Help Wanted: Labor Shortage Impacts on CX & EX

Help Wanted: Labor Shortage Impacts on CX & EX

We’ve all seen the signs. The “Now Hiring” signs.

And depending on the business, the message on those signs may vary from being fairly straightforward to conveying a level of desperation. Chalk it up to a perfect storm of a pandemic, businesses reopening all at once, The Great Resignation, and a whole host of other factors resulting in job openings reaching historic levels. Employers of all stripes now need to retain and recruit workers in unprecedented hiring conditions – conditions that have ripped up the playbook that typically applied to the employee-employer relationship. And let’s not forget, this isn’t just about companies and employees. The customers are at the intersection of it all and they’re feeling the effects too.

How Bad is the Labor Shortage?

Statistics and anecdotal evidence point to the unique times consumers and employees are navigating.

Consider that:

  • 90%+ of state and local chambers of commerce say worker shortages are holding back their economies according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s The America Works Report: Quantifying the Nation’s Workforce Crisis
  • Signing bonuses are being offered at rates ranging from hundreds of dollars for pizza delivery drivers to tens of thousands in bidding wars for nurses
  • Axios reports RN job postings outnumbered applicants early in 2021 by a ratio of 53:1 based on data from CareerBuilder
  • The Financial Brand reports drops in staff training during the labor shortage and triple digit percentage increases in households believing banks are “not responsive” or don’t understand needs

Employee Experience in the Labor Shortage

Some experts say now is the time to completely reimagine employee experience, especially when it comes to recruiting and retention. The first quarter of 2021 saw the fastest wage growth rate in 20 years, yet the labor shortage persists. With exponential and historic hikes in pay proving not to be a magic bullet, what else can employers try?  While there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, there are some questions and proposals employers are looking at that are potentially gaining more traction in this moment. For example, can the structure of the 40-hour work week be modified? Speaking of schedules, can employers build theirs around when workers want to be available to work as opposed to the other way around? And then there is, of course, remote work or hybrid work – is that an option to attract and keep more workers during the labor shortage? Plus, what about benefits? Do your workers see the company benefits as benefitting them?

Employers and other labor trends observers are reporting on the additional disruptive forces bubbling to the surface in this labor shortage. That includes everything from the negative impact on employee stress levels to sinking morale. Mentorship, upward mobility, and mission in the corporate culture are being called out as additional important “intangibles” that are now more essential to the messaging and approach around retaining and rewarding workers.

This labor market has laid bare how dramatically things have changed when it comes to what an employee wants when taking a job or staying on the job. The best way to truly get a handle on that is to hear directly from your workers. What’s most important to them? What do they need to feel a sense of purpose in their role?

Customer Experience in the Labor Shortage

Customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) have likely never been more intertwined, and perhaps never more important, than they are right now under the spotlight of all those “Now Hiring” and “Help Wanted” signs. The DRG reached out to Dr. Anna Stumpf of Ball State University to get her thoughts on the CX and EX connections being impacted by the labor shortage. Stumpf has previously been featured in Forbes speaking to CX and has years of experience teaching marketing and branding at the collegiate level. She stresses that if ever there is a time for companies and organizations to over-communicate with their customers, it’s now.

    Listen to a portion of The DRG’s interview with Dr. Anna Stumpf

    “From a customer standpoint, they want the same transparency and communication that your employee base does. Be honest with us.”

    ~Dr. Anna Stumpf, BSU

      Jill Carnick, The DRG’s Senior Account Director, agrees. “We have been thrown into a landscape no one would have ever imagined. If companies don’t adopt this type of thinking, it’s going to be an amazing struggle for them.”

      EX Impacting CX in the Labor Shortage

      Carnick, a marketing research and consulting veteran, has been speaking to and presenting on the need for companies to “harmonize” their CX and EX for years. But in this moment, she sees it as being absolutely crucial.

      ”We are at a point now where CX is being threatened more than ever when companies are just trying to get bodies in the door,” Carnick explains. She stresses that the traditionally siloed efforts of HR departments focusing on EX, while other departments focus on CX, presents an urgent need to bring those functions together as companies try to manage their way through this labor shortage.

      “Most companies are dependent on employees to drive successful outcomes. The company culture must be CX and EX focused.”

      ~Jill Carnick, The DRG’s Senior Account Director

        The labor shortage is sparing virtually no sector of work and no category of employee. CX concerns go beyond just the frontline worker’s touchpoints with the customer. In times like these, CX studies need to dive deeper into root causes to understand not just the frontline worker’s experience, but also how “second-degree employees” (who create products and services) and “third-degree” employees (who handle corporate functions and support first and second-degree employees) are impacting the overall CX outcomes.   

          Employee Touchpoints Throughout the Customer Journey

            The customer experience is impacted by 1st, 2nd, and even 3rd degree employees throughout the journey.

            Golden Opportunity?

            Brad Cleveland, writing for the International Customer Management Institute, sees the current labor shortage as a time to innovate and empower organizations to benefit both customers and employees. He says, “The steps you take to make things easier for customers often creates efficiencies for your operation.” Cleveland even goes so far as to say that the labor challenge is an “urgent and golden opportunity to better position your operation for the future.”

            There’s a massive movement in the workforce as employees reassess everything – their relationship with work, their employer, work-life balance, how they work, where they work, and if they want to still work at all. The opportunity for the organizations posting the “Help Wanted” signs may very well lie in a reassessment as well. Not only reassessing, but reinventing an employee experience and a customer experience that have been quickly shaped by the labor shortage. And for the companies willing to do the work to get it right, it’s likely to pay dividends organization-wide well into the future.

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