What’s going on with the workforce?


0:02 Pieta Blakely

does it seem like everyone’s got a new job or everyone’s trying to hire? It’s been a year since we started talking about the great resignation. Today, we’re going to talk about whether or not that’s a real thing, what quiet quitting means, and whether it’s real and what we’re seeing in the workforce.

0:52 CTMM jingle

0:57 Pieta Blakely

Good morning. Today, we’re talking about the workforce and what is going on. My name is Pieta Blakely I’m the founder

and principal of Blakely Consulting and I want to welcome you to Coffee Ttime with Masterminds. If you are joining us, please let us know your name and where you’re joining us from in the comments. Good morning, Cynthia. How are you?

1:09 Cynthia Rojas

I’m good. How are you?

1:10 Pieta Blakely

Good. Excellent.

1:11 Cynthia Rojas

Here’s something interesting we did this summer. We did a series in the summer that was my favorite topic and I think Workforce is your favorite topic

1:30 Pieta Blakely

Yes, it is. Yeah, it is my favorite topic for a lot of reasons and I’m really glad that we’re coming back to it because, you know, it’s been a year since Alicia modestino joined us and we were talking about the great resignation. We were talking about people quitting their jobs and moving into vans, which is real in the last year.

1:50 Cynthia Rojas

And had Lauren on the show.

1:56 Pieta Blakely

Yeah, everybody has moved and now we’re starting to talk about quiet quitting which I’ve got a lot of opinions and feelings about so, I can’t wait to talk about that. So, what do you think, Cynthia? Do you see a lot of organizations trying to hire a lot of people changing jobs?

2:15 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah, so, here’s the interesting thing. Non-profits have always struggled with keeping staff. One, because they’re known for having lower compensation and also the benefits may not always be as great. Although sometimes, in order to compensate for the low pay you actually can end up with a non-profit that has wonderful benefits. However, this great resignation has impacted non-profits even more because non-profits, by nature of what they do, meaning, they help humans usually, that there’s a human aspect to it, doesn’t allow for that much flexibility especially around remote work. So, I am profiling the point, that non-profits are really struggling in keeping their staff.

3:15 Pieta Blakely

I think those are specifically the jobs that post-pandemic have had a hard time finding enough people – the jobs that you have to physically go to and that aren’t particularly well paid. Those are the ones that are struggling. So, it’s not just the not-for-profit or the health care and social assistance sector, but also hospitality and restaurants and things like that.

3:41 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah, it’s really sad because what the pandemic did was that it increased need and therefore, increased the need for staff, and so, they have this dual challenge or multiple challenges where they have an increase in demand, they have staff who are wanting different things and not necessarily coming into the office 40 hours a week. and we still have a mental health crisis that people are dealing with on all levels; whether you work with people in human services or you are a consumer of Human Services or you’re not working.

4:25 Pieta Blakely

I mean the number of people who are not working – I think this is actually an important data point to bring up because there are still a lot of people who are not working. There are a couple ways that we count: who is working and who is not working. There’s a category that has a job that we call employed. There’s a category that doesn’t have a job that is doing things to get a job that we call unemployed. And then there’s everybody else. So, if you gave up on looking for a job or don’t want a job right now because you’ve re-examined your priorities and there’s something else you want to be doing, then you fall into this other category that’s not in the labor force at all. The labor force participation rate, which is the percent of people over 16 who either have a job or are looking for a job is still lower than it was before the pandemic. So, there is a chunk of people who just haven’t been back, still haven’t been back.

5:32 Cynthia Rojas

So, repeat that. So, the labor force participation rate, which is the rate of people who can work?

5:44 Pieta Blakely

No. So, the labor force participation rate, yes, is the percent of people who either have a job or are ready to go to work divided by the total number of people. So, the people that are outside of that might be retired, might be disabled and have decided that working is not for them. They might just be discouraged. They looked for a whole lot of jobs, they never got one and they’ve quit looking. They might be home with their kids. They might want to go back some other time but not right now. Maybe they would go to work if Child Care was more affordable but they’ve done the math it doesn’t make sense. There’s no job they can get to in their region. The commute is too long. So, there’s a whole population of people that with a bit of support might get back into the workforce. January 2020, 63.4 percent of Americans were either working or looking for a job. April 2020, it was 60.2 percent. So, we lost three percent of the entire U.S population just disappeared from the workforce. And now, we’re back up to 62.4. We’re still not back up to where we were right before the pandemic and there’s like one percent that’s gone off to find themselves, just not feeling well enough to engage, just doesn’t think it’s for them. So, the labor force participation rate, I think that is a sign of health, like overall well-being for adults in a country or a region. When people have the resources that they need to either hold down a job or look for a job, chances are, they’re feeling reasonably healthy; they had a good meal. They have the tools they need to look for a job. Like, they’ve got a computer. They’ve’ got skills that they think are relevant in the marketplace. They’re not panicked about what they’re going to eat or where they’re going to sleep tonight. They have something to wear to an interview. So, it’s like a general measure of well-being. And so, I’d say like having a ton of people who aren’t there, if you’re getting the impression that there are a lot of people that just aren’t there to work for you, you’re right. They’re not there. We are missing a big chunk of people.

