The New Labor Force

The gap between employee and employer in business is now considered one of the biggest challenges we face today.

Our hiring base is vastly different from what it always was, and we are going to have to adapt if we want to be able to meet our workforce requirements.

This is not the greatest generation any more or even the boomer generation.

I grew up seldom seeing my father. No, he did not travel, he just worked hard taking on any job that came his way. To him having a job and earning money was a privilege and an opportunity. I never saw him because his work day started at six in the morning and ended when he got home at midnight.

This was his day: He would get up at five-thirty to pick up his school bus and start picking up kids at six thirty. 

When that was done, he would go to his morning job at a little market where he would stock shelves, make deliveries, and do whatever he needed to do for the next three fours.

Then he would get back on his school bus to pick up the kindergarten kids who went half days.

Then at two in the afternoon he would drive the elementary school kids home.

And when that was done with his afternoon bus ride,  he would start his normal eight hour job as the school custodian.

And that was five days a week. But he did not even rest on weekends. Saturday nights he would tend bar at the local VFW.

And he wasn’t the only one. Most of the other men I knew, my uncles and the men in our neighborhood had schedules like my fathers’.

Then when we boomers came along, we had to compete for everything. There were just too many of us and too few jobs. The only people qualified to work at MacDonald’s when I was in high school were the best of the bunch. They had to be honor students and get this (sorry ladies) they had to be boys! Believe it or not, it was a big deal when MacDonald’s started hiring girls (and yes, they were teenagers, so they were girls as in boys and girls). And get this, people thought that the service at McDonalds declined when they started hiring girls. Oh, the good old days. Maybe they weren’t that good after all.

But now the workforce is very different in these very different times. The young people entering the workforce are not lazy, they are not irresponsible, and they are not entitled, no matter what the folks from my own generation like to say about them. I believe that the younger people are brighter, smarter and in many cases sharper than we were. And please do not come at me with your tired anecdotal evidence about the kid down the block who won’t even mow mom’s lawn, we had our own bad examples as well and we did not want them defining our own generation either.

Today’s young people are better educated, smarter and more confident than we ever were. But they have something that we did not have. Something that neither my father’s generation nor my generation had…they have choices. They can decide where they are going to spend their time.

They can be selective about where they go to work. And yes, they can be judgmental. They have solid opinions about the companies they will work with. They want these companies to have a social consciousness and take on social responsibility.

They want to make sure that they work for a company that is helping the world, not hurting it. They want to work for companies that are doing good and noble things, producing products and services that benefit the world around them.

They have social causes and responsibility and they do have a passionate mission of making the world a better place.

We can roll our eyes all we want but this is the lay of the land today. The people we get to choose from consider their time valuable, too valuable to do work they deem meaningless for companies that are doing things that are not meaningful.

You know, we can gripe about this all we want, but in the words of Tony Soprano, “It is what it is.” We created this generation. We brought them up to think for themselves. To stand up for themselves and to be intolerant of the intolerable. 

If we are going to succeed, in moving our companies into the future we are going to be doing it with this work force, so we are going to have to adapt to their needs and yes, their requirements for a good place to work.

Otherwise, you’d better start saving your money for those robots. It’s only common sense.