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The Sustainable Edit

Dispatch #10: The Conscious Citizen

What does it mean to be a conscious citizen? In her monthly column, senior strategic leader in sustainable and international development, Natasha Hafez explores and expounds on precisely that. Join in her journey towards humanity with purpose.

Most events can be explained with physics and mathematics.

Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion proves that for every force there is a reaction force that is equal in size and opposite in direction.

It’s 2022, unemployment is low, the economy is on fire, and the US job market is H-O-T!  Wages are climbing higher and are expected to continue this way for a while, meaning workers feel more confident about quitting their jobs to find higher-paying ones. Employers are increasing salaries as they scramble to backfill open roles and keep up with demand for products and services.

‘The Great Resignation’ refers to the record number of people leaving their jobs during the pandemic. This is a phenomenon that has been trending within the past year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an unprecedented number of employees – approximately 4.5 million – have left the workforce. The pandemic shifted priorities and purpose for many, which ultimately created an employment market that is in very high demand, with alarm bells sounding off as wages rise and inflation numbers spike.

With such record-breaking numbers of workers resigning from their positions in search of higher pay, more flexibility, or work-life balance, experts predict this trend, which has already created millions of job openings, to accelerate – outpacing the number of people looking to fill them. A tight labour market is providing employees with more power as companies compete for their services.

The hospitality and food service industry, along with the transportation and logistics sector, have had to endure the biggest losses in staffing due to the impact of worker-retention challenges and rising labour costs, which are felt across the entire value chain.  Accommodations and food service costs are rising as businesses struggle to operate with fewer employees. This trend of workers leaving their jobs is driving even further volatility in order patterns, causing supply chain issues. Furthermore, as companies have to face high turnover rates and compete for workers, worker pay is rising. Headlines have shown wage inflation at approximately 7%, meanwhile post lockdown unleashed a pent-up demand for consumer goods, raising consumption and prices.

Tom Gimbel, a CEO from a major US-based staffing firm, suggests that companies are “bending over backwards” to do whatever they can to attract people.

Employees are feeling empowered, and in-turn attrition and labour shortages are causing profound problems. What happens if the stock market continues to dip all the way down, with more supply chain issues and COVID-19 variants? Will we eventually begin to see that companies will not be growing as fast, and the unemployment rate will increase? What about the perks and the flexibility, will those start to wane a little bit too? Perhaps companies can and should be investing in their existing workforce to prevent attrition and find meaningful interventions to address the full value chain.

As companies speed to fill positions, the demand for employees is soaring back at a velocity that favours the worker, shifting bargaining power into the hands of the worker.

What happens when the pendulum sways back in the opposite direction though?

The Conscious Citizen

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