Workforce Challenges: Pre- and Post- Pandemic

  • 1/4/2022

Key Insights

  • Fair compensation levels and flexible work arrangements can give you a better chance of attracting and retaining talented workers.
  • The pandemic brought insecurity that gave the upper hand to organizations offering stability and reassurance to employees.
  • Providing a strong culture may help develop a workforce more adaptable to situations like a pandemic.
  • Leaders that offer new challenges and diverse opportunities are more likely to keep their employees interested and engaged.

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Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when business owners and senior management were asked about their biggest concerns, more often than not the top answer was “people.” Finding talented, loyal employees willing to collaborate and stretch their comfort zones was challenging before the pandemic, and will likely remain so afterward. As our society adapts to post-pandemic life, attracting and keeping good people requires adaptability and strategic thinking. 

During the pandemic, small- and mid-market companies were faced with increased financial and operational concerns ranging from liquidity needs, compliance, and debt obligations to loss of production and supply chain disruption. However, when addressing concerns about their workforce, organizations offering their employees the five key essentials below repeatedly emerged better prepared to weather the uncertainty of the pandemic.

1. Market-based compensation structure

Employers can incur only so much payroll cost, yet talented employees expect to be compensated at market-based rates. When the workforce was disrupted by COVID-19, many employees went on to pursue jobs with higher compensation, taking advantage of the competitive and ever-changing job market. As the pandemic progressed, employers who were able to maintain employee’s salaries at pre-COVID levels generally retained their talent and experienced less workforce disruption. 

2. Flexibility and competitive wages

Job flexibility was important even before the pandemic, because we live in a busy world filled with people juggling countless responsibilities. As we transition into the post-COVID normal, the flexibility employers were forced to provide during the pandemic has come to be expected by employees as part of a permanent work arrangement. Whether you allow alternative hours or the ability to work from home, offering some type of flexible schedule can give you a better chance of attracting talented workers.

Employees who aren’t given a more flexible or hybrid work arrangement are voting with their feet. The recent 39-year high inflation reporting is compounding the issue; alongside workplace flexibility, compensation became a top-3 reason for quitting. In fall 2021, these catalysts fed into voluntary quit rates 50% higher than the past 10-year average and represent Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey all-time highs. If employers do not adequately address workplace flexibility and market competitiveness for wages, employees may perpetuate what is being called “the great resignation” into the new year.

3. Stability

The COVID-19 pandemic brought an incredible amount of uncertainty to people’s lives — both at home and in the workforce. This uncertainty increased employees’ desire for stability in their jobs. If a talented employee didn’t know whether their position was secure, they were highly likely to look elsewhere for work. Employers who conveyed a sense of stability throughout the pandemic were more likely to reassure and keep their talented employees.

4. Family culture

Small- to mid-market companies are in essence like a family — tight-knit, close, diverse. A strong family is caring and supportive of one another. Companies that provide a safe and compassionate environment for employees may discover their workforce is more adaptable to situations like the pandemic. Additionally, talented employees have shown a preference for working at companies that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Building a strong culture centered around DEI enables employees to bring different beliefs and perspective to the table, so they can truly help their customers, community, and each other.

5. Challenges 

Many talented workers find a challenging job appealing because they can learn new things and collaborate with others. Companies that offer new challenges and diverse opportunities are more likely to keep their employees interested and engaged, which can in turn lead to higher productivity. Giving employees leeway to problem solve can also help develop a self-assured and competent workforce.

How we can help

At CLA, we are here to help you overcome workforce challenges by providing HR consulting and outsourcing, outsourced CFO-level services, search services, and real-time scenario modeling. We can help you navigate today’s competitive labor market so you can fill your organization with talented and loyal people who fit your company culture.

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