I’ve met many people who’ve taken a new path in the past 18 months or so - some because they were laid off or furloughed by their employer, likely a restaurant, gym, or music venue - and many more just “looking for something different”. These aforementioned folks are remaking themselves and finding new areas of work - those not still on funemployment anyway - and the data suggests that even among those currently in stable jobs, many are actively entertaining a change. There are millions of unfilled positions in the economy today, but for many of those roles the people are collectively saying “meh”. Why work in the service industry or construction when I can freelance from home or Tik Tok or otherwise control my own time?!
This circumstance has created challenging times for employers - especially for small employers - nobody wants the entry level or manual labor type jobs anymore! Why, when you can have a work from home career, comp at $100K+, flexible hours, and a free gym membership - to start! Maybe we can all just work for the tech companies, they can give us all our money and all our news and keep an eye on us with our ring doorbells, and deliver us all our food and clothing and new technology devices to keep us even more safer and entertained...I mean, what could go wrong?!
But I digress - today’s blog will address this topic from a few angles, and will hopefully leave readers with some tools to address the challenge in their own business or workplace. Read on for:
First - the title - Everybody Shufflin’ - comes from the song Party Rock Anthem from LMFAO and I know the line is “Every Day I’m Shufflin’” - but that didn’t quite fit. I loved how that old video started with a zombie apocalypse scene, 28 Days Later style, and it’s almost the same with this circumstance - everybody’s catching the bug to try their hand at something new, leaving employers wondering what the heck is going on!
So - what are the underlying causes of this shift?
I’d say there are three primary causes, and none of them are pretty. First, Bad Policy! - the unemployment insurance policy has been terrible, as has the eviction moratorium - in a nation with all these open jobs! The $600 and then $300 weekly bonus was a disaster, paying many recipients more to stay home and play video games than if they went and got their old job back. Not only that, but it has inundated employers with resumes and applications from applicants who have no interest in actually getting a job until their unemployment is closer to expiring! What kind of policy is that?, and what are all these claims going to do to future unemployment insurance rates? The eviction policy has been arguably even worse - putting the burden of unpaid rent (and the associated mortgage) on small investors trying to build wealth outside of the stock market and 401K’s. I guess we’ll learn our lesson now, and leave investing in real estate to those who do it best, like Greystar and Blackrock and such.
Two and three, unfortunately, are more cultural conditions and not as easily fixed as the cessation of bad policy - namely envy and nihilism. Envy is what I have when I meet someone with a $100K++ work from home job, with flexible hours and gym membership included, and I want their job too - or one just like it! The challenge is - I don’t have skills that qualify me for those kinds of jobs! But, because of Facebook, and LinkedIn, and even the old-fashioned grape vine - I hear about folks with those kinds of jobs and seem to have few skills - and I want one!
Three is probably the toughest to combat - we’ve been on a slow slide toward nihilism in this nation and world ever since Frederick Nietzsche observed that God is Dead. If God is Dead, what is objective truth?, and if there’s no objective truth, what is the point of this whole charade anyway?,..and if climate change is going to kill us all via floods and fires by 2035 - why do I have to pick a major in college?
I overstate perhaps the effect of God’s untimely passing, (which I don’t believe BTW, just making observations based on social trends) - but it’s hard to argue that the level of purposelessness is rampant in our society, particularly in the younger generations. Another big reason - in this nation at least - is the abundance that we have in most corners of our society. If momma’s sick and the cow’s gone dry it’s pretty easy for a man to identify his purpose for the day or the week or the month - get to work and make some money! But if we have all that we need we only have our wants to pull us along the urgel isn’t nearly as great - and besides I want it all but where do I start?
“So - what kinds of changes are still to come?”, you say - and I’ll try my best to tell you. But a lot depends on policy, and people’s hearts and minds and expectations. Already, we’re seeing some leading employers - Google for one - making changes to folk’s pay rates if they work from home - which I’m not sure makes a lot of sense. “Thanks for saving us all the dough we used to spend on commercial office space, and mileage reimbursements, and whatnot...but we’re going to cut your pay to reflect all the benefits that you get from working from home.” The really lucky folks today are the many who’ve moved from California and New York with their now-remote jobs to places like Northern Colorado, or Idaho, or Tulsa, Oklahoma - making California money without having to live in California or pay their state income taxes or tolerate their commutes! Funemployment appears ready to phase out it seems, at least until Covid variant Pi Kappa Delta comes out and has us back in lockdown again, and the eviction moratorium is likewise in its final days - apparently. The impulse of government to “save” citizens from the calamities of the world remains, however, so there will be new boneheaded policies issued again soon I’m afraid, and often.
In that same vein, a lot depends on the economy too, and elections I suppose. Economics is not a particularly exact science, and so much depends on human behavior. But we’re already seeing significant inflation in our economy, and though we’re currently awash in cheap borrowed money from Uncle Sam, the printing press can’t go on forever. People are demanding higher wages in many cases, which will lead companies to raise prices to maintain profitability, and lead to demands for higher labor rates...and the tiger keeps roaming and devouring the wealth of its citizens. The Chinese have an old expression, I believe, that inflation is like a tiger - once it is let out of its cage, it is very hard to put back in. So we may have a tiger out of its cage and grabbed by the tail. On the plus side, there’s nothing more motivating to finding a job than being broke...so there’s that.
