Where Are the Workers? Asked and...Answered.

Let's visit about the Labor Shortage.  A couple of weeks ago I was at an event organized by the Greater Des Moines Partnership. It is one Now Hiring of the largest business groups in the nation. The breakfast was designed to outline their legislative wish list for 2022.

During the Q & A session one business person asked this: “Everywhere you look there are businesses looking for workers but they are not there.  Where have these workers…gone?”

Well, the answer is complex but let’s take a shot but I can tell you it all starts with...money.

An MIT and CNBC analysis earlier this year found that even a $15 minimum wage wouldn't be a living wage for many families. Anecdotally, businesses paying higher wages haven't struggled as much with labor shortages and understaffing.

Show me the money…is what we’re hearing.

Man BoredThe love, hate your job issue is real. According to an Indeed survey of about 1,000 people who "voluntarily resigned from at least two jobs since March 2020," most of them (92%) said "the pandemic made them feel life is too short to stay in a job they weren't passionate about."

Flexibility is important:  One of the industries feeling the most pain is leisure and hospitality. Even if employers in that sector increase wages, they may have trouble finding workers because those jobs have to be done in person…and there isn’t much flexibility in scheduling.

According to one survey of 10,000 knowledge workers from Future Forum, workers want flexibility in both location and schedule.

Child care is an issue. First will the children be safe and secondly child care is so expensive that many parents have done the math and it makes more sense to stay home than  pay child care costs that may be more than their mortgage payment.

Fear of illness: As the pandemic stretches on…many workers just don’t want to chance getting sick. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that, in November, 1.2 million people didn't look for work because of the pandemic. In addition, some workers may be quitting or staying out of work because they're hesitant to get the vaccine, as more businesses put requirements in place.

Early Retirement: More workers have…also…retired early…we covered that moments ago…and now some may want to come back into the workforce…time will tell.

Immigration is also a root cause of the shortage: There are about 1.2 million adult foreign workers or work-eligible immigrants who are just not here because of the restrictions that have been imposed during the pandemic.

Job Disconnect: There is also a job disconnect between available workers and the jobs that are open. 48% of jobseekers surveyed by FlexJob said that they're frustrated with the job search, because they weren't finding the right positions — and the ones that are open pay too low.  Back to pay again.

Job burnout is another factor: Some workers are resigning because of burnout, putting added stress on employers and the remaining employees. Workers are taking on extra duties as companies struggle to fill positions, leading these workers to also feel burned out.

Technology is also to blame:  Qualified workers might be applying for roles that fit them, but hiring managers don't even know. Some Employment Application are getting filtered out by hiring software. As the Wall Street Journal first reported, a Harvard Business School study found that over 10 million workers are filtered out by hiring software.

Employers also filter out workers because of preexisting biases and inequities.

Roughly 70 million workers don't have a college degree, but are known as "STARS" — Skilled Through Alternative Routes. They account for two-thirds of American workers, but many may be filtered through educational requirements…that often really don’t match the real world job requirements.

Often felons are filtered out:  And there continues to be a big divide when it comes to white workers vs. black workers…with black unemployment still high.

Entrepreneurship:  Finally…people are done working for others and want to become their own boss.   According to Bloomberg's reporting on business applications from the Census Bureau, there have been a record number of applicants in the first nine months of 2021 compared to the first nine months in previous years.

The US reached its highest number of unincorporated self-employed workers during the pandemic so far in July 2021 — also the highest number since the last big crisis to hit our country in 2008.

So, where have all the workers gone…?  Lots of possibilities.

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The award winning Insight on Business the News Hour with Michael Libbie is the only weekday business news podcast in the Midwest. The national, regional and some local business news along with long-form business interviews can be heard Monday - Friday. You can subscribe on PlayerFMPodbeaniTunesSpotifyStitcher or TuneIn Radio. And you can catch The Business News Hour Week in Review each Sunday Noon on News/Talk 1540 KXEL. The Business News Hour is a production of Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications. You can follow us on Twitter @IoB_NewsHour.

Customer Service Part One - Coventry Health Care

Last November we reported on an American Express study on customer service and what consumers are looking for.  According to the report, which was produced by an independent testing firm and is based on customer surveys of thousands of individuals, it was found that regardless of technology, resources or access to multiple modes of 24/7 communication, the attitude and desires of the customer -- and the things that determine whether he or she is likely to be happy or disappointed -- haven't changed with the times. Coventry Atnea

Most customers still don't think service is good enough, much less getting better: Only about a third of those surveyed believe businesses have increased their focus on customer service. Only 7 percent said that the customer service interactions typically exceed their expectations. And only 23 percent think that companies "value their business and will go the extra mile for them."  Less than a quarter of the consumer base think business is doing a good job.

Which brings us to this:  We take great pride in lifting up companies and businesses that provide good to great customer service.  That is what our advertising agency and our business broadcast does.  That also allows us the right to point out problems in customer service and bring those to the attention of the business affected.

That was the case this week in two very different set of circumstances.  In December I signed up for health care insurance through Coventry Health Care of Iowa.  When I got the application there were health questions.  I thought that was odd but went ahead and filled it out and sent it in.  My application was approved and my monthly premium came to $255.60.  I sent a check and ten days later, following the cashing of the check, I received notice that I needed to pay the premium.  During the next several weeks more confusing billing notices arrived.  Then this week I received a notice that I needed to pay $276.00.  It was at that point I issued a strongly worded email, not to the agent but direct to Coventry. 

And, here is the purpose of the post:  Rather than ignore my letter they acted on it within hours.  Two or three calls later from billing experts to media relations people the issue was resolved.  Now, had I not been a member of the media would it have been so swift?  Based on my honest conversation with all the folks involved I believe so.  There have been some amazing changes to the health care system over the past year and I think, similar to the government health care website, folks were unprepared for the many moving targets.

That being said the issues were resolved because of “old school” interaction and communication.  Something to remember the next time you are faced with an consumer issue.  As the American Express Survey concludes, “Customers want access on their terms; fast, effective and personal service when needed; and courtesy, attentiveness and empathetic treatment.”   Coventry…gets it.