8:18 Cynthia Rojas

That’s interesting that’s interesting.  And so, you know, you mentioned where did I go when I get asked that all the time and it’s not everybody went off to start a business and at first there was a thought that many people went and started Ubering or doing these kinds where there was a an enormous amount of flex of flexibility. But then, gas prices went up yeah and so, actually, Uber drivers decreased and so, there’s a lot of Air BnBs. So, everywhere I turn I am reading about the creativity that people have come up with to develop passive income. I’m meeting tons of people who are living their best life. So, we have that group of people also to think about.

9:27 Pieta Blakely

Yeah, and that’s one of the things that Alicia talked about when she came on the show. And this is back when we had extended unemployment and there was some concern about what’s going to happen when this ends and she was saying, well, the unemployment is just giving people the opportunity to really think about what they actually want to do in their lives. We saw a lot of people who were changing fields. A lot of people left one industry and went into a completely different industry um explored more entrepreneurial options, or even just changed jobs because of other priorities. People had you know activities, priorities; things that they wanted to spend their time on, and so, they left jobs that made them live in really expensive cities and moved closer to family and things like that.

10:20 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah. I do want to add. I went to visit a friend and they were laid off from their job, and I remember 10 15 years ago… or maybe just five years ago, who knows… that could be very anxiety provoking. You come home and you have to tell your family that you’ve been laid off and this person is so relaxed and really being thoughtful. Like, they got a lot of phone calls from their friends meaning well. Saying, “Hey, I could get you a job here.” “I could get you a job there” and he’s like let me think about this. And I thought wow, so much has changed. We are really finding the space to think about how we want to live our life. And he’s he’s thinking all kinds of options… all kinds of options. So, what does this mean to employers, Pieta?

11:23 Pieta Blakely

You know, this is a seller’s market and employers have got to get with it. The employers that are having a really hard time finding enough staff aren’t paying enough or are not offering the benefits that people want. And the employers that pay really well offer great benefits, offer all the flexibility and things that people want. Say, they have no no problem finding employees. They say they’re switching them around. Employees are leaving but other employees are coming. It’s just kind of this big you know, this big rotation this big switch up as people examine new regions, their fields and things like that. But the ones that are really struggling, you know, like we said are the ones that

require people to show up and don’t pay particularly well. And in the healthcare and Human Services or Healthcare and Human Assistance sector, a lot of those jobs require really strict ratios of staff to program participants for safety reasons andthings like that. So, when they don’t have the staff and they don’t bring the participants back, they don’t get the revenue; so they can’t hire more staff, and they are stuck in this cycle right where they’re not meeting the need of the community that they serve and they’re also not thriving as an organization. Those ones are really going to have to do some creative reshuffling.

13:02 Cynthia Rojas

 Well, I’ll tell you something I read that I thought was interesting and this may help non-profit organizations. It will take a mind shift, however. If you are in an industry where your staff needs to be on site – food pantries, not something you can do remotely; working with the homeless

Population, not something you can do remotely. And a lot of employers are doing this, but non-profits could join this bandwagon. Consider reducing work week. Well, this idea of 40 hours, I have to tell you, Pieta, I was looking at something the other day for an organization and everyone’s required to work 40 hours and I thought, oh, my God, this is so 2019. 40 hours, that’s insane.

14:00 Pieta Blakely

Yeah, I can’t imagine doing that.

14:01 Cynthia Rojas

Like, oh, my! And so, there’s this thinking that if we can’t pay more, because for some people believe it or not, it’s not so much the pay, it’s more of the flexibility. And for others the pay is still not increasing at the same rate of inflation; and so, this is going to impact employers. So, if you don’t want to get into the whole pay rate thing, then perhaps rethinking the role – and we do see the number of hours but keeping the same pay. So, if you pay somebody $50,000 in a year to do 40 hours a week, you would keep that pay but now require them to work 32 hours.

14:47 Pieta Blakely

We should be able to just get more efficient, right?

14;49 Cynthia Rojas

I think so, I think so. If there’s anything that the pandemic has taught us, is automation is key. It really, really is.

15:08 Pieta Blakely

I remember, you know, for years and years being in organizations that would say like, “We’re too busy to automate this. Yes, I know a new computer system would save us hours but we haven’t got time to build the new system”.And then, COVID happened. All of a sudden, we had all the time because we didn’t have any choice.

