Sumir Meghani is the CEO & Co-founder of Instawork, the flexible staffing marketplace that connects businesses with 1M+ hourly professionals
As some government officials consider another round of stimulus checks, there’s a theory that these payments, as well as unemployment benefits, are the root of staffing shortages across industries.
In conversations with employers, this belief isn’t hard to come by. One West Virginia restaurant owner told a local news station that workers aren’t returning “because they’re getting more from the government than what they’d be paid hourly.” This sentiment is echoed in other interviews with employers, especially in the restaurant industry, and has been retold countless times in response to government assistance.
While unemployment subsidies and stimulus checks may somewhat affect the speed and urgency with which people re-enter the job market, when you ask workers themselves why they’re not resuming former jobs, a larger story unfolds: one in which stimulus payments and unemployment checks play only a supporting role.
When I founded my business in 2016, long before Covid-19 relief checks, businesses were already experiencing staffing troubles. And even before this, at my last position, I routinely heard clients say it wasn’t more customers they were struggling to find — rather, they needed a better way to hire the right staff to meet changes in customer demand.
Only A Supplement
Research shows working Americans aren’t relying on unemployment benefits as a steady income. Just 3% of respondents to a BTIG analyst survey said they could afford to depend solely on those payments. Unemployment benefits, too, are a stop-gap measure. After jobless Americans began receiving an extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits in April 2020, critics worried it would discourage returning to work. But research from JPMorgan Chase Institute revealed more than half of those receiving enhanced benefits under the CARES Act actually returned to work before the benefits expired.
In recent months, I’ve seen the skepticism about government assistance distract from more fruitful efforts to solve staffing difficulties. Based on our knowledge of today’s workforce, businesses must adapt to a flexible staffing model to best meet operational needs. The emerging labor market will look vastly different than the one employers are accustomed to. Rather than belaboring the disproven argument that government assistance is responsible for hard-to-find workers, employers should embrace the flexible labor model that’s unfolding.
Not Your Parent’s Labor Market
As work models evolve, so should the thinking on how we measure labor participation and the limitations of unemployment rates. We need metrics and policies specifically designed for a hybrid, flexibility-first employment landscape and not for the rigid 9-to-5 culture of the past.
One factor that new measurements could show is the mismatch between the skills job seekers possess and the ones employers need. However, businesses shouldn’t wait for the hard data in order to address this and be a part of the evolution toward a flexible staffing model.
Working from models like temporary employees, gig workers and independent contractors, technology that automatically matches the right position to the right candidate with pre-vetted qualifications can help businesses drastically reduce the time it takes to get workers in the door.
Flexible staffing models are a burgeoning, automated way to accommodate professionals with families, second jobs or other circumstances that have historically been seen as barriers — an imperative as individuals navigate fears about returning to in-person work, finding childcare and searching for skill-appropriate pay.
Intelligent candidate matching will also appeal to workers who’ve grown accustomed to a choose-your-own-adventure approach to balancing professional life and personal life. Many want the flexibility of working while balancing things like childcare or pursuing college degrees.
The evolution that gradually occurred for office-based workers due to technological advancements has migrated to service roles. Flexible staffing marketplaces allow individuals to work around their schedules for potentially higher wages and in roles that will advance their careers. Businesses that need employees can participate in these marketplaces and let technology do the heavy lifting.
Adapting To Meet The Moment
During the current workforce transformation, massive organizations have the luxury of bumping wages for hundreds of thousands of workers. Businesses with limited resources, however, are better served by new, flexible staffing models to attract the right talent.
In my previous work experience, I saw a number of ways for generating more business, but almost none of those ways helped businesses find enough staff to meet rising or fluctuating customer demands. Amid policy changes, supply shortages and other uncertainties as the pandemic evolves, it may be hard to predict what staffing levels will be needed on any given day.
Simultaneously, hourly workers are signaling that their expectations have changed and are using their collective power to disrupt how businesses think about staffing models. They’re using government assistance not to skate by, but to take time searching for their next, most ideal opportunity.
Embracing the “future of work” by adopting on-demand, modern solutions will position businesses to hire and retain a more satisfied, engaged workforce. Doing so will be critical as we approach the busiest time of year when businesses will need adequate and sometimes temporary staffing to meet high customer demand.
Post-pandemic, workers’ aversion to lengthy hiring processes and inflexible roles will only deepen. Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing sectors from finance to medicine, and with gaps in employment clearer than ever, staffing is primed for disruption.
Ways To Adopt New Models
To adopt future-proof staffing models, employers first must be willing to acknowledge existing inefficiencies such as lengthy hiring processes and sporadic no-shows. Then, with an open mind concerning technology, they should seek out tools that specifically leverage AI and automation for candidate matching. While “AI adoption” may sound complicated and intimidating, today’s programs and services are user-friendly, and you don’t have to be a tech wizard to utilize them and realize their benefits.
In this holiday season and beyond, saving time while staffing appropriately can empower even the most strapped employers to move past “just getting by.” With user-friendly technology — regardless of your level of tech-savviness— you can shift your focus to flexible staffing models.