By David Gaines
From the September/October 2022 Issue
In early 2020, changes that had been happening slowly to the workforce received a giant-size boost. Some of those changes had been creeping up without many noticing the coming changes for years. By the time many employers noticed these workforce challenges, they were behind the game and found themselves needing to quickly adapt to what is now a “new normal.”
The change that most affected employers was a shortage of a qualified talent pool in the workforce to select the next valuable employee. In some communities, that shrinking pool has been getting smaller and smaller for a number of decades.
If you were or are an employer in that community that relied upon the local population to provide you with your workforce, then you have been experiencing the pain of an exaggerated shrinking labor pool in the community.
Urban areas have found themselves losing population during the pandemic and into the present. The same thing is happing in rural communities as well.
Rural communities in America have been losing population for decades. That population loss can be attributed to several reasons. One of those reasons is the automation in farming. Machinery made it easier for farmers to do more with less labor. Another reason was that young people would leave the community for higher education or new opportunities that were not available in small towns. Some of those ex-pats only return for family events and reunions, not for work.
Some of the population reductions in small towns and inner-city suburbs can be attributed to a declining birthrate. Just six decades ago, the birthrate in America was close to 4.0, now it is less than 2.0. Americans are having smaller families than several decades ago. The birth rate takes years before working its way into the economy. However, it is catching up resulting in fewer potential workers graduating from high school.
So, what is an employer to do if fewer potential workers are entering the workforce and coming down the pipeline? Smart employers are being more competitive. To be more competitive, they are looking beyond just how much they are paying per hour.
The transportation industry is being affected by the difficulty in recruiting new workers. That issue is spilling into the supply chain contributing to the problem of not being able to access certain products promptly.
For one company in the transportation industry, recruiting experienced drivers had become a problem forcing the company to make changes to accommodate the demand of workers. Hammer Lane Truck Line, a small family-run regional trucking company made service adjustments with its customers to meet the challenges it was facing.
In 2021, Hammer Lane ran routes for its customers hauling grain products that required drivers to stay out on the road overnight. The distance from pickup to delivery meant the drivers were only home two nights during a regular week. Add to that, that a driver could only deliver one load of product every two days meant that revenue was not what the company expected.