Monday, September 25, 2023
Photo: "Men at Work" Mike Murchison
On the Road with Mike MurchisonTrucking

No one wants to work anymore

If you were to ask three people how the weather is today, you could very well get three different answers.  One might tell you its sunny with a bit of overcast. One night tell you it cloudy but the sun is shining a little. And one might say its breezy. 

Now if you were to ask three average employers how things are going, you will eventually get a very similar answer from all three.

Can’t find anybody to work. Or no one wants to work anymore. It’s a common thread. Not just where I live, but seemingly every place I travel.

I cover Alberta and the Northwest US states, and this discussion has crossed my table a lot. Employers can’t find anyone to work.

 I’m sure there are a variant of factors involved. The wage that’s being offered, the hours as well as the expectations. Tie that into the cost of living and you might just have a perfect storm brewing.

So, lets look at the cost of living first. I don’t know too many who can pull themselves through on a minimum or slightly high wage let alone having a family. Yet I see employers who offer the minimum who are complaining they can’t find people to work.

Tie into this equation the employers operating costs” heating and utilities alone can break a business. Add to that fuel costs if you’re running machinery. Then tack on the shift the employer is hiring for. Be it days, evenings, swing shift, full or part-time.

You can see what I’m getting at here.

Now. From a prospective employee’s standpoint. They are looking for the usual. Good hours, good pay, benefits and time off when needed as well as commuting time to and from home. The storm is brewing.

There seems to have been a ‘shift’ in the attitude of work ethic since the Covid fiasco reared its ugly head. Lockdowns, government handouts, credit card companies cutting debtors slack and the labour forces seemingly taking a few steps back and not being so eager to work.

 Well. The populations continue to grow, demand for consumer goods for the most part has rebounded. People still buy and sell. You would think that its business as usual but upon closer look that’s not necessarily the case.

If there is work to be done, why are employers saying they can’t find people to work? I’ve asked myself that question a few times over the last couple of years and I don’t have an answer. I can only speculate.

Has the desire to work and put an honest effort in vanished? Have employers resigned themselves to paying as little a wage as possible? Trading a long-term dependable employee for lower operating costs?

What about Gen X and GenY? Have they watched how their parents struggled, scrimped and tried to save?

Have they witnessed their parent(s) yelling and screaming over bills, credit card statements? Maybe those generations just said, ‘screw it’ and made a conscious decision to NOT get sucked up in this endless vortex of working for forty years, being hammered with taxes and interest rates. Maybe they decided to just not participate.

The term “work smarter not harder” was floated around for awhile a few years back. As was the term “time is money.”

We in the trucking business know all too well about that. There is so much time spend waiting: waiting at customers that we aren’t compensated for. Washing equipment many don’t even own which takes two hours of our time each week because it is expected.

We know all about “giving” time away, hundreds of miles from home, trying to cover our road expenses as well as running some form of living accommodations and support a family.

Profit margins for the Mom and Pop businesses, the small employer (which by the way are the backbone of the nation) are slim to none. At some point, these small businesses just decide to close the doors after many attempts to streamline and trim costs. This includes labour costs.

The big companies understand this and capitalize on the opportunity and eventually give the consumer fewer choices. The skilled or unskilled work as well are left with fewer choices for places to work. So, they, if they decide to work, settle for the employer with the better wage, better benefits and better working conditions. The smaller employers get left with what’s left.

We are in a country that was built on a strong work ethic. For generation people toiled, struggled, pinched pennies and always did their best to scrape out a living for their families and give their offspring a better life than they had.

I’m not sure if that is the case anymore. Maybe many have resigned themselves to the fact that things are too expensive. Real Estate is too high, going out for dinner is too expensive. Life costs too much. So, they just do what needs to be done to get by.

I don’t know many co-workers or employees who want to put the extra effort (whatever that looks like) into helping their employer’s business succeed. Nor do I know of many employers who are willing to pay the extra dollars to keep a willing and eager employee.

Maybe I’m missing something here. Maybe those days are gone and its ‘ every man for himself’.

A solid, willing, dependable employee can make a big impact on a business. They are eager to help. Solve problems, create new ideas and solutions. Regardless of their education. The asset is their willingness.

As well, an employer who is willing to encourage, mentor and yes pay an employee a little more money in exchange for reliability, dependability and longevity will surely benefit.

Yes, we do have to keep an eye on operating expenses. But let’s not overlook two important things.

As a potential employer, stop looking a potential employee as detriment to your operating cost and start looking at the individual as a potential asset.

 And as a potential employee. Stop reaching for the short term gain you think you can get by working for this or that company. Start looking at potential jobs as opportunities for stability, growth and development.

This perfect storm if allowed to continue will in no doubt have very negative affects on all areas of economy, standards of living, quality of live, education and last but not least mental health.

If all you as an employer can pay is minimum wage get creative. Come up with concessions or perks to help potential employees want to stay.

If you as a potential employee are wanting just the money and its not out there, look at what other value you can bring to an employer that may pay off in the long run.

At the end of the day, neither employer or employee will get far bitching about how cheap the boss is or how undependable the employee is. Work it out. Talk. Solve it. That’s what people in this country do. They must continue to do.

The alterative is a wasteland of good intentions, hopes and dreams dashed by greed, self centerless and “blame the other guy” mentality.

 Dust them work boots off, roll up the sleeves A firm handshake and a bit of hope is all it takes.