How do you compete with the American government for talent?

NOTE: At some point, before bed, I read through 50+ news sources and share my findings here. If you like it, share it. If you don’t, share it. Follow my blog now to support my work or to find new reasons to complain about it. My opinions are my own. All tips are welcome. And if you have not already, help spread the message that people should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics published “The Employment Situation – March 2021” earlier this month. Here is a quote from that report…

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 4.2 million, changed little over the month but is up by 3.1 million since February 2020. In March, these long-term unemployed accounted for 43.4 percent of the total unemployed. The number of persons jobless 5 to 14 weeks declined by 313,000 to 1.9 million. The number of persons jobless less than 5 weeks, at 2.2 million, was essentially unchanged over the month.

The irony of that quote is that while so many people are unemployed, companies have been facing a difficult time hiring. Why? There are several reasons: Skills required for the job do not meet the skills of the long-term unemployed, parents are electing to remain home with children or older family members during a still-spreading virus; all being relevant factors. However, the most significant reason why hiring has been such a challenge for certain industries is… unemployment benefits. Consider these quotes from a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, “Employers are hiring again but struggling to find workers.”

Chris New said he has turned down $250,000 in business because he just can’t hire enough laborers and drivers at his Carrollton-based company, Barnes Van Lines.

“There are plenty of people without jobs, but unemployment benefits give them too much incentive not to work,” he said. “We advertise and nobody comes in looking for a job. A lot of people are taking advantage of the system. It’s really killing us.”

Another quote from that article reads…

The supply of drivers perennially has been a problem, but lately it has fallen far short of what’s needed, said Sam Pollard, director of fleet operations for Syfan Transport.

The growing Gainesville company has been planning to add nine drivers this year to its current stable of 25 who haul manufactured goods all over the South and Midwest.

“I’ve never missed a number, but I don’t know if I can add nine,” he said. “I’ve been in this business 22 years and this has been the most difficult for hiring by far.

And another…

An on-site restaurant at Mount Vernon Towers, a 300-unit condominium complex in Sandy Springs, also has been hard to staff, said Scott Carriere, a member of the condo board. The condo furloughed nearly half its 85-person staff at the start of the pandemic, but had trouble getting them back as restrictions loosened.

They just don’t return phone calls,” Carriere said. “We call agencies and they say, ‘We can’t even find anybody we can send you.’”

And another…

Manufacturing also is scrambling for workers, especially among front-line positions. Thomaston Mills in Thomaston has been trying to hire about 10 people for various positions, including mechanics and machine operators, but it’s been slow going, said co-owner Janet Wischnia.

UNCLE SAM HAS A BETTER DEAL

The hiring problem in Georgia is not an exclusive one and like GA the blame in hiring difficulty points to (in part) extended unemployment benefits. Consider these quotes from Business Insider where they interviewed a McDonald’s franchisee in Florida desperate to hire new talent.

A McDonald’s in Florida is paying people $50 just to show up for a job interview. But it’s still not attracting many applicants. Blake Casper, the franchisee who owns the restaurant, told Insider that a general manager and supervisor came up with the idea for the interview reward after he told them to “do whatever you need to do” to hire workers… Casper said that, to his surprise, offering people $50 simply to come in for an interview still has not convinced many people to apply for jobs.

When queried on his difficulties, Casper responded.

“The biggest challenge out there is the federal government and the state government are going to continue with this unemployment, because that is truly creating the incentive to not work right now,” Casper said. “And, how do you blame somebody? You can make more money on unemployment — and so, we’ve got to be at least above that.”

McDonald’s is not the only restaurant experiencing recruitment challenges. The Ohio Restaurant Association is feeling the pain as well. According to WCPO in Cincinnatti, unemployment benefit is a source of woe for the restaurant industry. Here are a few quotes from their article, “Labor shortage worsens: Where are all the workers?