So - on the policy side it’s hard to say where we go, and economically - but on the culture front I don’t see things getting better fast. Envy and materialism are pretty baked into our culture already, and the creeping nihilism keeps spreading and getting thicker like green algae on a stagnant pond. The divide between the haves and the have nots will continue to grow, and will especially be based upon what digital skills and communication abilities that people have. And, there will be big divides in the economy on a regional basis - places that people want to live due to climate and quality of life will flourish - and the value of real estate will continue to climb. Other places - especially those with bad internet access or a poor climate (like much of my home state of North Dakota) - will likely suffer - especially if the energy industries and agricultural sectors are regulated into submission to prevent continued climate change. Cows fart a lot, you know, and you can either feed cows with corn and make steak, or you can use that corn to make corn syrup and drink Coca Cola to accompany your fake-meat burger and tofu fries.
But I digress yet again. The question on the table is “What are we to do to adapt to all these changes?”
To me, the biggest thing an employer can do is to create a culture of purpose and empowerment. Even without God, people have a real need for purpose - in fact many psychologists consider purposeful work to be one of the most critical elements to long-term mental health. We are driven to know that we matter - and in an increasingly global world with 8 billion other people who also matter - how much do I matter?
That’s why it’s so important to define yourself as a business, not so much so that your customers can know what you’re all about - but so your people can know what you’re all about! Like most small companies, we have a written Mission and Vision, and we’ve defined our organizational Values both internally and externally. And, like most small companies - I too often leave that stuff on the shelf and go about my days, assuming the team still knows why they’re here, and cares as much as I do about the mission. .
There’s a historian and podcaster I listen to sometimes, by the name of Brion McClannahan, and he has an oft-repeated slogan I’ve grown fond of: Think Locally, Act Locally. The basic premise of his schtick, I'd say, is that we’re most affected by our local and state government policies, and we should focus our efforts on building and sustaining a local economy and culture that addresses local concerns and doesn’t get distracted by the national media or the always-on social media complex. When you think and act locally, it’s easier to see the impacts of your actions and build relationships with people instead of with things.
This applies for our people too - when they see the positive impacts of their actions it’s easier for them to find value in their work. It’s one thing to know I’ve cleaned a house for our clients - but it’s another thing entirely to know that it was to prepare for the arrival of a new mother and young child upon their return from the hospital!
To magnify purpose for your team, in my opinion, two things are absolutely essential. One, your folks need to know the big why of the company (mission, vision, purpose, values), and they need to know their big why for the position (how does my role fit within the greater organization). This doesn’t just happen - the MVPV’s need to be written, relevant, and repeated, and job descriptions need to likewise be written, known, and understood. Number two is storytelling - whether it’s 5 minutes at the start of each staff meeting for the sharing of stories and kudos, or public praise through the staff newsletter or social media, your team and your customers want to hear the stories of impact that your business makes in the community.
On the empowerment side, some of it comes down to culture and the ability of staff to take risks and make mistakes, but a lot of it comes down to putting the right people in the right seats. Most entrepreneurs have a certain level of charisma, enabling them to attract customers and talented staff to the team. Many of those same entrepreneurs, however, don’t really know how to match character traits and personality types with the roles in the company - or at least not very well. And, they also often don’t know how to engage in relationship with people from diverse backgrounds, or how to empower their teams to engage in relationship with one another.
On this last part, we’re offering a new tool for your toolkit, in the form of Hallos Relational Intelligence training. I’ve been a fan of personality profiles and similar since I first started learning about them, and I’ve done many of them - DISC, Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, SDI - and more you’ve likely not heard of. Most of them are quite interesting but IMO, not always terribly useful. This spring, I was introduced to Hallos Relational Intelligence by my friend Betina (who’s from Brazil), and she introduced me to the Founder, Marco Antonio. Hallos is very popular in Brazil and Argentina, and increasingly in Europe, but most in the US haven’t heard of it. From my first introduction to Hallos though, I could tell it was different, and better, than the systems I’d seen before - it’s hard to describe how other than to say it matched up so closely with my own experience and intuitions along the journey that it had instant credibility for me.
And so - we’re helping to make this tool available to those here in Northern Colorado who wish to attract and retain the right people, and put them in the right seats, and to help them empower durable relationships within the company built on understanding of and collaboration with one another. First offering is a webinar, co-hosted by LoCo Think Tank, and featuring both Betina and Marco - it’s August 30th, 11:30 am - 12:45 pm, and you can register here.
And, later this fall we are going to have a 24-hour certification workshop, featuring Marco and one of his associates all the way from Brazil! Attendees who complete this training will be certified to deliver Hallos reports and training to their teams - or in our case to their chapter meetings. We’ve come to believe in Hallos so much that we’re paying the registration fees for all of our LoCo Facilitators who wish to attend, and offering a discount to our members as well. Details are still being ironed out, but you can register at this link to learn more and stay informed and be first in line.
So join me, and our team, in learning more about Hallos Relational Intelligence, and enhance your ability to attract and retain the right people and find them a fulfilling and purposeful role in your organization.