This month, the U.S. Department of Labor revealed a surprising statistic: unfilled and available job openings now outnumber unemployed Americans. In June, the number of unfilled job openings rose to 10.1 million, the highest level ever recorded. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed Americans rose to 8.7 million.
This paradoxical discrepancy has many HR recruiters scratching their heads wondering: Why aren’t Americans going back to work?
Expectations vs. Availability
Economists suggest that a likely culprit is a mismatch between the types of jobs seekers want and the types that are available. A year ago, people wanted to work remotely primarily out of fear of contracting the virus; today, Gallup data found that 44 percent of Americans want to work remotely because they prefer it.
Meanwhile, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 27 percent of professional Americans worked remotely in June, down from a high of 57 percent in May 2020. This could partially explain the disparity — people are hoping to find remote work opportunities, but there aren’t enough for everyone.
The “Great Resignation”
Turnover and unexpected attrition have also been contributing factors. Despite being in the midst of a global health & economic crisis, one in five employees voluntarily changed employers in 2020, and this trend intensified in 2021. In April, 3.9 million people quit their jobs. In June, another 3.9 million quit.
The pandemic was a catalyst for many workers to reevaluate and re-imagine both their work and their lives, ultimately leading to what is now referred to as the “Great Resignation”. So how can businesses better adapt to this new reality?
Invest in People and Modern Technologies
Every business, large and small, can invest in their people by listening more closely to what they want. These desires will vary dramatically depending on the industry, job type, demographic, geographic location, etc. In general, however, there are a couple of primary things employees are looking for from their employers today: Flexibility, accessibility, growth and development, and meaningful purpose.
Making sure that your organization addresses and is ready to meet and exceed these expectations will go a long way in your long-term hiring, retention, and engagement efforts. Using modern HR systems that allow employees to easily access their personal data such as pay history, time-off requests, expense requests, tax records, on-boarding documents, etc., can also be extremely instrumental in providing employees with a sense of empowerment and help with employee engagement.