The Ohio Restaurant Association blames three things for this worsening labor shortage:

Many people are still afraid to work in a close restaurant environment, such as a hot kitchen. Some workers have switched from cooking and serving to driving for DoorDash and Uber Eats, which gives them more flexibility and no close contact with other people. Extended unemployment benefits often exceed pay for some jobs, and that will continue until September.

John Barker, president of the restaurant trade group in Columbus, told us “a lot of people are saying ‘why would I need to go back to work when I have this federal and state support?‘”

IS MORE MONEY THE ANSWER?

Paying employees less money than unemployment benefits are forcing companies to be more creative with how they woo potential hires. Giving someone $50 just to interview was not working for McDonalds. Perhaps, signing bonuses are the answer? This is what one restaurant did for hiring and retaining staff. This according to Fox Business

Mermaid Inn owner Danny Abrams reopened his fish place on Amsterdam Avenue, but due to “trouble finding servers, cooks and bussers,” he’s serving only 70 people outside at a time. “We could easily do 40 more,”  he said, but there’s not enough help. He’d like to serve all his legally permissible seats indoors and out, but he’s short five kitchen staff, two dishwashers, seven servers, a bartender and three bussers. A looming other problem:  “We plan to reopen three other Mermaids in the next month and a half but I don’t know how we’re going to do it.”

Orsay’s Collin said, “We tried to hire on every possible platform – restaurant job sites, Facebook, whatever. People call, they make appointments – and then don’t show up. We’ve even thought about offering signing bonuses” to lure employees.

But mega-operator Starr beat him to it.

Without enough staff, “Our people are working like crazy, working tons of overtime. Eventually there will be consequences. People will burn out, people will quit.

“So we try clever ways to entice people” to sign on. We’re giving $300 signing bonuses at some places and we may have to expand it.”

In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article I cited previously, Area VP of Randstad – Sara Kirby located the pulse of the issue. She said, “Staffing companies — which often see trends first — have seen the burst of demand that heralds growth, but they’ve also seen a change in attitudes. Unemployment payments offer prospective workers a chance to be selective, she said. “People want to go back to work, but they want to work for a competitive salary.”

If true, and it certainly seems to be, the demand for higher salaries is slowly being met. Blake Casper, the McDonalds franchisee in Florida, is considering raising starting wages from $12 — $3 above Florida’s minimum wage — to $13, in an effort to attract more employees. Kings Island has just announced it is raising wages $1 to $2 dollars an hour, as it struggles to find 4,000 seasonal teenage employers this summer. And perhaps one of the more ambitious moves in the restaurant business is being implemented by Chipotle which has a college tuition reimbursement program for many of its workers.

The low supply of willing workers has sparked a wage war. Whereas politicians have been lobbying to force companies to raise their minimum pay, the market appears to be taking the fight from their hands. At least 21 companies are paying a $15 minimum wage and in some instances, that is being outdone. For example, Costco recently announced that it was paying a $16 minimum wage. (Do I hear 20?)

THIS IS GREAT! UNTIL ITS NOT.

For the time being, it is a jobseeker’s market but that can change and have negative long-term effects. I’ll explain after a brief history lesson, courtesy of The Balance.  

Federal unemployment benefits extensions assisted the long-term unemployed in their job search efforts after the Great Recession. Congress approved the extensions in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. They were reauthorized every year until 2013. The benefits provided the long-term unemployed with up to 99 weeks of unemployment checks. It helped support them until they could find decent jobs. Without the extensions, they would have had to take any job they could, leading to underemployment. This might preclude them from ever catching up as their skills became more outdated. Unemployment benefits are extended through Sept. 6, 2021, with the adoption of the American Rescue Plan (ARP).

So, while the government benefits are generous enough to incentivize lower wage workers to not pursue employment, said benefits are not infinite and they have repercussions. A Pew Research study about the Great Recession found that recessions affect the long-term unemployed worse than others in the areas of personal relationships, career plans, and self-confidence.

