We Will Have A Serious Worker Shortage. What Should You Do Now?

by Paul Schlossberg
Posted On: 9/13/2019

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Where and how will you find the workers you need? Think into the future. Go beyond next week or even next year. And, what will the costs [1] be in staffing your company to operate efficiently and effectively?

A recent Washington Post article reported about labor shortages in the future for the U.S. economy. When you read the headline, you will be thinking that this has nothing to do with my business.

Allow me to explain. First, read the headline: " 'This will be catastrophic': Maine families face elder boom, worker shortage in preview of nation's future ."

Don't let the words 'elder boom' take your thinking away from our industry and its future. While the reporting was not focused on the work force in our industry, data and trends were cited with meaningful implications for our future planning. There could be dramatic negative consequences for service businesses like ours.

There are "…two slow-moving demographic forces - the growth of the retirement population and a simultaneous decline in young workers - that have been exacerbated by a national worker shortage pushing up the cost of labor."

In 2018 Maine's population reached the status of 'super-aged' [2] "…(one) fifth of its population older than (age) 65." Maybe the demographics and workforce situation in Maine is unique for the moment. Unfortunately the prospects are not favorable.

This paragraph from the article shows us that more than 25 states will be super-aged soon. "By 2026, Maine will be joined by more than 15 other states, according to Fitch Ratings, including Vermont and New Hampshire, Maine's neighbors in the Northeast; Montana; Delaware; West Virginia; Wisconsin; and Pennsylvania. More than a dozen more will meet that criterion by 2030."

There will be real labor force shortages. Will service businesses and our industry offer the jobs to attract the number (and quality) of workers we will need in the future?

What does this mean for our industry and your business? What should you do now?

1. Develop a staffing and retention plan: You need to be highly organized and proactive in planning to hire and retain the people who will be working in your company.

2. Become a "best employer" in your community: Create a positive work environment every day. It's not just what people are paid. They want to be valued as contributors to the success of the organization. You must reinforce and reward exceptional performance from your team members.

3. Be the best in town: In November 2018, we posted a blog here -- " Is Your Business Listed Among The Best In Your City Or Town? " That means "being the 'best' food, snack and beverage provider you can be for the people you serve. If your shoppers see you as the being the best, you will be in good position to sell more stuff."

4. Invest and innovate: You should invest shrewdly in new equipment and productivity-driven systems and hardware. An example of what to do is from an April 2019 blog here - " Why Do You Need To Use Remote Monitoring And Pre-Kitting ?" Driving increased sales should always be a priority. At the same time, there are many ways you can improve day-to-day operations. Generating cost savings and improving operational performance should be critical for you.

5. There is a personal side to this subject, too: Many of us have had experience dealing with the care and needs of an older family member. That subject was the emphasis of the Washington Post article. We've lived it and know, from personal experience, that it's difficult, challenging and emotionally draining. Be sensitive to the fact that it will not be any easier in the future as there will be fewer care workers and the costs to get the required care will increase.

Be certain that you are always thinking about how to make your people successful. They will make your business successful. If you want to sell more stuff, develop and execute a "people plan" so that you have the right team in your organization now and in the future.

[1] That includes recruiting, hiring, training, wages and benefits. Once you've trained them, how will you retain those experienced workers?

[2] The World Bank defines 'super-aged' when 20% or more of the population is age 65 or older.

Paul Schlossberg is president of D/FW Consulting, working with clients to merchandise and market products in impulse-intense selling environments, such as vending, onsite foodservice and convenience stores. Based in the Austin, TX, area, he can be reached by emailing to Paul@DFWConsulting.net, calling him at (972) 877-2972. The company is online at www.DFWConsulting.net