Show them you care

Workers are scarce, so you need to make them want to work for you

There has been a lot of discussion during the past few weeks about jobs and workers. As policymakers in Washington, D.C., wrestle with ideas to reform the U.S. immigration system, it may help to understand why these are important topics.

For the entire time I was in Congress (2011-16), the discussion centered around jobs and the policy reforms needed to help companies create them. But now, as the economy continues to grow, the conversation has shifted from discussing jobs to discussing workers. There simply are not enough of them.

The current U.S. workforce is aging out of the market—about 10,000 baby boomers leave the workforce to retire every day (and this will continue for about 15 more years). Adding to this is the fact the U.S. birthrate is below replacement levels with an average 1.86 children per couple. The U.S. needs a birthrate of 2.1 to adequately replace the population without immigration.

We know what the problem is—the fix is much more difficult. This especially is true when many people believe if employers paid people more, they would have all the workers they need. This brings me to the U.S. roofing industry's worker shortage.

Workers do need pay commensurate with the work they do and the marketplace in which they do it. That's why roofing work traditionally has been a job that pays well. But do workers mainly work because of pay? The Harvard Business Review printed the results of a study in 2013 and came to this startling conclusion: "Does money engage us? The most compelling answer to this question is a meta-analysis … [that] reviewed 120 years of research to synthesize the findings from 92 quantitative studies. The combined dataset included over 15,000 individuals and 115 correlation coefficients. The results indicate that the association between salary and job satisfaction is very weak. The reported correlation (r=.14) indicates there is less than 2% overlap between pay and job satisfaction levels."

Does this mean we don't need to pay people properly for the work they do? Of course not. In fact, the competitive nature of finding workers has increased industry wages. The point I am making is pay is not the real reason people work for you. Most people work for the sense of satisfaction they get from a job well done and the recognition of that by their employers. Pay matters but so does respect, kindness, friendship, fun and teamwork. We all want to belong somewhere and be a part of something.

In what ways have you sought to determine how to express appreciation and a sense of belonging to your employees? Have you ever even asked this question? If not, why? Your employees likely will be thankful you asked them.

People are motivated and encouraged by different things. Find ways to personalize your appreciation to your team, and you likely will find a team willing to invite others to be a part of your company. In an era of worker shortages and economic growth, we all need to make our place THE place to be.

Reid Ribble is NRCA's CEO.

This column is part of News + Views. Click here to read additional stories from this section.


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