Talent Shift - Part 4 of the 5 Part Series - The Workforce Shift

We are in the time of “Great Expectations.”


Turnover is rising. According to the Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) the U.S. saw a record 4.53 million workers quit their jobs in March 2022. In Michigan alone, the total number of “quits” reached 117,000 people in that same month. The March jobless rate in Michigan stood at 4.4%, compared to the national unemployment rate of 3.6%. Yet we continually hear that employers say that they can’t find people to fill their open positions.


This shouldn’t really be all that surprising because we shared the “Staffing Issues'' trend in April that highlighted the shortages of employees in many fields. We also put a spotlight on “Mental Health'' in our May trends alert that focused on employee burnout and overall well being. With all of these alarming trends and the fact that employee engagement is at an all time low, we find ourselves in a workforce shift.

You’ve heard the catchy names. It’s been called all sorts of things: The Great Resignation, The Workplace Reboot, The Great Reinvention. The days where the employer has all of the “power” are gone. Whatever you want to call it, the shift is being led by the great expectations of employees.


In a report published by Pew Research in March, the majority of workers who quit a job in 2021 cited low pay, no opportunities for advancement and feeling disrespected as the primary reasons for leaving.


Among adults who quit a job in 2021, those without a four-year college degree are more likely than those with a bachelor’s degree to mention that they don’t have enough flexibility to decide when they put in their hours. There were also notable differences by race and ethnicity related to workplace flexibility as well.


For the most part, workers who quit a job last year and are now employed somewhere else have seen their work situation improve. Fifty-six percent (56%) of these workers say they are now earning more money, 53% have more opportunities for advancement, 53% have an easier time balancing work and family responsibilities and 50% say they have more flexibility to choose when they put in their work hours. But the sad fact remains: These workers felt as if they had to quit and go work somewhere else in order to improve their personal situation.


Whatever the explanation, the consequences are clear and have reached crisis levels for many businesses. We know that student and employee engagement is at an all time low, so determining the causes behind lack of engagement can be part of the solution to this seismic shift. Students and employees are more vocal about their needs than ever before, but are leaders listening to their concerns?


The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has 7 tips to increase employee engagement without spending a dime.

  1. Supply the right tools. Make sure employees have the tools they need to succeed in their roles. Engaged employees need to be able to move quickly in order to be effective in their job.

  2. Give individual attention. Long gone are the days where one approach works for everyone. In a multinational, multiethnic, multigenerational workforce, employers need to understand what is important to its people.

  3. Provide training and coaching. Continuous improvement is a must in the competitive business world. Invest in your people and they will invest in your future. Cross training on other roles and coaching can increase engagement.

  4. Listen to employees. More than likely an employee who quits has voiced concerns about their job in the past. But did anyone bother to listen? And if the issues were heard, was anything done in response to the feedback? Employee input and comments should be collected frequently (more than the old annual survey), insights need to be acted upon and follow up communications should be included in the overall process.

  5. Get social. Gallup found that having a best friend at work, changes the engagement both in higher education as well as the workplace. Building relationships at work creates an important support system for an employee that keeps them connected to the organization.

  6. Serve others. Organizations who have a purpose that serves others have higher engagement. We all want meaning in our lives and many want to work for companies that are socially responsible, contributing to the communities where they live and work. Millennials and Gen Z often prioritize working for a company that is more responsible over higher pay. Workest offers tips on how to incorporate social responsibility into your business to attract Gen Z workers.

  7. Recognize Proudly and Loudly. Tie recognition to your company’s purpose and reward employees for their accountability to your values, not just the number of widgets they produce. Rewarding the person who exceeds their goals but steps all over their co-workers along the way creates resentment. It’s not only what people do that’s important, but how they do their jobs that creates engagement. People do what's measured, rewarded and celebrated.

Although SHRM takes this on as an HR task, solving the business problem should be tackled by everyone in the organization, involving the employees as well. Creating an environment that seeks to find mutually beneficial opportunities that benefit both the employee and the employer will increase engagement, foster commitment and improve overall productivity. We encourage everyone to look for opportunities where students, employees and employers can collaborate to find solutions together. This will not be another program because “one size does not fit all” in this situation.


Show an interest in your people. Help workers find something they enjoy. When employees and employers are aligned, feeling like they are on the same side - there is a greater desire to contribute. Listening to employees and their career desires is the first step to developing lasting relationships. As relationships are built, employee engagement increases and company productivity increases, creating a mutually beneficial work environment.


Success for Michigan youth means helping them achieve a future beyond imagination, through education and employment opportunities. Youth Solutions works with Michigan’s youth to help them better understand their interests and talents while also providing insight into the in-demand jobs. This can also mean success for our employer partners because we connect youth to businesses who expose these young adults to meaningful career experiences and opportunities. This type of mutually beneficial relationship can be a win-win for both the employee and employer.


What have you done recently that has improved the engagement and productivity in your organization?

How are you shifting your recruiting and retention practices to meet the demands of today’s workforce?


Youth Solutions has identified 5 key trends that will impact Michigan’s Workforce and Education spaces. This article shares information about the 4th trend. You can count on Youth Solutions to be a leader, advocating in the areas that will have the greatest impact on Michigan’s youth. Please consider donating or partnering with Youth Solutions so we can continue to inspire and connect Michigan’s youth to opportunities that will brighten their future.