The Scarcity of Productive Workers – HR Challenges in 2022

CRE Workforce Dynamics & Hiring in 2022

Author: Forbes J. Rutherford, Principal, Rutherford International Executive Search Group Inc., Managing Director, NEXTalent Marketplace & Job Board, T: 855-256-5778 or Chat

Introduction: In Q2/2020, Rutherford International asked 204 senior multi-sector industry leaders within Canada’s commercial real estate industry to rank the political, economic, social and technological threats they expected to face through Q4/2021. Participants with direct or indirect authority over their resource plans also provided details. Please note, the data collection was completed early on in the pandemic when few of us foresaw an extended lockdown.

This article is the sixth in a series of commentaries that examine potential threats to Canada’s CRE industry, post-pandemic workforce dynamics and the probable impact on industry employment in 2022.

The Scarcity of Productive Workers – Hiring Challenges in 2022 

How Do You Motivate an Unproductive Employee?

Workforce engagement and productivity have always been challenging. Achieving both motivation and productivity is the holy grail for the modern knowledge corporation and has led to a bevvy of expensive employee engagement and incentive programs. COVID19 has added another dimension to this grand corporate Industrial Psychology experimentation to encourage workforce productivity.

How do you motivate a dissatisfied employee?

You don’t. You make sure you are hiring a motivated employee.

It’s glib but true to a point, three out of four employees don’t like their jobs. It’s easy to avoid hiring all three, but if you are dealing with a legacy employee, learn the root cause of the dissatisfaction. Their discontent may have nothing to do with competence and everything to do with their career direction. Two years at home on Zoom, spending an excessive amount of time in their head may have simply reinforced a realization they’re a fish out of water.

The best career development program an employer can offer is helping the employee discover in what roles they can high-perform. It may be their current role. Sometimes high-potential employees will sabotage themselves with doubts about their potential or not even be aware that some subtle trait in their behaviour profile is holding them back. It can be very liberating for this employee to discover through performance benchmarking that they can perform in the upper quartile of their peer group.

However, it may also be possible to discover that the employee can perform in a different role within the company. For example, some of the best commercial and retail leasing executives were once General Managers. They were able to break through internal departmental silos or go to organizations with no inherent biases.

Before COVID19, the statistical mean for employees unhappy with their job was seventy-three per cent. Regardless of corporate size, some employer rosters are below this mean and others above. Firms above the Job Dissatisfaction Mean and facing a high level of churn may want to consider a Rewards of Work & Exit Driver survey to understand the inherent issues better and establish a baseline before instituting expensive career development programs.

And yet, further studies applying productivity metrics have discovered that employees working from home since the COVID19 lockdown have increased their productivity. These are metrics worthy of further investigation, especially when recent research implied a third of WFH employees hold a second job.

“73% of Employees are Dissatisfied With Their Jobs”

Gartner Study, 2019

Returning to Pre-COVID19 Workplace Status Quo isn’t a Panacea 

Why is productivity similar or higher for a distributive (hybrid) workforce?

With three out of four employees dissatisfied with their job before COVID19, just having one of these three change their mind by working from home for twenty-four months is a positive outcome. Add this newly engaged employee to the cohort of 27% employees satisfied with their jobs, and the calculus adds up to increased productivity.

Whatever the reason, employees have learned the escalated value of working from home (WFH) on their quality of life. No private-sector employer should be surprised if their staff are unwilling to return to the pre-COVID19 in-office status quo. To insist on the status quo is to flirt with a return to the job dissatisfaction Mean and place the company at a competitive disadvantage for attracting highly motivated employees.

It is True, Some WFH Employees Are AWFH (Avoiding Work from Home)

Public and private sector employers should not be naïve about employee engagement. Working from home or hybrid may reduce the percentage of employees dissatisfaction but only marginally. For many, working from home may reinforce their job dissatisfaction, which could explain why one-third of WFH employees have found a second job. They’re seeking a means to transition from their office job.

If you discover an employee holding down two positions while working from home, the circle of trust is broken. They’re a toxic influence on your team. If their output is project-based, your option is to terminate as everyone is replaceable or convert them to independent contractor status and not renew once their contribution is complete. The next step is to assess the leadership style of the Manger. Not everyone is capable of managing a distributive workforce.

Although productivity numbers have stayed even or improved, companies should realize some members of their workforce want to work remotely “to avoid working.” However, an even more significant segment of employees, “the social ones,” prefer being in an office environment, the same ones who typically engage in unnecessary social interaction at the expense of maximizing their performance.

No One Aspires to be Average

It may seem counterintuitive, but the most effective employee engagement program is helping an employee discover why they seem disengaged. Employers can achieve this with the help of a science-based performance assessment. Once completed and the decision is made for the employee to remain with the firm, the next step is to leverage the assessment findings by charting a custom career development plan for the employee designed for success.

Often, dissatisfaction occurs from not charting the right path early in one’s career. It is not uncommon for a person to choose a direction to satisfy someone else’s aspirations. Influencers can be both positive and unintentionally negative. The best post-secondary gift one can receive in life is learning what careers they could pursue and perform. Many psychometric tools claim this predictive utility; however, only two such global tools are worthy of the claim.

Learn More About Rutherford International’s NEXTpath Career Diagnostics

About The Employment & P.E.S.T. Survey

The Delphi or Wisdom of the Crowds approach soliciting opinions from knowledgeable participants on future outcomes can be highly accurate. Notwithstanding COVID, the aggregate of our 204 survey participants was correct in predicting the near term threats. The challenge in forecasting with a high degree of accuracy two years in advance or, feasibly, even three years takes a unique individual. It’s not an exhaustive list, but we have found that the behavioural traits important to forecasting are consistent with high performing executives. They have agile learning minds, honed intuitiveness, are comfortable in chaos, innovative, reflective and externally aware. This profile is especially adept at long-range forecasts, which in our case means highlighting emergent threats, or what we call ghosts in the machine or blips on the outer rim of the radar scope.

Emergent Threats – A Partial Synopsis

In this instance, an emergent threat would be where sixty-four per cent of respondents in our P.E.S.T. data suggested currency devaluation was “Somewhat likely or likely” to occur before Q4/21. Furthermore, a plurality greater than fifty per cent stated that inflation and stagflation were possible emerging threats in 2021. Additional emergent threats of note for 2021 was a significant Corporate or Sovereign Credit Event (78%), a GeoPolitical event other than COVID (67.25%), an International Conflict and the possibility of an L-Shaped Recovery (>50%) as opposed to an extended U-Shaped recovery.

We presume COVID has skewed or pushed these predictions into 2022 and will follow up with our participants in Q1/22 to verify any fundamental changes in their forecasts.

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