Innovative Solutions for the Historic Labor Shortage


Americans are proving they are quitters. In September 2021, 4.4 million Americans left their jobs. In recent months, employers have faced a historic labor shortage with no end in sight. What does this all mean for Human Resources leaders? 

For starters, those in HR need to understand why this is happening. At first, some experts suggested that additional unemployment funding was keeping people from re-joining the workforce as vaccinations increased and people began leaving the house again. But it turned out to be more complicated than that. In fact, the unemployment benefits ended and more people quit.

No Going Back

“As a professor of human resource management, I examine how employment and the work environment have changed over time and the impact this has on organizations and communities,” wrote Ian O. Williamson, dean of the Paul Merage School of Business at University of California Irvin in the Chicago Sun-Times. “While the current resignation behavior may seem like a new trend, data shows employee turnover has been rising steadily for the past decade and may simply be the new normal employers are going to have to get used to.”  

Indeed, experts believe that Americans no longer want to put up with low wages, poor benefits, toxic workplaces, and burnout. Employees and recruits also want more flexibility and meaning in their work. As a result, HR leaders are left to transform their approach to talent management. 

Williamson suggests the following response to the Great Resignation: 

Provide Flexibility

He argues that most people want more flexibility in their work schedule. They want to work when – and where – they want. Employers who provide this kind of flexibility will have an edge in the talent war. It means some old-school thinkers will have to embrace hybrid or even all remote workplaces. 

Customize Incentives

You can help individuals determine their personal needs and offer financial, social, and developmental incentives that relate to the individual. In other words, your benefits packages don’t have to be one size fits all in the way that they have in the past. 

Enhance Relationships

HR leaders should nurture their relationships with educational institutions and even former employees. Williamson writes that some companies have alumni programs, where they recruit former employees to work with them. This allows for easier training and transition. After all, a former employee already understands the culture and knows many of the processes. 

Accept the New Normal

Many HR leaders say this is not a blip on the calendar. Rather, the Great Resignation is a turning point. Those who accept what’s happening and adapt will thrive. 

“With such large swaths of the American labor force leaving their jobs, the scales of power are tipping in the direction of workers,” according to NPR. “This means employers need to rethink not only the benefits they are offering workers, but the way in which they treat their workers, too.” 

The argument, according to NPR, is that HR leaders have to remind C-suite executives to lead with empathy and set the tone of kindness in their workplaces. To win the talent war, employers simply have to remember to be human, according to NPR. 

NPR suggests you recognize

  • Health benefits and a living wage should be available on a new hire’s first day of work. 
  • Employers should talk to recruits about their commute because it’s a huge factor in attrition. They should have plans in place to help people ease the pains of commuting. 
  • Avoid scheduling workers for back-to-back opening and closing shifts. It happens more often than you think, and it creates a burden on the employee that negatively impacts physical and mental health. 

Ultimately, Americans continue to quit in record numbers and this is less of a phenomenon than the new normal. Employers who recognize the shift in culture, and respond to employee feedback will have an edge in the talent war. They will have to provide higher wages, better work-life balance, flexibility, and improved health benefits that include mental health and wellness. Truly, Human Resources leaders have to transform their thinking about the workforce, flexibility, and the well-being of those they hire. 

What do you think about the innovative ideas some experts are suggesting during this historic labor shortage? What are some of your ideas? Let us know on LinkedIn or Twitter

Photo by Karolina Grabowska for Pexels

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