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What comes after the great resignation? A service-free-zone?

16. August 2022

By Stephan Breitfeld 

I’m sure you’ve heard some talk about the severe talent shortage and its consequences in basically all industries. Just recently you could easily observe it compressed in the situations at the airports. Not enough staff anywhere to remotely conquer the task of having as many travelers on their way into summer vacation as there were. How are you supposed to handle all the bags, when there are not enough people to pick them up, carry them around, deliver them. How are you supposed to have planes on time or take off at all when there are not enough pilots to fly them, ground personnel to guide them, flight attendants to work on board?

This is how a lot of business owners feel these days. The assignments are there, the Covid-crisis is basically over on that front but what to do when there are not enough people to do the work? Plus: the existing staff is constantly overworked and even more people quit! Looking around, this is an overwhelmingly big problem.

Short-term solutions

Yes, to quickly stuff some holes, you can try and quickly hire new people. But, as previously mentioned, that is a much harder task than it used to be due to a severe lack of people. Not only qualified people but people in general. What also happens a lot is that less people take on more work to cover the workload. So, C-Suite people end up helping out with excel lists and standard tasks, or – to use the airport example above – the CEO of Lufthansa (who’s a trained pilot) would go down and fly planes and actually, in the air, use the autopilot and hand out some blankets and afterwards unload the baggage and drive it to the belt.

Another short-term solution is to drop clients or cancel assignments. Yes, that hurts. Especially after the Covid-crisis it seems somewhat risky to not “work in” some of the losses during that period. But again: no people, no work being done. But this question of how to conduct business further on brings us to the next chapter: What needs to change long-term?

Long-term solutions

When you look at the long-term effects, there is surely a change due in terms of how we work. Because the talent shortage isn’t going to significantly improve, there are just too many (shitty) jobs for too little people. And the candidates have all the choice in the world. What used to be a sentence from employers – “you’re in the closer selection” – is now a sentence from candidates. This may be frustrating for employers but it’s the reality. We need to deal with it.

The quality and structure of work needs to change, the relationship between management and staff needs to change and there is a big need for work to fit the individual better. And ideally everyone profits from this. Change is hard but it needs to happen. Working conditions that have existed for centuries are changing dramatically for all participants. Existing jobs are disappearing. But does that need to be bad?

Any hope?

Yes, it’s hard to be hopeful when work mounts, people quit and burn-out becomes an epidemic that is hard to handle. But – in the spirit of “it needs to get worse before it can get better” – the fundamental shift might be necessary to prepare for better times. What are your hopes for what to get out of it. Do you think it’s going to be a service-free-zone? Or more an oasis of individual fulfillment?

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