Let’s start this article with an admission and a reality check. Sometimes the news can be overwhelming. But as business professionals we cannot simply ignore the news. Instead, we need to identify reliable sources of information that will help us effectively do our work.
One such resource is UKG’s Workforce Activity Report. Since May of 2020, UKG has been generating the report using customer data to help chart what’s happening in the economy. This data is being used by a variety of the nation’s top economists to help understand what’s going on during our economic recovery, and in turn, how organizations can plan their short- and long-term business strategies.
Shift Growth is a Relevant Data Point
In UKG’s Workforce Activity Report, one of the data points being shared is shift growth. Now, it’s possible you might be asking yourself, “Why does shift growth matter?” The answer is because shift growth leads to job growth. According to Dave Gilbertson, a UKG vice president overseeing the report, “Businesses can’t hire new employees until they have enough shifts for their current employees. Once that availability has been maxed out, they can finally start to think about net-new hiring. But the problem we’re seeing today is two-fold: the easy economic gains in the recovery have been made, and now states are increasingly pausing parts of their economies again. Tracking shift growth in real-time allows UKG to provide high-frequency data to economists, academics, policy makers, and even the media to help keep the U.S. informed of employment trends weeks before traditional datasets.”
If we think back to the first wave of the pandemic, 36% of all shifts evaporated. That means basically 1 out of every 3 shifts that were being scheduled were eliminated.
UKG is looking at the data from multiple angles. Different industries dropped by different amounts, but they’ve all come back to be within arm’s reach of each other in terms of shift growth. Initially in the U.S., the west and northeast dropped much deeper than the rest of the nation, but now they are fairly close to southeast and Midwest.
3 Activities to Refocus Your Business in 2021
Given the data we have, what does this mean for organizations today? Here are three things to consider:
1. Find Reliable Sources for Business Information
Instead of avoiding the news, find good data sources to use in your strategic planning. It’s possible that goals will need to be revised regularly to meet business needs. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are a few sites you might want to bookmark:
- The Workforce Institute at UKG is a think tank that helps organizations drive performance by addressing human capital management issues that affect both hourly and salaried employees.
- Co-directed by Harvard University and Brown University, the Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker uses data from credit card processors, payroll firms, and financial services firms to help policymakers assess the effects of the downturn in real time.
- JobsEQ by Chmura is Software as a Service (SaaS) that provides 24-hour online access to labor market data. Employment, wages, and demographic data are provided at the zip code level of detail.
- The NYFed Weekly Economic Index is an index of ten indicators of real economic activity, scaled to align with the four-quarter GDP growth rate. It represents the common component covering consumer behavior, the labor market, and production.
2. Create Cross-Training Opportunities
Over the months to come, it’s possible that employees might need to take on additional responsibilities. An example could be the food server who also works as a delivery driver. Or the hotel room attendant who also works as an office cleaner. Now is the time to start thinking about those possibilities. Start talking with employees about the need to cross-train. Budget time and resources to make cross-training happen.
3. Develop a Reskilling and Upskilling Initiative
This takes the cross-training conversation one step further. It’s probable that organizations will find new ways of doing business. That might not be a bad thing. Like the organization that’s figured out how to save a step in their production process. But it is different and will require employees to learn new skills. Employees might need more than a couple of hours of on-the-job cross-training. They might need to attend a class or earn a certification. Like cross-training, organizations need to start thinking about their needs now, talking with employees, and allocating resources.
These considerations: finding good information, cross-training employees, and developing reskilling and upskilling programs are very focused on the work. This doesn’t mean that organizations aren’t focused on doing the right thing for employees during these unprecedented times.
For example, when organizations are really good at forecasting, they can tell employees in advance when there won’t be a lot of hours available. And that allows employees to plan accordingly. Same is true with cross-training or skills development. Organizations can talk with employees about gaining skills in areas that will keep their hours high so they can maintain a regular paycheck.
Good Data Allows Organizations to be Agile
Everyone wants the same things in this situation. Organizations want to be operating at full capacity so they can hire employees and take care of customers. Employees want to be working full-time hours. What we need is a plan to get us there.
Economic recovery and good data are very related. Organizations and individuals need to be agile and resilient to maneuver through this economic recovery. The way to become more agile and resilient is to have good data for problem-solving and decision making.