In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with inflation–including food inflation–there’s another problem that cropped up in a widespread format: an increasing labor shortage. Since the initial COVID-19 shutdowns of early 2020, with subsequent re-openings and closings and general pandemonium, the workforce has been through a lot. Even 24/7 food delivery hasn’t always been enough to keep restaurants and bars ahead of the curve.
The labor shortages have ranged across many industries, including the hospitality industry and food and beverage industries. Even as the pandemic waned, the landscape of the workforce remains changed. Is it a new normal we will adjust to? Are things still shifting? What is going on with the labor shortage? Read on to find out.
What’s Causing the Labor Shortage?
While many individual factors show up as small reasonings behind the labor shortage, the catalyst behind it was the COVID-19 pandemic. When the world shut down and the majority of workers were sent home, the mindset around work and life shifted.
These days, even with re-openings having happened and still happening on many levels, the workforce landscape remains changed. This is because so many workers who were sent home have discovered new work, often work-from-home jobs, that allow greater work-life balance.
It’s easy to say that the COVID-19 pandemic did and still is causing the labor shortage. However, it goes deeper than just the pandemic. We’ll dive into some of the finer points that have changed the face of the workforce.
3. Desire for Lower-Labor Work
The desire for work that is less labor-intensive is something most of us can all relate to. The pandemic shutdowns and consequent need for work-from-home (WFH) options showed people there were jobs out there that required less physical labor. It’s hard to go back.
2. Demand for Higher Pay
The general cost of living has been rising rapidly for years, with minimal wage increases to match. These days, a lower paying job simply isn’t enough to live on. When folks can find something higher paying, it’s a no-brainer to choose it.
1. Work-Life Balance Needs
The COVID-19 pandemic and shutdowns also showed everyone how nice life can be when you have plenty of time for life outside of work. Naturally, if someone finds a job that gives them time to enjoy life outside work, that’s the job they’re going to stick with.
Labor Shortage In Restaurants
The restaurant and bar industry was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. With food and beverage establishments closing, then opening for outdoor dining, then closing again, the industry and workers have been through a lot.
Restaurant workers were a large demographic in the groups of people who were sent home from work. During that time, they found other work, and when places reopened, most of the existing workers didn’t come back–the industry is down from 1.2 million workers from the employment numbers of February 2020. This has left the restaurant industry hurting for workers to bring balance to returning customers in the face of the restaurant labor shortage.
Of course, there’s no way of bringing back everyone who chose to pursue different careers. There are, however, ways for restaurants to find new hires in this age of the labor shortage. We’ll take a look at three key ways to find new workers.
"Key Takeaway: It’s easy to say that the COVID-19 pandemic did and still is causing the labor shortage. However, it goes deeper than just the pandemic. We’ll dive into some of the finer points that have changed the face of the workforce."
3. Hire by Referral
It can be hard to find people willing to take a chance on restaurant work if they aren’t familiar with the restaurant–or the industry as a whole. Asking current employees to refer their job-seeking friends is a great way to get past that obstacle.
You can care for your current employees in this as well, by offering enticing bonuses for referral hires. We recommend offering at least $150 per referred and hired employee, provided they remain an employee for at least 90 working days.
2. Care for Your Employees
The idea of bonuses for referrals is just one way you can care for your employees and foster a healthy environment. From working with them on scheduling conflicts to stepping in as back up on busy shifts, proving you care with actions is a must.
1. Maintain Quality Management
Maintaining quality management also plays into caring for your employees, but from the top down. Invest in your management team with training and organized plans. Make your management team a team your employees can rely on. In turn, you’ll be able to rely on your employees.
Labor Shortage In Hospitality Industry
The hospitality industry has suffered a labor shortage on a similar scale as the restaurant and general food and beverage industry. To get specific, hotels were tossed into a labor shortage when travel restrictions began to ease, and the workers didn’t return. From front of house to back of house, hotels have been scant on available staff.
Some of the things hotel owners and managers can do to bring in new employees are similar to the ideas for restaurants and bars. However, they’re unique to hotels because the work that hotel employees do requires a specific skillset.
3. Showcase Workplace Culture
In a hotel, the hours can be strange and the guest needs can be unpredictable. You can’t change these things, but what you can do is foster a workplace culture that makes employees feel comfortable in all those situations.
2. Offer Incentives
In the case of hotels, some of the best incentives you can offer are deals on hotel offerings. Of course, raises and bonuses are great too. However, offering free lodging vouchers, friends and family discounts, and even free meals for long shifts are unique offers you can include.
1. Highlight Unique Opportunities
In hotels, unique opportunities can be anything from learning to work as a banquet server to achieving the position of food and beverage director. When you’re searching for employees, highlighting these opportunities will show people what they can achieve through working at your hotel.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ongoing Labor Shortages
The term labor shortage is often intimidating. The best way to break down any worries around it is to learn more about it. Labor shortages come and go, and the more you know, the more comfortable you will feel as the landscape of the workforce shifts. Our answers to these frequently asked questions will help to set you at ease.
What Is a Shortage of Labor?
A shortage of labor, according to the European Commission, is:
“Shortage of labour of a particular type in a particular labour market which may be said to exist when the number of vacancies has been (or is expected to be) above a level considered to represent 'normal' turnover at the prevailing wages and working conditions for an extended period.”
One key point within that definition is the specification of defined normal turnover. There is always turnover and minor labor shortages. It can become an issue, however, when it exceeds that norm.
Is the Great Resignation Over?
The movement of so many workers leaving their jobs for higher pay and better benefits shows no signs of slowing down in 2022. Naturally, this is worrisome for employers. However, it’s also an opportunity to redesign your business and make it a place people want to work. That will have a positive impact on your customer satisfaction, too.
Is Getting a Job Harder Now?
The question of current difficulties in getting a job is entirely dependent on the industry you’re seeking work in. There are many lines of work–typically “low-skilled”, labor-intensive work–that are actively hiring at round-the-clock rates. Niche work in highly technical fields remains as time-intensive to find as it ever was.
What Is the Best Industry to Work In for 2022?
The best industry to work in is entirely dependent on the work you want to do. In 2022, more and more employers are finding ways to make work-life balance a priority, to retain quality employees. Whatever industry you’re interested in, now (or whenever you’re reading this) is a great time to spend time searching for the right job.
Short on Labor? Time to Put In the Work
A labor shortage can be daunting from the business perspective. On the other hand, it can be viewed as an opportunity to solidify smart business practices. It's a great time to find a team of exceptional people to move the business forward.
One of our companion sites, the Revolution blog, will give you advice on event management, which can come in handy for hiring and job fairs, as well as solutions for pain points. Check out our other sister site, the BlueCart blog, for everything from inventory management to food safety standards.