, announced that it was hiring more than 80,000 workers nationwide to ensure that its nearly 2,000 stores are staffed and ready to welcome spring 2016, its busiest season.

The home improvement industry isn’t alone, of course: golf courses, recreational facilities, summer camps and programs, seasonal restaurants and retailers, along with many others are all in hiring mode right now to match this seasonal business cycle.

Beyond just getting bodies onboard, leveraging this seasonal workforce can be a big competitive advantage. Whenever we are dealing with a potentially big strategic advantage; particularly one involving large numbers of workers; we want to call on the power of people analytics.

So how can people analytics help? The truth is, they can help in so many ways that I could never name them all in a short blog post, but I can say that there are a few questions that every seasonal employer should be asking themselves right now:

• Are we scheduling in a way that minimizes labor costs?
• Are we scheduling in a way that minimizes turnover?
• Are we running an analysis to discover the right trade off between the two?
• Would increasing training for seasonal workers pay off?
• What are the most costly mistakes seasonal workers make, that regular workers don’t make?
• What is the most effective way to screen seasonal workers?

You can approach these questions with sophisticated statistical methods, but you don’t need to. If you don’t have the data, tools, or skills for advanced analytics, you’ll find you can go surprisingly far with the back of an envelope or Excel. Yes, you want to do as good a job as you can; especially when it’s a strategic issue, but my mantra is that some numbers are almost always better than no numbers. Don’t let lack of heavy duty analytics horsepower be an excuse for not thinking about these issues.

My challenge for businesses is this: is it a normal part of your culture to bring analytics savvy to challenges like optimizing the effectiveness of your seasonal workforce? We are all enamored with Big Data and the latest analytics tools; but in my experience the lack of an analytics culture is usually the bigger problem. My advice? Especially if you are starting from scratch, focus less on what the analytics tools are, and more on creating an analytics-focused culture that puts value on numbers-based analysis.

photo credit: jrbrubaker

Take a look at our newest white paper, "Increasing Hourly Workforce Productivity: Different types of work, different types of workers". Our board member, Steve Hunt, wrote this paper in response to a spirited discussion we had during our last board meeting.

During that meeting, we talked about the inherent flaws in trying to define best practices in hourly workforce management without addressing the fundamental differences between hourly jobs. Layer on the demographic differences among the employees who perform these jobs, and the concept of best practices becomes even more nuanced.

In Steven's white paper, he provides a framework to help organizations think about how differences in the competencies required for different types of hourly jobs translate into differences in talent management best practices. Throughout the talent management lifecycle, those differences should drive decisions regarding how employers choose to attract, train, engage and retain their workforce in the pursuit of optimal productivity.

For more insight on this topic, listen to the podcast below for an interview with Steven Hunt.

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