At the WCRI Annual Conference, a panel discussed the labor shortage’s impact on their organizations. The panel was:
- John Ruser – WCRI (moderator)
- Ann Marie Watkins – Kaiser Permanente
- Steve Perroots – Marriott International
- Vance Ayers – International Union of Elevator Constructors
- Joan Vincenz – United Airlines
One of the big lessons from this labor shortage is the importance of planning ahead. Airline pilots have a mandatory retirement age, and many also retired early after the pandemic. If you are not coming out of the military as a pilot, it takes three years of training to become a commercial pilot. The training is expensive, which limits the pool of candidates significantly. United has started a flight school and is working with others to subsidize this cost to open it up to a much larger pool of candidates. Safety is the top priority of the airline industry, so there is no way to speed up the hiring and training process.
Employee retention was never an issue before in the airline industry because of the benefit of flying for free. However, after the pandemic, they started seeing higher turnover rates. To address this, they focused on making the physical expectations of the job clear at the start and having training buddies to help bring the new people along.
At the height of the pandemic, the hotel industry was at a historic low for their operations. Many facilities were temporarily closed, and workers were laid off. Many longer-term employees were offered early retirement because there were no jobs available. When travel started picking back up, it happened faster than anticipated, creating additional staffing challenges. They had to be creative in reopening facilities, which meant limiting occupancy based on available staff. Even now, they have facilities that are not back to full staffing.
They have recruited back some people who took early retirement. One challenge they found with this was sometimes the workers were out of shape and, because of that, prone to fatigue which caused their injury rates to increase.
Nursing shortages are cyclical, and this is anticipated to happen in 2030. However, the pandemic accelerated this. The burnout of healthcare workers increased, leading many to leave the industry. Workplace violence against healthcare workers has been a huge issue for years which is getting much worse. This means more workers are getting hurt on the job. This, again, is causing people to leave the profession. States like California are expected to have a shortage of 44,000 nurses in the next few years, while states like Florida will have an excess supply. Somehow the industry has to find a way to shift people where they are needed. The other challenge in the healthcare industry is the limited capacity of nursing schools. Over 100,000 qualified students are turned away yearly because of inadequate school capacity.
Another challenge the industry faces is there are only so many new employees you can have in the mix along with the more experienced workers. You need ample trainers to bring the new employees along to ensure they are successful. This means they have to emphasize retaining their existing employees to keep that experience which is essential for training.
Finally, it is imperative that everyone practices “at the top of their license.” This means physicians focus on only what they can do, and others are doing the same thing. Tasks must be pushed down to the lowest level person who can complete them.
Baby boomers are retiring, and the younger generation needs to enter the trade industries in sufficient numbers. In addition, many of those who come into these trades are not prepared for the physical demands of the jobs, so they don’t make it through the training programs. The jobs also require extensive training to get to the top levels of the industry. Once the training is completed, trade workers earn great money, but it takes time, and some of the younger generations do not seem willing to put in this effort.
Many of their employees came from a military background. They find employees with military experience are used to the hard work and discipline required to succeed in the construction industry.