In particular, the long-term unemployed reported the following:

  • More than half, or 56%, saw their income decline, compared with 42% of the short-term unemployed (less than three months) and 26% of those who kept their jobs.
  • Almost half experienced strained family relations. That’s compared with 39% of those who weren’t unemployed as long. Forty-three percent lost contact with close friends.
  • Nearly 40% lost self-respect. Almost one-quarter sought professional help for depression compared to 10% of the short-term unemployed.
  • The recession had a “big impact” on their ability to achieve career goals for 43% of them. That’s true for only 28% of their short-term peers.
  • More than 70% say they either changed careers or seriously considered a career change. An additional 29% became underemployed with lower pay and benefits than their previous job.
  • In other words, the longer you are unemployed, the harder it is to recover the momentum your career had prior to unemployment. How will this fare for the United States when the long-term unemployed account for 43.4 percent of the total unemployed population? Well, there are a couple of possibilities as I see them. 

TAKE WHAT WE OFFER OR ELSE!

Employers are in a bind and the fact that they are raising wages is a sure sign of that. If American workers do not take advantage of the opportunities before them today, they will be taken from them tomorrow. What do I mean? There has been a surge of migrants at the southern border who have entered our country illegally and by the grace of the government. Big business has been proven to be exploiters of this population and rarely are they punished for taking advantage. If American workers will not rise to the challenge, businesses may feel forced to exercise extra legal means to get their work done. Simply put, if Americans refuse the work offered and its cheaper to employ undocumented citizens, why employ and pay Americans the required minimum wage? Moreover, why should that have to change when government benefits eventually end?  

UBI TO THE RESCUE?

Another tact the country could take is Universal Basic Income which is loosely described as free money from the government without the burden of meeting any requirements. “Los Angeles may soon become the largest city in the US to introduce a universal basic income (UBI) program, joining its neighbors to the north – including Stockton, Oakland and San Francisco – in offering some residents a monthly cash boost with no strings attached,” to quote The Guardian.  

At least one UBI experiment is considered a success. In Stockton, CA, a program, financed by private donations, gave $500 per month for two years to Stockton residents who earned less than the median income. According to The Guardian, “After receiving $500 per month for two years without rules on how to spend it, 125 people in California paid off debt, got full-time jobs and had “statistically significant improvements” in emotional health…”

Perhaps the success of the Stockton experiment is due to the private funding and not the government funding that UBI funds tend to originate from. Case in point, a recent article in the Toronto Sun argued against UBI for Canada because of the exorbitant costs associated with it. To quote

Finally, to pay for such a program, advocates often suggest raising taxes on upper-income Canadians. The federal government could not, however, pay for such a program even if it confiscated all after-tax income of Canadians earning more than $250,000—this would fund only 25% of the UBI mentioned above and only 87% of the OAS-style guaranteed annual income.

Again, raising taxes on high-income earners would not be enough — not even close — to pay for the program. It would instead require a host of substantial tax increases imposed on Canadians of all income levels, and likely include hikes to the GST.

Another case against using government funding can be found in the Business Insider 2018 article – “Finland is killing its world-famous basic income experiment.” To quote…

Since the beginning of last year, 2000 Finns are getting money from the government each month – and they are not expected to do anything in return. The participants aged 25–58, are all unemployed, and were selected at random by Kela, Finland’s social-security institution. Instead of unemployment benefits, the participants now receive €560, or $690, per month, tax free. Should they find a job during the two-year trial, they still get to keep the money. While the project is praised internationally for being at the cutting edge of social welfare, back in Finland, decision makers are quietly pulling the brakes, making a U-turn that is taking the project in a whole new direction.

The Universal Basic Income experiment in Finland began in 2017 and ended in 2018. So, what spurred on this experiment in the first place? Here’s another quote from the same Business Insider article.

“The existing unemployment benefits were so high, the Finnish government argued, and the system so rigid, an unemployed person might choose not to take a job as they would risk losing money by doing so – the higher your earnings, the lower your social benefits. The basic income was meant as an incentive for people to start working.

