Facing the Great Resignation at our doorsteps.

Eating out, grabbing supplies, popping into your favorite local shop — it used to be that you could count on these activities with a certain amount of assurance that you would get to what you wanted when you wanted it.

That’s not the case in today’s market. Handwritten notes of hour changes, or even closing of the business, litter the doors of many of our businesses in Jefferson City. And there’s one question everyone is asking: Where are the employees?

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, in November of 2021, 4.5 million people resigned from their jobs. That’s an increase from 4.2 million in October 2021, continuing a historic months-long trend. From March 2021 to July 2021, 19 million workers quit their jobs. That’s a 7 million person increase from the same span the year before. On the other side of the coin, private-sector job growth is reaching its highest level sever, adding 807,000 jobs in November, according to ADP, bringing the total to an all-time high of 10.6 million openings as reported on the last day of November 2021.

The turnover hasn’t been distributed equally across the nation. The Midwest has had a higher number of workers quitting than other parts of the country — along with the highest job growth numbers, coming in at 7.2% while the rest of the nation is between 6.4% and 7.2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

As of October 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 116,000 Missouri workers were hired, 87,000 workers quit, there 235,000 job openings, and our unemployment rate was 3.7%.

The industries most heavily hit by turnover have been hospitality, health care, logistics, and low-wage sectors. Paula Benne, president and owner of C&S Business Services, sees both sides of the issue and sees it affecting area restaurants, health care providers, teachers, and especially daycares.

“Our goal for this year is to meet people where they are at. The best thing we can do is try to accommodate and offer flexibility.”

Paula Benne

Benne says that, across the board, there are more job openings than candidates. The high demand has led to higher wages being offered.

“Employers are doing a balancing act with paying new employees the going rate to attract talent but still retaining current loyal employees, who may be making close to the new wage and have been employed for awhile,” Paula says.

Many factors have led to people leaving. Ongoing health concerns have led many workers to early retirement; people have a desire for more flexibility; workers are burnt out and feel under appreciated; and people are wanting to take advantage of the strong candidate market. Paula explains that many in the labor force discovered during the COVID-19 shutdowns that they could survive on one income. She also noted that daycares have been hit hard and haven’t reopened yet, making childcare availability another barrier to viable workers returning to the labor market.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the U.S. personal savings rate is at an all-time high of 32.2.%, which could mean that, in general, there isn’t as much financial pressure for many to return to work.

Locally owned employers have struggled to meet the demands of their businesses given the lack of staff. Janice and Steve Houser, owners of U.S. Rents-It, are taking on more of the work themselves in an effort to offer their employees more flexibility in their work schedules.

“Being flexible with their schedules, especially those in college, means more work for us, but we are happy to have dedicated staff that share the workload,” Janice says.

They have also found unique solutions for staff by thinking differently about who works for them. When Janice needed help in a certain part of her business, she partnered with her mom’s housekeeper, who had herself lost her business and staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic and needed work. Now, when the part-time employee is done cleaning houses for the day, she contacts Janice and sees if they need her.

How Can Employers Weather the Storm?

A recurring theme among job seekers is flexibility.

Our goal for this year is to meet people where they are at,” Paula says. “The best thing we can do is try to accommodate and off er flexibility.”

Doing things the way they have always been done won’t lead to successful recruitment and retention. Employers must now focus more on priorities and outcomes and less on clock watching when developing processes and procedures, job descriptions, and training.

Employers may also be offering a sign-on bonus as apart of their recruitment efforts because competitors are offering one as well. But employers should also not forget the staff that already works for them, because those employees may be enticed by sign-on bonuses offered by other employers — especially if their current employer is doing something for new staff but not them. Employers can re-recruit current staff by incorporating better compensation, supporting management, and improving the company’s reputation to become a destination employer. Through such strategies as stay interviews, manager training, annual compensation surveys, realistic job descriptions, and good onboarding, employers can help balance the needs of current staff with the needs of attracting new staff.

The owner of BarVino, Matt Green, has fared well with keeping employees amidst the exodus.

“I work really hard to treat my staff well and give them reasonable goals and advancement opportunities,” Matt says. “Work conditions are super important for retention and productivity. I want my staff to know that they are more than very important for the business to succeed.”

Matt also points out that compensation is important, and if you want good staff, you must be able to pay them well.

The Great Resignation is an opportunity for employers to learn, invest in challenges, and create a culture of care. Companies that evolve and do better will succeed