It’s Like Déjà Vu All Over Again
Reminiscent of the Yogi Berra-ism “It’s like déjà vu all over again,” another -ism has emerged about work. A recent Bloomberg article highlights a truism about the modern workforce that has been a hallmark since work began. Jo Constanz highlights the ups and downs of the workforce during hard times and how modern companies can break the cycle.
Refusing to return to the office, quiet quitting, the Great Resignation. Each has been attributed to the global pandemic. But as things returned to normalcy, another familiar trope emerged. A quote from the article states, “It’s become apparent nobody wants to work in these hard times.” But things are not what they seem. According to the article, “It turns out the quote comes from an editor of the Rooks County Record in Stockton, Kansas, lamenting coal mines shut down by strikes in April 1894. But it echoes recent sentiment: a Forbes story published in January, for example, cites a poll of executives that found one in five agreed with the statement “no one wants to work.”
News travels fast, but good tweets travel faster, like the one from Paul Fairie identified in the article. Here the political scientist from the University of Calgary curates a list of clippings lamenting the “death of the work ethic.” The Bloomberg article adds, “It’s a conversation about work — about Covid and inflation and the pace of the economy right now — that caught people’s interest,” Fairie said of the response the thread generated. “It’s that point of, there’s nothing especially wrong with workers today.”
Quitting Jobs or Quittable Jobs?
Joseph McCartin, a labor historian at Georgetown University, adds in the article, “But that sidesteps the key issue, which is that a lot of jobs, for the amount of wear and tear and the hard labor involved — they just don’t pay enough,” he said. “Very often what this kind of rhetoric, whether it’s people don’t want to work or there’s a labor shortage, what that often speaks to is that wages simply aren’t attractive enough for workers.”
The Living Wage
Back to Yogi Berra, who famously said, “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore,” $15 an hour is no longer sufficient. Constanz adds, “Now, the living wage for a family of two working adults and two children is $24.16 per hour, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Minimum Wage Calculator. To make a living wage, a single parent with two kids earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 would need to work 235 hours per week — almost six full-time minimum-wage jobs. While wage gains remained strong last month, raises aren’t keeping pace with inflation.”
The Way Out is Up
The article concludes by saying the quiet part out loud. “Emily Rose McRae, senior director of research at consulting firm Gartner, said ongoing staffing shortages present an opportunity for employers to fundamentally rethink their relationship with their workforces — especially as low immigration, an aging workforce and lack of affordable childcare create structural shortfalls that are likely to reemerge even if recession temporarily curbs demand.” Then, quoting McRae, Constanz adds, “The second part of the sentence often goes unsaid: Nobody wants to work — for what I want to give them,” McRae said. “If your entire business model is dependent on paying the lowest possible wages and now you can’t pay people enough, you have a problem, you have to adapt.”
‘You can observe a lot by just watching,’ so we’ll see where admitting it’s not the work but the wages that shrink the workforce takes us. Hopefully, it will be far from a similar article in one hundred years.
Trent Lyons is a Technical Recruitment Lead at Business Centric Technology. If you are interested in learning more about how to get the best IT talent in the Dallas metroplex, contact Trent, who specializes in recruiting IT talent in Dallas, Ft. Worth, and North Texas. If you are looking for a rewarding career, contact us today.