But in December last year, the Finnish parliament passed a bill that is taking the country’s welfare system in quite the opposite direction. The new ’activation model’ law requires jobseekers to work a minimum of 18 hours for three months – if you don’t manage to find such a job, you lose some of your benefits.

The reason for the turnaround in Finland is simple, the working population of Finlanders did not like the idea of giving away tax money to people capable of working, without requiring people to earn it. The results of the UBI experiment was published by the University of Helsinki. Basically, “The results of the Finnish basic income experiment suggest that basic income does not increase employment, and that current employment services are appreciated more than previously thought.”

So, UBI seems to work when using private funds but hits roadblocks in terms of incentivizing work behavior, when using government funds? This is interesting and something that may be ignored should momentum for UBI build in America. Why ignored? We already have staggering debt that is only increasing each year. However, that does not stop new spending propositions by our leaders. If UBI is to work, it has to be funded by the private sector. It could not be afforded by tax payers. But, I digress.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

We are living in a perfect storm for more discontent in American society. Government benefits are encouraging nearly a fourth of Americans not to work as more migrants enter in at an alarming pace. Businesses may be forced to employ these undocumented workers and likely at a much lower wage than what they pay Americans. This may mean that the long-term unemployed are out of work longer and as time progresses, without the assistance of government benefits. With so many people out of work and no budget to continue government assistance, Universal Basic Income might be pitched as a solution. However, any success is contingent on private funding. Finland has already shown the world that taxpayers resent giving away money to people who can work for themselves. All of these issues no doubt will have an impact on American business, the American worker and the huge new surge of undocumented workers; just in time for the upcoming 2022 elections. Oboy.

Are you sharing my updates with your network. If not, please do. Thanks in advance. 

The Pros And Cons Of The EFCA (With The AFL-CIO)

[Original air date: Feb 24, 2009] The Pros and Cons of the Employee Free Choice Act -Jim Stroud and Karen Mattonen lead a “heated” debate over the Employee Free Choice Act. Listen in and find out that the more you learn about the EFCA, you either love it or you hate it. Listen in and see what side of the debate you are on. Special thanks to our guests Nancy Schiffer (Associate General Counsel, AFL-CIO) and Steve Markin (former Union member with 20 years of legal experience). Oh yes! This one was a doozy.

Download this free eBook now! >Racism Reimagined: How Critical Race Theory Imperils the American Workplace

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CAN EMPLOYERS ORDER WORKERS TO GET A COVID-19 VACCINE? [Updated]

This post was originally published on the Proactive Talent blog around the Thanksgiving holidays. Updates related to this article are cited below.

The Thanksgiving holidays are almost upon us and as of Saturday, November 21, 2020, according to CNBC…

The United States reported more than 195,500 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, a record-high spike less than a week before Thanksgiving, which public health officials are warning could further exacerbate the outbreak.

Friday’s jump of nearly 200,000 cases brings the seven-day average of new cases up over 167,600, an increase of nearly 20% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day average of new cases are up by at least 5% week over week in 43 states and the District of Columbia, Hopkins data shows.

There are lots of health warnings being circulated on TV, radio and the internet that mirror what’s being said by Denver Health

Eventually Thanksgiving, Christmas, Festivus, Kwanzaa and all other December holidays will be over. 2021 will emerge and with it, a return to the office. At least, some people think so and have made huge investments in returning to the office. There are also some entities encouraging  severe penalties for those who do not abide by vaccination mandates. 

Moderna Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company in the running to develop a vaccine to suppress COVID-19, reported promising clinical results of an efficacy rate of 94.5 percent following phase 3 trials. Check out this report from CBS News.

This is good news, indeed. And while there are still challenges to be addressed with these vaccines like being able to store them at very low temperatures and shipping and storing such fragile cargos for worldwide distribution, there is a lot more optimism in the marketplace for a return to some sort of normalcy. Case in point, PitchBook is a financial data and software company headquartered in Seattle, Wa.  They recently published a report on how tech startups pivot to help offices reopen. Let me share some of what they said from their summary.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to necessitate adaptive work environments, more employers are exploring how to create a safe and effective office space for when employees return. Contact-tracing technologies, which identify, assess, and manage people who have been exposed to an infectious disease to break the train of transmission, allow employers to more easily track potential risk from COVID-19 and provide a more comfortable office experience for employees.

