This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

August 28, 2002

Where Have All the Workers Gone?

Unemployment rates are high. People are out of work. Employers have difficulty filling jobs. Wait a minute! Something doesn't make sense here.

While we have high unemployment, we also have employers who are unable to hire competent people to work for them. Hospitals need nurses, pharmacists,

nursing assistants, physical therapists, imaging technicians, and other skilled workers. Schools need teachers. Employers need information technology specialists-from data entry clerks to programmers. Yes, most of these positions require education, training, and experience, but the problem goes deeper.

Retailers need sales clerks, cashiers, and people to stock shelves. Restaurants need cooks, hostesses, cashiers, and servers. Managers are frustrated when they have to close sections of their restaurants because they don't have people to serve the customers. Hotels have difficulty hiring competent dependable housekeepers, front desk clerks, and people to set up meeting rooms. Shoppers at some stores have to stand in long lines because there are not enough cashiers to keep the registers open.

We hear stories about retailers and restaurants cutting hours because they don't have enough help. Several news articles recently highlighted delayed openings of new retail stores because of the lack of trained personnel. There seem to be two problems: one is that unemployed people are not applying for the available jobs. Perhaps they don't know about the opportunities or maybe they just don't want that kind of work. The second issue is that some employers are much more selective. Remembering the difficulties they had with incompetent workers during the tight labor market, they want to hire high quality applicants.

Higher selectivity by employers means that people who learned to be mediocre are now suffering the consequences. Many workers did learn mediocrity-taught by bosses who accepted a "get-by" attitude. These employees must now acquire new attitudes somehow-especially if they expect to work for employers who hire for attitude and train for aptitude.

The years ahead will be interesting, as employers become more selective, yet need more people to work. Competition for top talent will increase; employers will have to invest heavily in training and counseling.

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