Employees have the upper hand after the “big resignation”, but for how long?

Even before the pandemic, finding and keeping employees to work as professional and community coaches for The Arc Northern Chesapeake region could be difficult.

But the Aberdeen, Maryland-based nonprofit, which serves more than 400 adults with disabilities and 300 other client families, now finds itself — like so many employers — needing dozens of workers.

The group was used to turnover as workers left for better-paying jobs, but lost even more during the pandemic as those who were parents cared for children learning at home or lack of childcare.

And many people in the pool of potential workers are now applying for — and getting — remote work. This is not an option for those training and supporting Arc customers at work or in daily life.

“Getting people back into the workforce has been difficult,” said Shawn Kros, CEO of The Arc NCR. “It’s a tough market.”

“There has always been a crisis in our frontline workforce with people with disabilities. COVID has just… made a fragile system even more fragile,” she said.

More than two years after the emergence of COVID-19, employers in the Baltimore area and beyond are facing this Labor Day weekend the fallout from a dramatically changed workplace.

In a phenomenon known as the “Great Quit”, workers are quitting at record levels, “changing jobs and industries, moving from traditional to non-traditional roles, retiring early or creating their own company…take time…or embark on sabbaticals,” McKinsey & Co. researchers said in a July report. Then there are “silent quivers,” a term coined on social media to describe workers who stay on, but only work until the clock, doing the minimum to stay employed.

Like employers in the Baltimore area, Arc increased wages and benefits by competing with people with more job choices and less job loyalty. At Arc, the hourly wage has increased from $12 to $17 and can reach $20 with additional certifications. The organization touts its signing bonuses, tuition reimbursement, and flexible schedules, times, and locations. He recently made the application even easier.

An estimated 3.4 million people have left the U.S. workforce since February 2020, and analysis by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in August shows shortages are affecting all industries in every state. US Department of Labor statistics released on Tuesday show 11.2 million jobs open at the end of July, compared to 9.3 million jobs open in April 2021. Labor force participation does not match the pre-pandemic rate , according to the chamber report.

“If every unemployed person accepted an open job in their industry, there would still be millions of open jobs,” the report said, citing early retirements and falling immigration as contributing to the deficit.

Additionally, according to the report, “increased unemployment benefits, stimulus payments, and child tax credits have ballooned the finances of some previously employed workers, and they no longer need to work.”

As the US economy appears to be heading into a recession, competition for top talent remains fierce.

A survey published at the end of August showed that 80% of companies are taking measures to facilitate hiring. The Harris Poll, commissioned by Express Employment Professionals, found a third of companies offering higher starting salaries and nearly a third offering hiring bonuses. More than a quarter said they offered remote work or increased benefits such as paid time off and flexibility. Others offer more internships and lower the criteria to qualify for open jobs.

Employers in the Baltimore-Washington area need administrative and customer service and data entry roles, forklift operators, order pickers, receivers and shipping clerks, drivers- delivery workers and machine operators, said Jim Craig, owner of an Express Employment office in Colombia that helps personnel manufacturers, distributors and others.

Some businesses that temporarily closed during the pandemic have struggled to bring workers back, he said. Some wanted, and still want, to work from home.

“Virtually all clients are experiencing the same challenges…struggling to find good talent,” Craig said, and many have responded this year with some of the most dramatic salary increases in decades. “Jobs that paid $13 maybe coming out of the pandemic a year ago…cost a minimum of $16 to $17 an hour now.”

But rising rates haven’t necessarily led to an improvement in the quality of applicants, frustrating employers, he said. And the turnover remains high.

“Employees are jumping ship because they’re making maybe $15 an hour and they see the same job advertised by other employers for $17 or $18 an hour,” Craig said.

Klein’s Family Market, a family-owned chain of nine ShopRite-affiliated stores, is about 200 people short, said Sarah Klein, director of front-end operations.

Even at higher pay rates, it’s hard to find cashiers, Klein said. This has led the Forest Hill-based grocer to expand self-service checkout to all stores and rely more on less labor-intensive online ordering for trays and cakes. Stores establish restocking schedules around times when employees are available.

“We’ve just been really challenged by this whole job market,” Klein said. “Everyone is paying such high rates that you are competing with everyone now. People can walk in and want a job at our store, and the next day they get a job offer that costs 50 cents more or $1 more…and they don’t come [back] work.”

As companies reach salary limits, many are trying to differentiate themselves in other ways, said Jeanniey Walden, chief innovation officer and chief marketing officer of New York-based DailyPay. The payroll services company serves national retailers and grocers, quick service and fast food restaurants, hospitals and home health care providers, giving hourly workers access to on-demand payment as they go. and as they earn it.

The company, which tracks employer customer trends, found that about 40% of employees are likely to quit in the post-COVID job market, making them statistically more loyal to their cable companies than their employers, said. she declared.

“Employees have really started to gain the upper hand when it comes to job choice satisfaction,” Walden said. “They started acting more like consumers than employees.”

That has only recently begun to change slightly, with the recession and some recent layoffs, she said, but hourly workers remain in high demand.

In another shift, Walden said, “many employees were enjoying the hybrid or remote lifestyle and they didn’t want to give it up,” especially as rising gas prices drove up costs. of displacement.

“It was starting to get prohibitively expensive for some hourly workers to get to work,” she said.

Employers have responded with benefits such as free lunch at the office and subsidies for transportation, childcare or pet-sitting. Demand for DailyPay’s pay-as-you-go service has grown, Walden said, becoming a popular recruiting tool. With inflation at record highs, workers are tapping into the benefit to cover basic needs like groceries and transportation.

Northern Chesapeake Arc has about 60 vacancies, Kros said. Most are “frontline” job and community coaches who interact with clients one-on-one, full-time and part-time, and shifts that may include day, evening, or night shifts.

While facing shortages, the group also finds itself benefiting from the migration of workers fleeing other careers in search of more flexibility or a change of pace. Recently, the organization hired several former teachers, a profession struggling with its own shortages in the Baltimore area.

“When we talk to people, we’re not just talking about the benefits we have, but about the ability to benefit a person’s life and really change a person’s life for the better,” Kros said.

Jessica Brockmeyer quit a job teaching high school English and drama in Harford County, Maryland after 23 years and became a job coach for Arc a few months ago.

“I just kind of felt overworked and undervalued,” Brockmeyer said. “I loved teaching, but with COVID and the way the community was looking at teachers, I had to leave.”

She works with approximately 20 clients who are job seeking and training for work, starting new jobs or continuing in established jobs. She provides follow-up support to longer-term employees such as 40-year-old Aberdeen resident Lester Harris and 36-year-old Havre de Grace, Maryland resident Eric Dowell, who work as janitors at Rite Aid. distribution center in Aberdeen.

On Wednesday, Brockmeyer met with Harris and Dowell during their breaks to see if they felt comfortable with their tasks or needed help with any problems. She spoke with their supervisor and observed and chatted with the two employees as they wiped down the tables and chairs in the employee cafeteria.

Even though she took a pay cut to become a job coach, the change was worth it, Brockmeyer said.

“It’s exciting, it’s a different job every day, with a lot of positive impact and definitely less stress,” she said. “I don’t bring work home at the end of the day or on weekends…And I feel like I’m making an impact by giving back to my community.”

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