And here are some of the companies cited in the report:

  • Envoy is an office management platform primarily known for its visitor tracking and conference room booking solutions. The company has rolled out Envoy Protect, a system to track which employees are sick, and manage crowded workspaces.
  • CareValidate creates proximity tracking for senior homes but has expanded its workplace offerings to include daily mobile health screenings, badge tracking, and at-home testing apps.
  • Hipla Technologies is known for its visitor management system, including touchless office access. In response to the pandemic, it rolled out Contatrack, which uses video to monitor offices, schools, and warehouses to track social distancing and mask wearing.

Hmm… Technology to track sick employees, video to monitor whether or not you are wearing a mask or social distancing? Sounds a bit draconian to me. Still, it’s nowhere near as concerning  as what’s going on in Australia. Here is a headline from the DailyMail [Aug 2020] – “No jab, no JOB: Bosses demand the right to sack their workers if they refuse to get a coronavirus vaccine when one is available in Australia – and powerful unions look set to back them” Here is a quote from that article… (And for those who don’t know, sacking a worker is another way of saying firing a worker.) 

Small businesses are pushing for the right to sack staff members who refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine when one becomes available in Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week announced the government had signed a memorandum of understanding with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca Australia to secure the promising Oxford University vaccine candidate.

The government hopes the coronavirus vaccine will reach Australia by early next year and wants 95 per cent of people to get the jab.

Mr Morrison said he would like to make the vaccine ‘as mandatory as possible’ but does not have the power to make it compulsory.

The Council of Small Business Organisations Australia has since proposed law changes that would give employers the power to sack workers who refuse the jab.

‘If one of my staff members says, “no, I’m against it”, then I’m going to have to say, I’m sorry then, you are a threat to my business’,’ Council CEO Peter Strong told 7News.

‘If you don’t sack them, you don’t have a business, especially if you’re in a high contact area where you’ve got a lot of customers. It’s not discrimination, that’s a business decision.’

So many concerns came to mind after reading that report. Among them…

  •  If a company is in an area where COVID has increased substantially, does it make sense not to have a vaccination mandate?
  • If a company requires their employees to get vaccinated, can employers be held liable if something goes wrong with the vaccine?
  • What rights do people have over their own healthcare choices? Does COVID-19 overturn the argument – my body, my choice?
  • If so many people refuse to take the vaccine then, some businesses might not be able to operate.
  • How can businesses that require vaccinations from their employees compete with competitors who do not require vaccinations?

Is what’s happening in Australia a preview of things coming to America? It may very well be. According to attorney Lindsay Ryan, there is already a pathway for employers to mandate vaccination as a work requirement. Listen to her discussion with Yahoo Finance below. 

I am very curious to hear what employers and workers think about this. How do you think your company will react to this issue? Please leave a comment below. 

Jim 


Updated Info:


EEOC Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccinations: What Now for Employers?

On December 16, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance debunking prevailing wisdom and paving the way for employer-mandated vaccines. The EEOC dealt squarely with the issue of whether vaccines are “medical examinations” under the ADA and also addressed the intersection and applicability of various laws implicated by the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations, including the ADA, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (and, specifically, religious accommodation thereunder). Most notably, the EEOC posited that the administration of a COVID-19 vaccine to an employee by an employer, or by a third-party administrator on behalf of the employer, is not a “medical examination” under the ADA.

Global Solutions, Episode 22: Key Considerations For Employers As The COVID-19 Vaccines Become Available (Podcast) – Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Worldwide

In this episode of our Global Solutions podcast series, Rebecca Emery and Katie Krouse discuss the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States and across Europe. The speakers address key considerations for employers, including vaccination policies, responding to employee concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, and access to employee health information.

