Blackford Capital Webinar Recap: Where Did All the Workers Go?

Webinar Overview

There are 5.2 million more open positions than there are people looking for work, with 2.75 million fewer people in the workforce than in February of 2020. The data is staggering, and it represents a significant challenge for companies, hiring managers and people leaders around the world. Factor in changing expectations around remote work, flexibility and culture and you have a war for talent unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Recently, we partnered with Corp! Magazine to bring together a panel of experts and examine the current relationship between people and their work. More than 200 attendees participated in our Where Did All the Workers Go? discussion on September 29. The webinar is part of a series of conversations examining some of the most critical questions businesses face today.

Blackford founder and Managing Director Martin Stein was joined by Tom DiDonato, SVP and Chief Admin Officer at Lear, Kerry Ebersole Singh, EVP Chief Talent Solutions and Engagement Officer at the Michigan Economic Development Council (MEDC), and Sherika Ekpo, Interim Chief People Officer at Anaplan.

The first question that the panelists tackled was the cause of these recent massive changes to the world of work.

“The COVID pandemic didn’t cause these changes, but rather brought employee issues to a tipping point,” explained Ekpo. “Many employers weren’t really ready to tackle what happened in the early months of the pandemic and that further exacerbated all of those issues.”

When companies began the process of returning to the office, business owners discovered that employee priorities had markedly shifted to focus on their physical and mental well-being.

“During the pandemic, employees had time to think about what they wanted from their jobs and how they wanted to spend their time,” said Ebersole Singh.
With approximately 30% of employees changing jobs this year alone, employers needed to react and adapt to these changing expectations. A failure to do so would prevent them from attracting and retaining top talent.

“What we’re experiencing now isn’t just a war on talent, it’s a war on talent on steroids,” said DiDonato. “Employers were forced to go to different workplace models to stay competitive.”

One thing the panelists agreed on was that some of the changes are here to stay. “The future of work is here,” said Ekpo. “This has been a wake up call for employers. DiDonato agreed with that sentiment. “Many of these changes are likely here to stay, but the full chapter haven’t been written yet.

Despite all of the recent changes and challenges, there are still many things that employers can do to stay ahead of the curve:

  • Listen to your employees: “Strong leadership is about listening and giving employees input. People want to be part of a winning team and you know it’s working both subjectively, as you feel and see the enthusiasm, and objectively, through lower absenteeism, worker retention and better profits.” – Tom DiDonato
  • Communicate clearly: “I think it boils down to communication. And that’s one of the things that is missing. The communication between the manager and an employee has never been more important. And I think that the distributed workforces in some cases or even in the manufacturing environment, it’s still a strained thing.” – Sherika Ekpo
  • Invest in development and leadership: “We have to feel like ‘I’m here and this is my team.’ And [employees] generally get that by having a person that they look up to in terms of their leadership, their role models, their values align. And so the things that we care about–the DEI, the sense of belonging, the sense of development–that all emanates from a great leader.” – Tom DiDonato
  • Build a strong culture: “These three C’s will really help you attract and retain talent. The first is culture. The second is career mobility and the third is compensation, in that order. So don’t think because you pay people more that they’re going to stay or they’re going to be happy.” – Sherika Ekpo

Watch the Full Webinar

If you weren’t able to join us, you can check out the full webinar on our YouTube channel. Register now for the next webinar in our series, Why Does Everything Cost So Much? on November 15. Our panel of experts will dig into key questions and trends around inflation. Hope to see you there!