Issue #59
#59 - How will we choose to lead -- if there is never enough talent?
March 23, 2023

What's up, everybody?

If you've followed this newsletter or taken in a TalentStories podcast, you'll know that Usman and I have a simple thesis about work:

* The "future of work" is already here. Work was broken before the pandemic; and as a result of it, work changed radically and fundamentally.

* The employees and individuals who comprise "work" have changed as well; their career expectations and job values are new and different.

* But organizations continue to run as if nothing has changed.

* Meantime, seismic social and demographic shifts (some of which we get to look at today👇), are causing a fundamental shortage of talent.

* This talent shortage means leaders and organizations have less leverage than they're used to. It means a renegotiation of power in real-time, and it animates the work conflicts we now see playing out (quiet quitting, great resignations, back-to-office, etc.)

So what's the upshot?

The upshot is that organizations cannot expect to attract or keep talent -- with its new-found leverage and demands, its diverse work values, and its lower tolerance for "bad" work -- if they continue to lead in the same old, insufficient ways that got us here in the first place.

This week, our 3 Stories plug right into this thesis. They highlight how and why the workforce is shedding so much labor, and bring to life how the resulting talent shortage is impacting leaders and businesses:

Story #1 - Part-time work is exploding. 🧨 We look at how, and at what this says about workers and their shifting job expectations.

Story #2 -
Men are opting out of work in record numbers. The "why" is (very) up for debate. The trend itself? Not so much.

Story #3 -
We see the bottom line impact of the talent shortage on one entrepreneur's growing business, and learn why she believes so many people are” opting out” of work.

Thanks for reading and exploring with us -- and have a great week!

Aki + Usman

P.S. Our podcast of last week's issue #58 -- "Lessons from leaders on using "quiet" as a superpower" -- is right here.


#TalentShortage #OptingOut #BurnOut #PartTimeWork

These figures on Americans opting out of full-time work and into part-time work are jaw-dropping in their own right:

Part-time work is exploding.

The number of Americans working part-time rose by 1.2 million in December and January. Most of that increase—857,000 workers—was driven by people who worked part-time by choice, not because they were unable to find full-time work or their hours were cut.

So the figure is exploding, and people are working part-time because they choose to.

But the stats are even more striking when you realize they're jumping in spite of the fact that part-time work in the U.S. often means not having access to medical insurance and benefits. Since that insurance is typically tied to a full-time job, only.

That so many are opting into part-time, regardless, is more evidence of how broken the existing work system is, how burned out by it and fed up with it people have become -- and how much more willing they now are to opt out of it.

It also prompts us to ask: what will the impact on the supply of full-time talent be when companies start to better serve the needs of this huge-and-growing segment of part-time workers? What happens when they reduce the friction of taking the part-time leap by providing access to benefits, say, or by making it easier to pay taxes? What happens when in parallel, the perceived stigma of part-time work continues to lessen and become more normalized?


#TalentShortage #MenOptingOut

A large number of American men of prime working age — between 25 and 54 years old — are not working or even looking for work, resulting in a major hole in the American economy.

In 1953, 98% of men in that age range had a job or were looking for one. That number has fallen ever since [and now stands at 88.5%]. Today then, 7.2 million men have essentially dropped out of the workforce.

When you dig into this you find a ton of different, often conflicting, theories on why it's occurring. Oh, and by the way, zero agreement as to why:

  • Men are staying home to become caregivers (even though some data show that men who do put less time into caregiving than men who work)
  • The hollowing out of the U.S. manufacturing sector is to blame (even though there are currently 770K open manufacturing jobs).
  • Manufacturing work is perceived as menial and low-paying (even though it has become much more tech-enabled, and now pays on average $30/hour)
  • Men started to leave work as their female partners began to enter the workforce and out-earn them (even though the female labor participation rate, which doubled to 77% by the late 90's, is now falling)

So, a dizzying array of theories. But no consensus -- even though the trend has been playing out -- clearly, steadily -- for 70 years now:

Seventy years feels like a lot of time and data to diagnose and test rationales and to normalize for different economic cycles. And yet, here we are. 🤷🏻‍♀️

And "here we are" is precisely the point. Certainly, the point for TalentStories. Because the causes behind these trends are interesting, and important; no doubt a trend like this one.

But for us -- as builders of teams and the businesses those teams enable -- the need is to understand the trends themselves, and ensure that that understanding guides how we adapt and lead. This next Story is about one entrepreneur's struggle to build her own team, and what that has meant for her bottom line.


#TalentShortage #OptingOut #BusinessImpact

We know, we know -- we've been banging on about this labor shortage thing for a while now; waxing on demographic trends, and "sobering stats." 🙃 But the short and simple Story, above, does a tidy job of making the idea much less abstract.

I mean, come on: "...turning down contracts, and leaving $5 million in top-line revenue on the table?"

Ouch. 🤕

But such are the stakes of not being able to attract the talent you need.

The same entrepreneur then weighs in on the causes of the talent shortage she faces. And for all her hiring pain and foregone revenue, Karla's diagnosis of why people are "opting out" is pretty straightforward:

She suspects some people may be sitting out because of the recent change in how many of us look at work.

"I think it's fulfillment. I think it's culture. I think people really want to feel as though they are appreciated," she said.
"It's an overall feeling of being fed up ... and being taken for granted," she added.

The future of work is here, folks. And in this talent-constrained future, meeting the most human of needs -- purpose, flexibility, empathy, belonging, connection -- is becoming table stakes. ✌🏻

Work moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
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