How Workplace Classism Is Damaging Your Employer Brand

The world is changing right before our very eyes. The Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic has wreaked havoc on our way of life and threatens our future in ways we can immediately recognize. The number of people unemployed, the list of businesses closing, and the overall uncertainty being just a few. However, said calamity, is exacting a higher toll on some, more than others. An existing class divide is becoming even more pronounced and the repercussions, of which will be felt in society in general, will make an indelible mark on the workplace. How? Well, I think we will see a rise in classism and that will mean that companies will have to be ever more vigilant in how they protect their employer brand.

CLASSISM ON THE UPSWING

If you think about it, the Coronavirus pandemic has rather quickly divided our world into two camps; those who can work remotely and those who cannot. If you are in the camp of people who can work from home then, you are dealing with delayed business plans, travel restrictions, isolation from extended family and friends and as such, your social distancing game is solid. You likely get paid time off and if your job is not endangered, self-isolation is (more or less) an economic luxury for you. Indeed, Gallup found that 71 percent of the people making more than $180K can work from home during the pandemic, compared with just 41 percent of those making $24K annually.  And of course, there is the added perk that you will likely not get sick.

But what about those in the essential workforce? Listen to these quotes from “The Atlantic” article – “How the Coronavirus Could Create a New Working Class.”

The past few weeks have exposed just how much a person’s risk of infection hinges on class. Though people of all incomes are at risk of being laid off, those who can work from home are at least less likely to get sick. The low-income workers who do still have jobs, meanwhile, are likely to be stuck in close quarters with other humans. For example, grocery-store clerks face some of the greatest exposure to the coronavirus, aside from health-care workers. “Essential” businesses—grocery stores, pharmacies—are about the only places Americans are still permitted to go, and their cashiers stand less than an arm’s length from hundreds of people a day.

At the same time, it isn’t as if grocery workers can simply stop coming to work. More self-checkouts could be used and more contact-free deliveries could be made, but someone has to get the Cheerios off the truck and onto the shelves. We are, through this virus, seeing who the truly “essential” workers are. It’s not the people who get paid to write tweets all day, but the people who keep the tweeters in chickpeas and Halo Top.

When I hear about the plight of essential workers, my heart always goes out to them because not only do they have to deal with health concerns for themselves but, they also worry about bringing home illnesses to their family. This is especially true with Nurses. But, you know what else I think about? I think about the negative effects the Coronavirus is having on those who are unemployed, of which there are, at this point – over 20 million. The stress from not knowing how you are going to pay your bills can be unreal and debilitating. Yet, there are other consequences to consider as well, such as drug and alcohol abuse. Check out the video below from CBS New York.

Another negative effect of the Coronavirus, increased suicide. MSNBC reports on the alarming trend.

And another mental health issue related to the Coronavirus pandemic, one I had not considered, was PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Check out this quote from the CNBC article, “Could you get PTSD from your pandemic experience? The long-term mental health effects of coronavirus

After the SARS outbreak in 2003, both healthcare workers and people who were self-quarantined exhibited symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Covid-19 pandemic could have a similar effect, according to experts. Even if you aren’t clinically diagnosed with PTSD, you may have a strong emotional reaction to the trauma of Covid-19 that can last long after an incident.

“When we think about traumatic events, it’s not just what the event is, it’s really your interpretation and what the event causes for you,” Luana Marques, clinical psychologist and associate professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, tells CNBC Make It.

For example, healthcare workers providing frontline services, as well as people who have lost loved ones or jobs due to the disease may be at greater risk for developing long-term difficulties. Those who struggle with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, or who have a prior history of trauma, may be at increased risk of more ongoing distress.

When the pandemic resides and the world returns to work, employees will bring with them unresolved mental health issues, potential substance abuse and the attitudes of some people, that they have been inconvenienced for long enough. You put all that together and you have a much different office than before. To put it simply, there will be people who just cannot deal with the changing realities and mentally bail out at work. Some of these people will be easy to identify but, a great many of them will not be. They will suffer in silence, a sort of, quiet rage, I think. How your company identifies, assists and includes them in your overall culture is what will be trumpeted to the masses. 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN CLASSISM HITS YOUR WORKPLACE? (OH WAIT, IT’S ALREADY THERE.)