15:24 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah. Well, one of the things… this is so interesting. When the pandemic hit I was living in the state of Connecticut and they spent years talking about telemedicine. Oh, my, it was like such a highly political issue. Years talking about it.

And in one week it was all telemedicine. No one wants to see the doctor. Like, the first thing I ask is, “Can I get a telemedicine?” Nobody wants to go inside the office.

16:06 Pieta Blakely

Why would you go there?

16:07 Cynthia Rojas

 We’ve just changed our way of being, just overnight.

16:14 Pieta Blakely

 All right, let’s talk about quiet quitting because this is my favorite thing, and it’s not actually quitting. It’s working to rule. It is just doing exactly your job description. I think this is pretty fabulous. I think the pushback is so telling that employers assumed that they could write one job description and then get something else; that they could ask people to work 40 hours a week and get 50. That they could put some things in your job description and get 10 percent more than that; and they’re mad if workers aren’t going to do that. Okay now, to me, this connects with our conversation about self-care and how I’ve always said if your job makes you need to go to therapy, then you need to fit going to therapy into your work week. You shouldn’t spend your personal time on that. I think this is all of a piece. This is workers saying like “No, here are all the other ways. I’m not going to subsidize your business plan.” If you budgeted for this many workers and written these job descriptions and you’re compensating people accordingly, but in reality it takes a, b and c in addition for your business model where the workers are putting that back on the employers. I think it’s fantastic.

17:55 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah. So, I started typing for the comments but I missed “What is quiet quitting?”

18:05 Pieta Blakely

Quiet quitting is working to rule. It is just doing exactly what your job description says. That we have a term for it, it’s kind of ridiculous, and then we call it quitting. It’s not quitting. it’s doing exactly what you were hired to do.

18:12 Cynthia Rojas

So, let me ask you something because we also talk about leadershi. And so, we know that one of the organic pathways to leadership is going beyond – showing skills that you may not have been hired for, but that then open up your manager’s or your boss’s imagination to what you could do. That is one pathway to leadership. And so, there seems to be a conflict here because if you work to your role, how does your manager or leader see you potentially fulfilling another role?

19:14 Pieta Blakely

Yeah, so, I think that’s on your manager then. I mean if you want people to take on more responsibility or to have a stretch assignment, then I think you need to fit it into the hours and responsibilities that they have or take something else off their plate. That’s on you.

19:33 Cynthia Rojas

Okay, yeah. Okay, I see that. Well,  I have to tell you. So, I’m looking at some notes, so that’s why my .face is turned but those of us listening don’t know that. There are some things… Well, no, we’re talking about quiet quitting. So, let’s kep talking about that. So, do you have any data about how many people are doing this?

20:02 Pieta Blakely

No. I know we gotta find this. Like, is this real? How many people are doing it? How would we know?

20:15 Cynthia Rojas

Wow! I have become totally addicted to Instagram. We don’t have to go to college anymore. Instagram will teach you.

20:20 Pieta Blakely

it’s all on Instagram, yeah.

20:22 Cynthia Rojas

It’s all on Instagram. I bet if we found a hashtag quiet quitting, I bet we will find a lot of information about it. All right, I’m gonna put it in the comments just so that…

20:38 Pieta Blakely

If there’s anybody watching who has been looking closely at their job description and aligning their activities more narrowly to their job description, please let us know. We want to talk to you.

20:52 Cynthia Rojas

Yes, yes. I remember working with an executive director and she wanted to reevaluate her job description because we were doing some organizational redesign and looking are there parts of her role that other people can take on, which is what happens when organizations are starting to grow. So, the ED’s role becomes more focused and we hire more people to take on the other aspects of her tasks and the original job description was a page and a half. She’s only been there four or five years. When she was done, her job description was about four pages. That is how much she was doing;  that when originally hired, that was not even part of the conversation. And then the work after that is really looking at what are the categories of work that we could move someplace else. Is her work too broad and too wide to really lead a growing organization? But, I thought that was really interesting.

22:04 Pieta Blakely

And preventing other people from taking on leadership roles.

22:05 Cynthia Rojas

Yes, yes. So, you’ve always been a proponent of getting paid for what you do. One of the things I appreciate about you is that you continue to put the burden on the employer.

22:10 Pieta Blakely


22:27 Cynthia Blakely

Yeah, which is very interesting. I have to tell you, Pieta, I have never thought about it that way. I always just wanted to show my skills because I wanted to work my way up; like, this was my vision in life, that I was gonna become a leader.

22:45 Pieta Blakely

I think a lot of people have been disappointed in how that’s worked out, right?

22:46 Cynthia Rojas

Yes, I think so.

22:54 Pieta Blakely

Yeah, and I think that you can demonstrate your skill in your job. You don’t have to demonstrate your skill on somebody else’s job to get promoted.

