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Letter to Leaders

Shifting Dynamics: Leadership and Employment Trends in 2024

A curated, sometimes opinionated review of issues impacting leaders (Mostly done quarterly, but don't hold me to it)

The Jobs Report for March 2024

I’m not one for a lot of statistics - we live in a one size fits one world - but each month I look at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Jobs Reports to understand what’s happening out there. The report came out today - April 5, 2024, and here are the key results from an employer perspective:

  • 5.4 million people are looking for a job

  • 8.8 million jobs are currently available

  • 303,000 jobs were created in March - about half of those jobs were from private education, healthcare, and leisure & hospitality

  • If you have a college degree, the unemployment rate is 2.1%. For those without a high school diploma, it’s 5.8%

So as an employer or leader, you need to know:

  • With 30% more jobs than people able to fill them, it remains an employee’s world. The good employees can find another job easily.

  • If you’re private education, health care, and leisure/hospitality - better start thinking about hiring a full-time recruiter.

  • There are 1.4 million people with a college degree looking for a job. But 3.4 million people are looking for jobs who don’t have a college degree. See below for my thoughts on that.

Employee engagement is (once again) becoming an issue

It’s not surprising employee engagement has stagnated. There are fewer employees doing more work; work is becoming less important to Americans than ever before; and managers - the key to employee engagement - are overwhelmed.

So what to do about it? It starts at the top. If the owner or CEO doesn’t care or drive action in this area, change won’t work. I’ve never seen a culture change or leadership development program succeed without the buy-in at the very top. So if you’re an HR Director trying to enact change but your C-suite is hesitant, I wish you the best of luck.

If you get that buy-in, some thoughts on improving engagement:

  • Measure. Develop and executive an employee engagement survey. Have employees tell you what’s needed.

  • Act on information. A survey doesn’t do any good unless concrete action is taken based on those results. Don’t just look at the results, develop an action plan.

  • Management Training & Development. About 40% of managers have received that promotion within the last five years. It’s a safe bet that almost all of them haven’t received any training in leadership.

Is a college degree really that important for your job opening?

About 10 years ago, I did a complete reversal on the need for a college degree. It came when I was working with a small bank in the south. Their bank tellers were quitting at a high level.


The bank required college degrees. It didn’t make sense. A college graduate might take a bank teller job, but the first moment there’s a better offer, they’re going. I’d prefer hiring a high school graduate who scores off the charts in customer service aptitude. That person is going to value their job and stay.

Now, with fewer people looking for more jobs, it’s making even more sense. Businesses are moving away from requiring college degrees.

Think about it - is your best employee the one with the most education? Or are there more relevant reasons they’re your best employee.

I’m certainly not in favor of the government mandating employment criteria for private businesses, but hiring managers need to re-think the ‘this is always the way we’ve done it’ mentality.

Keep an eye on compensation - and be flexible

I’ve been preaching this in my public presentations for the past three years:

The #1 Key to Understanding Today’s Workforce:
Employees must feel they’re fairly paid for what they do.

I know of no leadership technique to salvage an employee who feels they’re not fairly paid. And guess what: they’re usually right.

Americans who switch jobs are seeing pay gains almost double of those who stay put. New data from ADP shows employees who switch companies get an instant pay increase of 10%. Job stayers saw a gain of just 5.1%.

Is it really worth it to lose a great employee over a small increase? How long will it take you to replace that employee - between recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training? How much does that cost?


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