Dictionary.com defines classism this way, “a biased or discriminatory attitude based on distinctions made between social or economic classes.” I agree with that definition and can attest to the impact of classism on society in general as well as the individual. The company – Executive Diversity Services discussed “Why Class is so important” on their website. I quote from it now.

Sometimes described as a “hidden” element that needs to be “uncovered” or made “visible”, a person’s experience of class can impact his or her behavior, value systems, and perceptions of self and others. Here are some ways class can have an impact:

      Affecting one’s relationships and communication with others, i.e. how we treat those around us

      Determining one’s own self-concept, confidence, and perception of ability to take on certain responsibilities, roles, or career goals

      Creating a sense of belonging or exclusion, due to one’s comfort with others or familiarity with professional or social environments

      Creating a sense of exclusion from one’s family or class of origin if one has changed social class through education, employment or life partnerships

      Influencing one’s perception of money, power, status, organizational structure and policies, and management hierarchy.

These impacts can be directly seen in a situation or can indirectly contribute to conflicts or misunderstandings and decreased performance, if not identified, understood, and consciously dealt with.

After reading that, I went down this rabbit hole of research on classism in the workplace and found a few interesting resources that were written years ago but somehow felt timely, as we gradually return to normal. I’ll explain what I mean, after I share three more quotes. This one from the aforementioned company – Executive Diversity Services.

Classism issues can be found not only within academic institutions, but also in corporate settings, in any workplace – and can often go unacknowledged. Patreese D. Ingram, a scholar from Penn State, explains that within almost every organization there exists a hierarchy amongst employees that can create a class system in itself. This hierarchy can be based on a person’s title, role, position, or function, and can cause “ some employees to feel like ‘somebodies’ and others to feel like ‘nobodies’”.

Ingram rationalizes that although rank is necessary within organizations, “rank-based mistreatment can result in lower levels of job satisfaction and performance” and can also lead to “lower levels of loyalty and commitment to the organization.”

The Business Times discussed “Class” in their piece – “Hidden rules of class affect workplace” and therein they said this…

Managers and supervisors must be aware of the hidden rules of their employees and be willing to teach them rules that bolster their success within the organization. For example, do your employees understand the organization’s unspoken rules about money? Those from poverty grew up with the notion that money was to be used, spentMiddle class norms suggest that money is to be budgeted and managed closelyWealth suggests that one should conserve and invest money. What’s right? Each is a viable use for money, but do your employees understand the views of your organization?

The same can be asked of the view of higher education. Middle class norms suggest that education is critical to success and making money. But to those from povertyeducation is more abstract, not a viable reality. For those from wealth, education is a necessary tradition for making and maintaining social connections.

And one more quote, this one from USAonRace.

The motto “rank has its privileges” finds its roots in classism. Your level or rank in an organization can mean that you are subject to different rules, or are offered different perks, and advantages, than those who are over you or under you on the organizational chart.

On its face, levelism does not sound like a bad thing. You earn your way to the top of the organization and each level you attain bears even greater rewards. Unfortunately, if you are thought to be unworthy of promotion due to your appearance, use of language, your sensibilities, or your approach to work, you will never be eligible for the perks given to those at the top. Furthermore, if you find yourself stuck at the bottom of the organization because you don’t have the budget for an impressive wardrobe or nice car, the perks you are offered often do not fit with your needs.