23:08 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah. Yes, yes, I like that. I do want to add something that I read that I thought was really interesting and poses an additional challenge to our non-profit organizations. And this is why people are leaving, and there are two reasons—well, there are more than two reasons. But there are two reasons highlighted and I think I have a third one; but one is that this idea of hybrid or remote work is decreasing the number of tight or emotional bonds that employees are forming. It is easier to leave a workplace where you have less emotional connection with people than it is when you feel like you’re part of a work family.

23:05 Pieta blakely


24:06 Cynthia Rojas

And I’ve definitely been there. There are times I would not leave a company because I couldn’t imagine not seeing those people again; like, the people I work with. Because remote work is reducing our emotional connections to people we work with, it is becoming easier to leave and then the pool of employers has grown. Now with remote work, someone can hire me from California and so, I never have to leave my home; and that has made it the sellers’ market. So, we’re finding creative ways and some things that organizations are doing is that they’re really looking at wellness in the workplace. Another thing that Pieta talked about a year-and-a-half ago.

25:09 Pieta Blakely

Yes, right on our first show.

25:15 Cynthia Rojas

I listen to you, but I think the whole world needs to listen to you. But you said this. You said wellness in the workplace needs to be the responsibility of employers. Well, guess what? That’s now trending. Can you imagine? It is now trending because employers are realizing: wait a minute, one, we have mental health issues that are through the roof; but two, we have seen the lives of our staff. We’ve been in their home. We know. We have access to information we’ve never had, and if you are an employer who fails to see this and fails to see your role, then you’re really doing a disservice to your staff.

26:00 Pieta Blakely

Yeah. You know, I think another challenge that I’ve perceived—I don’t know if this is supported by data—in the not-for-profit industry is that workers are more loyal to the issue or the population than the specific organization, and that workers move to where they think they can do the work best. It’s that also, because not-for-profits have not traditionally invested in things like paying better than anybody else or having benefits that people just can’t give up. And they’ve also lent on their mission – this well you will do this and you will spend extra hours and you will give of your personal resources and finances because this work is so important – which, I think leads people to think like I owe more to the work than I do this employer.

27:05 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah, yeah. That’s definitely happening.

27:12 Pieta Blakely

Yeah. So, I think this is a great opportunity. There are all these conversations that have been going on. For employers it’s really scary. In crisis is an opportunity. I mean, what a great time to look at some of the assumptions we’ve been making and some of the ways people have been working and really have hard conversations about them. Let’s look at things like job postings without salary bans. Like, always unethical, now it’s illegal. Why has that ever happened? Having workers use their own cars and cell phones. Hey, if you can’t afford to have people, you know either reimburse them for their mileage or have them use a company phone, then maybe this business model where they’re out in the field during the day and during communication with them does not work because your lowest workers should not be subsidizing that. It’s a fantastic opportunity to look at these business models that I think frankly weren’t working, right?

28:29 Cynthia Rojas

Oh, yeah, yeah. People are tired. We’re still tired. It’s not over, and so, we are we are seeing the long-term effects or the effects of this long-term state of existing. People still fear getting ill and still feel coming to places. There are still places that I go to that require a mask. They’re few, but there are still places that require a mask.

29:02 Pieta Blakely

Yeah. I mean, this is still going on; like, it’s very real and I think that this was a large-scale disaster. It shook a lot of relationships and it took everybody out of their routines and things that they were just doing out of habit. And the relationship between employer and employee was you know, ready for re-examination.

29:39 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah, and to add to what you were saying before, this is so true about employees—and so I just put in the comments—looking for organizations to take a stand. So, gone are the days where you separate what’s happening in our societal landscape from what’s happening at work. We’ve seen it with the Me Too, Movement. We’ve seen it with the murder of George Floyd.  But before these more recent events, I also was part of the workforce when recycling became a fair. And committees were formed on how can we become a greener organization and that was something that for me was the first time that I saw employers looking at values that were important to their staff and helping them bring it in into the workplace.

30:46 Pieta Blakely

Yeah, that’s an interesting way of looking at it, yeah.

30:52 Cynthia Rojas

So, okay. Well, we could talk about this topic forever.

30:37 Pieta Blakely

We always will.

30:58 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah, we will. But this is interesting and I love it when it’s just you and I. I mean I love having guests, but I also love just chatting with you. And so, thank you. Thank you for that. And thank you to our LinkedIn user who just joined us. All right, so, have a great weekend.

31:16 Pieta Blakely

Have a great weekend, everybody.

31:18 Cynthia Rojas


Pieta Blakely

About Pieta Blakely

I help mission-based organizations measure their impact so that they can do what they do well. I started my nonprofit career as a teacher in workforce development and adult basic education. It was important work and I was worried that we didn’t really know if we were doing it well. In the process of trying to answer that question, I got a Masters in Education and a PhD in Social Policy, and became an evaluator.

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