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The great "refusal to work" is a lie

Posted by Roberta Matuson

Last Updated February 24, 2022
|5 min read

Whenever I hear a business owner or an executive say, "No one wants to work anymore," I cringe. 

Why? Because this statement is a lie.

I tell them, "People want to work - they just don't want to work for you."

The current state of affairs

Leaders struggling to attract talent when the federal government was supplementing unemployment wages during COVID-19 used the additional benefits as an excuse for why they couldn't attract talent. Many predicted that the moment these extended benefits ended, people would flood back into the workforce. That didn't happen.

It's certainly easier to blame someone else (in this case, the government) for your problems than to look inward to see if you're responsible for your situation.

Are there some people who would rather collect an unemployment check than work? Sure. This was true before the pandemic, during, and will not change once this pandemic is behind us.

However, many people can't wait to get back to work, and the extra unemployment money, which supposedly they've been able to bankroll (another lie), isn't what's keeping them from doing so.

Employees want the flexibility to work remotely in the future, yet many employers are saying, "It's my way or the highway." 

More and more workers are choosing the highway.

Here are seven reasons why you can't find talent

1. Your expectations are unrealistic 

Recent studies show how difficult it can be for new college graduates to find an entry-level job within their experience level. The research found that 61% of all full-time jobs-seeking entry-level employees were required to have at least three years or more of experience. Yet, employers complain they can't find entry-level workers. Go figure.

There's also the situation of unnecessary college degree qualifications preventing companies from hiring talent by screening out a large and diverse pool of talent. This is leaving many companies dropping the degree requirement. But for many other companies, all that untapped talent still lies out of reach due to degree qualifications. 

2. You're using the wrong tactics to bait talent

One-time sign-on bonuses are a short-term solution to a long-term problem. What exactly do you think is going to happen the moment this person, who is now working for you, receives another offer with a signing bonus? It's going to take more than a signing bonus to attract and retain quality workers.

3. Your wages are no longer competitive

For many workers, it's considerably less expensive to stay home with their children instead of paying for childcare - that is if you can even secure a coveted childcare spot. Have you checked the market within the last few months to ensure your wages are still competitive? Can those workers whom you're trying to recruit afford to work for you? Are you willing to subsidize the high cost of childcare?

4. Flexibility may be in short supply in your workplace

Many people have experienced what it's like to work from home - and successfully do so. They want the flexibility to work remotely in the future, yet many employers are saying, "It's my way or the highway." 

More and more workers are choosing the highway. Can you afford to stand your ground while positions go unstaffed? How much are you willing to lose in terms of revenue? How will these unfilled positions impact your reputation?

5. Your online application process is tortuous

Many applicant tracking systems (ATS) were built for applicants applying for jobs from their computers, which is a problem when considering that 61% of all job applications were submitted via mobile devices in recent years. And that number is only increasing! 

Imagine being required to type in your entire resume to be considered, and you're trying to do this from your phone! Many candidates won't bother if it takes more than 10 minutes to apply.

6. You're screening out candidates rather than screening them in

Qualified candidates can't get through your online hiring systems. Their resumes seem to go into a dark hole, never to be found. Don't believe me? Try applying for a position with your organization and see if you can get hired!

These online systems scan résumés for keywords that likely do not pertain to the job and are almost certainly not on the majority of résumés filling the inbox. 

For instance, Lead Harvard researcher Joseph Fuller provides examples like nurses getting the boot due to hospitals scanning applicants for "computer programming" experience and retail clerks not making the cut without "floor buffing" experience written into their professional accomplishments. 

Additionally, your system may be cutting out qualified individuals due to a gap in their work experience. The résumé gap can rule out people like veterans, immigrants, caregivers, working parents, and military spouses. In other words, a large talent pool is neglected before the process can even get started.  

7. You're taking way too long to hire

Many job applicants will remove themselves from consideration if the entire hiring process is long and drawn out. Top candidates will be snapped up quickly by organizations that hire more swiftly than you, which is why I advise my clients to trim the excess fat in the interviewing process so they can be more nimble.

The challenge of attracting and keeping people isn't going away. In fact, it will likely get worse

Now's the time to take stock of the reality of your situation and take bold steps to attract the right talent for your organization. When you do, be sure you are doing everything humanly possible to retain these people.

© Matuson Consulting, 2022.


Roberta Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting, is a workplace strategist who helps organizations attract and keep the best people. Her clients include General Motors, Takeda, Microsoft, and small-to-medium size businesses. She's the author of six books, including the bestselling, "Suddenly in Charge" and "Evergreen Talent." Her new book, "Can We Talk: Seven Principles for Managing Difficult Conversations at Work" released in September 2021.