Those quotes really resonated with me because I can easily imagine those same issues being intensified in the post-Coronavirus era. For example, prior to the pandemic, many Americans lived paycheck to paycheck. No doubt, many of those returning to the workforce would have endured financial hardships that will impact their overall career. A few more thoughts…

  •       Returning workers may be disregarded for promotion (or recruitment) because they do not look the part; due to not having an impressive wardrobe or car. Items they may have lost in the carnage caused by the Coronavirus.
  •       Returning Executives might now have a survivalist mentality where their notion is to survive and save for another day rather than take a risk on a new idea. Without an occasional gamble, there are no rewards of upward mobility. So, their career and the company they manage, becomes stagnant.
  •       Labor and management might both have difficulty psychologically adjusting back to normal office operations whereas those who were already accustomed to working from home don’t miss a beat, get noticed and promoted. And the fate of those who have trouble adjusting back begin feeling like nobodies and become less invested in the success of the company, doing just enough to stay employed but no more.

Let’s add more to the story; this time from the quiet worker still recovering from economic hardship.  When it comes to job expenses, they are expected to pay up front and get reimbursed later. All of a sudden, working at that company is something they can’t afford yet at the same timethey cannot afford to quit.

What if there is a formal company gathering to celebrate Coronavirus survival and people are expected to dress up? Evening gowns and tuxedos are expensive, even if you rent them. So, some workers don’t attend which hurts their networking efforts inside the company and their careers are impacted.

And when it comes to recruiting, to quote Executive Diversity Services again, “…do [your] recruitment strategies only focus on Ivy League or private educational institutions? Are graduates from particular universities preferred over those who attend community colleges? Are those who take part in certain extra-curricular activities (i.e. philanthropic organizations) favored over those who had part-time jobs during school?)” I’ll add to those questions, are you ignoring people whose principal experience comes from gig work (like Uber or Instacart?).

It may be weird to ask that recruiting question now, when just a few months ago it was a candidate’s market. Now that the pendulum has swung back to the employer, there is a danger of old classist hiring practices to return as well.  Chief among them, devaluing the expertise of someone who was laid off in favor of someone who was not.  

And regarding that, I would caution companies to retain the practices pioneered and adopted when the unemployment rate was at a historic low. Back then, and it was only a few months ago, great emphasis was placed on the employee experience and how attractive your employer brand was. If you abandon that focus and return to the practice of taking jobseekers for granted then, you will wound your employer brand and make it even more difficult to recruit the best talent. 

All that to say, there are a lot of people hurting for work that can benefit your company; people who might not be able to present themselves as well as they could have pre-Corona. Be careful not to treat them as being in a lower class than you. Of course, you might not think that you do that.  Speaking of which…

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

JUST HOW CLASSIST ARE YOU?   

Okay, I’m going to just ask a few questions and make a few comments. You can answer or not, either way, I won’t know your answers unless you reach out to me. So, here we go. Just answer, yes or no, and see if you manage to surprise yourself.

  •  Do you know the names of people who “serve” you in your organization? (e.g., the janitor, the security guard, the receptionist?) If you don’t know the names of people who serve you EVERY WORKING DAY, then you might be classist.  If you greet them regularly and have had some conversations with them to the point that you know their children’s namesyou might not be.
  •       Do you speak to people who are higher than you in the organizational structure? (Senior managers, CEO, et cetera) If not, why not? They are people, just like you. If you somehow think that you are not good enough to talk to them, you might be classist. See, it works both ways. And even those who have status and advantages can feel isolated if people treat them like they are “untouchable.”
  •       Do you think that someone who doesn’t eat organically or in a ‘Healthy’ way means they’re lazy or don’t care about their health? If so, you might be classist because all the organic food I’ve seen is expensive compared to other items loaded with preservatives. That’s just how it is. Next time you’re in the grocery store, compare the prices for yourself.
  •       One last question. Do you think all homeless people are that way because they are lazy and/or substance abusers? If you said yes, then you might be classist because sometimes, just sometimes things happen through no fault of our own. Coronavirus for example. If the circumstances of this pandemic were to continue, that could become you or I.

If you had not considered before how Classism could be consciously or unconsciously affecting your employer brand, let’s have a conversation about it. (And by “us,” I mean my employer.) As we return to normal or rather, the new normal, your employer brand is more important than ever and you will need every advantage.

This article was originally posted on the Proactive Talent blog.