October 19, 2021

Why are there 10 million unfilled jobs and over 8 million unemployed workers?

Rick Labib-Wood
Director & Human Capital Services Leader
Anyone unaware of this year’s school transportation crisis probably does not face a need to get children to school. Yes, there really was a school field trip forced to hire a party-bus with embarrassingly unintended consequences. For a deeper read into this story, check out Zachary Crockett’s article.
While this may have become an amusing story around the water cooler, at the same time it is a widespread and particularly vexing problem for all school districts with transportation operations. While it is more severe this year than in past years, it is an iceberg problem indicating much bigger issues facing today’s school HR leaders and staff members.
In April 2021, the U.S. DOL Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a record high 9,000,000 open jobs, and not all of them were school bus driver positions.
Harvard Business Review discusses the fuzzy thinking of leaders anticipating that post-pandemic the labor and hiring situation will return to pre-pandemic mode. Not so much, cautions the authors in their piece “Attracting Talent During a Worker Shortage.” They document changes in the economic and employment landscape that led to the conclusion that HR will be unlikely to resolve today’s hiring dilemmas using solutions develop in a former employment era. They go on to suggest some new lines of thinking.
“Make it easier for employees who commute.” Focusing on recruiting local talent can have a big payoff. Their own research indicates that “… a 1% increase in distance is associated to a 4.4% decrease in commuting flows across U.S. counties.” That can be a challenge for schools in California where there are some really big counties.
“Break with market norms.” Is a 20-year-old salary schedule structure really keeping up with the real costs facing employees? Food and fuel prices are up considerably compared to a year ago. Do traditional techniques of comparing only with other school districts hold back what needs to happen for your own district to attract and reward today’s talent?
“Invest in Covid safety.” Workplaces with strict protocols to mitigate Covid are reporting-infection rates that are turning out to be lower than the rates occurring in the home.
“Defining Your Own Path.” This of course is the hard part, because real change can be really hard. On the other hand, if new approaches to this problem were easy, everyone would already have done them.
Dawn Graham, in an article she contributed to Forbes recently challenges HR leaders and hiring managers to consider 10 areas where change may be needed, though tough to achieve.
  1. Not compensating promotions adequately
  2. The cookie cutter approach to rewards.
  3. Atrocious recruiting practices.
  4. Cutthroat or club culture.
  5. Short-term thinking.
  6. Complacency.
  7. Treating performance reviews like a checkbox item.
  8. Appeasing the incompetent.
  9. Not re-skilling/up-skilling.
  10. Requiring a 4-year degree.
Several of these 10 items link directly back to the classification plan, its salary structure, and the content and application of job descriptions and their link to performance evaluation and accountability. The work can be tedious, time-consuming, and exacting.
EH&A can help. Since 2006, we have been your business service leader for California school districts. After joining forces with MGT Consulting, our team now includes former state education commissioners, district superintendents, school board members, principals, and teachers. We also employ experts specializing in organizational transformation. When we bring this expertise together, we’re able to create recommendations that balance the importance of both academic and operational effectiveness.