While we have had very little shortage of weird shortages this past year, it seems that currently toilet paper is in supply, but available employees and ketchup packets are scarce. As we creep toward our new normal and vaccines are available for all people who want them in the US, it seems like this should be great news for small businesses. The issue currently is finding the staff to keep up with the new demand, and if you are in the food biz, finding those ketchup packets.
Antidotally, I have various friends who own small businesses who are saying just this. I have work available, I am paying a decent wage and I still cannot find employees. Driving around you see businesses with Now Hiring displayed on their marquees teasing higher than normal hourly rates. This should seem like great news in a year marked with historic unemployment. So where is the disconnect?
It seems when speaking to employers and looking at some of the early data there is a combination of contributing factors. There is the case that unemployment benefits as part of the CARE Act are higher than wages made by going into work every day. There is also a case of continuing fear of transmission in certain public facing jobs. Those such as hospitality, food industry jobs, and home service jobs seem to be some of the harder hit. There is also the issue of reliable and affordable childcare, especially for those families with children who are not 100% in school 100% of the time.
Small businesses face a potential second wave of this pandemic if they are not able to find the staff to meet the new demands being placed on services and goods. Many businesses are trying to be creative to draw employees. Signing bonuses and retention in jobs not used to seeing such incentives. A Florida McDonald’s offers $50 in exchange for an interview. Home cleaning services offering both signing and retention bonuses.
Employees are also demanding flexibility in their work shifts and workweeks; having them reflect more the way we work now, and not the way we worked before. Having the luxury to design what your workweek would look like is showing to be a high value across industries to employees. Safety is also important. Can employers require employees to be vaccinated? Rutgers University, being the first college to take that step of requiring vaccines for returning students and staff. Finding that balance of what workers want and need and what employers want and need will look different at every business, but those willing to consider alternatives in this new normal may have a leg up in attracting employees.
As far as the ketchup packet crisis, well the issue began like many, last summer. People were asked to stay home, and traditional dine-in restaurants moved to offering delivery and carry out options, putting those establishments in direct condiment competition with those traditional fast-food establishment. Demand was driven up and price responded and supply dwindled. The good news is that Heinz, one of the largest Ketchup producers has made technological and supply change improvements to respond. Specifically increasing capacity by 25% and it will be churning out more than 12 billions of those tiny tangy delicious ketchup packets.