October 4, 2019 at 5:00 am ET
Our American economy is booming. Today, on National Manufacturing Day, the Bureau of Labor announced our unemployment rate at 3.5% – a 50-year low. And on top of this strength, Congress is working toward approving the United States–Mexico–Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, which promises to open the door to hundreds of thousands of jobs to be filled by American employers. But are employers ready to meet the demands of that growth?
Despite the vibrancy of our economy, there are 11 million Americans still on the sidelines, including 4.4 million Americans that work part-time jobs that want full-time positions, and another 1.6 million Americans who are available to work full-time jobs, but have become discouraged and are no longer looking.
Hiring a workforce in a USMCA-economy is going to take innovative approaches to bridge this ever-growing gap between employees who want to work, and the employers who seek them. Increasingly, a major answer to closing this divide has become crystal clear — work flexibility. In a new economy where the workforce has the luxury of choosing where to work, 96 percent of workers also seek flexibility in when they work, yet only 42 percent have the option to choose it.
A combination of more demand for qualified employees and a new economy that places a high value on quality of life over almost all else has employers losing their grip on their ability to dictate all terms related to hours, schedules and time off. Gone are the days of the 40-hour work week. Instead, temporary and contract staffing data reveals that this sector of the workforce is working on average 3.45 days per week, with turnover at a 420 percent rate — a workforce completely replacing itself every 2.5 months. The new American workforce is making its desire clear — Americans want to work when their schedules allow, as they seek to fit their work into their lives rather than their lives into their work.
The pressure on employers to adapt to this new workforce will only become more difficult after passage of the USMCA, as an explosion of warehouse and light manufacturing jobs is expected. In February of this year, there was still a gap of 428,000 unfilled warehouse jobs. By 2028, the projected growth in warehouse jobs is expected to be 4.6 million — half of which could go unfilled if innovation is not utilized to meet the demand.
By offering flexibility in jobs that traditionally require mandatory overtime and fixed schedules, warehousing and manufacturing positions, in particular, can become more inviting to a diverse workforce. When workers have inflexible and irregular work schedules, it produces pressure on work-family relationships, only exacerbated by mandatory overtime.
To have a sustainable economy, we must help employers and employees find each other, and do so under terms that suit both of them. Without a paradigm shift toward work flexibility, employers will increasingly have jobs left unfilled, pay more to find the employees that are available, suffer from unnecessary absenteeism of employees, and not tap into local and willing talent that otherwise would go undiscovered. But with flexibility, employers will save money, while making their employees happier and more productive.
When thinking of innovative trade deals like the USMCA, we must consider innovative ways to improve the lives of America’s workers who will be needed to meet the demands of the trade deal. It starts with listening to what workers want — and what they want is flexibility.
Tana Greene is the CEO of MyWorkChoice, the contingent workforce solution that makes flexibility work for companies & W-2 employees.
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