Power shift: Why workers in 2022 might have the upper hand
Money, the traditional incentive to attract and retain workers, is no longer enough. Employees want more than cash.
They seek flexibility with their schedule, they want bosses who care about them as a person and not merely as a worker, they crave being valued, and to join a workplace culture that is human driven and not profit centric.
“It is not just about money. The more important issue is do people want to be in your employ, is there a growth path for them, do they believe in the mission of the organization. I think that is particularly true of Gen X and Gen Y more so than baby boomers,” said Tim Murrill, executive director of Solano Small Business Development Center.
He believes the difficulty to find enough employees “will be the No. 1 issue for small businesses for the next decade.”
Cynthia Murray, president/CEO of North Bay Leadership Council, told the Business Journal, “What we saw and heard from employers is that there is an increasing concern about the struggle to fill jobs. It is resulting in the need to recognize workers have more bargaining power and employers need to make some adjustments.”
The National Federation of Independent businesses has conducted 20 studies of its more than 300,000 members—14,000 of whom are in California—since the pandemic started, with the latest numbers coming out in October.
Those results show 48% of small employers are experiencing moderate to significant staffing shortages, while 24% have mild staffing shortages.
Business owners’ solutions, according to the study, include:
• 42% offering more hours to part-time employees;
• 67% offering overtime to full-time employees;
• 91% of owners working more hours;
• 39% adjusting business operation hours;
• 35% introducing new technology to enhance productivity;
• 34% reducing the variety of goods and services sold.
Businesses learning to cope
Industries that cannot accommodate remote workers are struggling the most to have full payrolls.
Among those facing this new reality is the Vintners Resort in Santa Rosa.
Needing 200 employees to be fully staffed, but working with only about 130, the resort has closed its restaurant and spa two days a week.
“In the last few months we have had the opportunity to hire in front of the house. The back of the house is the one holding us back from expanding, specifically cooks, dishwashers and kitchen management,” Percy Brandon, general manager of Vintners Resort, told the Business Journal. “We get applications from people who tell you they don’t want to work nights, weekends or holidays. And they have options. They can go somewhere else to that job.”
The resort has raised wages and increased benefits for some employees, but Brandon said guests are only willing to absorb so much of those costs via higher prices on rooms, spa services and menu items.
He believes the government is to blame for some of the woes. For starters, Brandon would like policies in place to help with child care. He also said tax credits and government incentives are not helping get people back into the workforce.
At Midstate Construction in Petaluma the mantra has long been to hire engineers right out of college, train them, and provide people with a lifetime career. This has helped to develop a culture, a work family, where people want to stay for years and years.
Even so, job site superintendent is one position company president, Roger J. Nelson, is having a hard time filling.
“It’s a skilled profession that was already aging out. And now there is a great deal of void in the marketplace,” Nelson said. “You have a reduction in the number of people who can do the work and an increase in the amount of work being done.”
Midstate has had such a good year that four office people have been added to payroll. The company has almost 70 employees.
“As far as money goes, it is a sellers’ market when it comes to labor. They will be able to command higher compensation than they have in the past,” Nelson said. “We address each individual based on their needs, abilities and what their circumstances may be.”
Proving money isn’t everything
Long before the pandemic hit nearly two years ago, Don Rickard’s secret to finding the perfect employee for Platypus Wine Tours was the wording of his help wanted adds.
“I will talk as much about what we are and what the culture is and how fun it is to work here rather than spend all that time describing the qualities I’m looking for and limitations of who should apply,” Rickard, who has owned the Napa company for 17 years, said. “I let people get inspired by what we are; with the hope the right people will apply based on getting excited about who we are.”